Corps to incorporate climate change into project plans
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) recently took the first step toward incorporating climate change into its water resource restoration and storm resilience projects, which will help engineers and scientists protect the investment of tax dollars and ensure that projects meet their intended goals.
The Corps issued a circular on July 1, which requires project teams to consider a range of local sea level rise scenarios in planning, design, construction, and operation of all coastal water resources projects. It also instructs Corps engineers to consider both structural and nonstructural alternatives when planning and designing a project.
While the circular is a good start, it has some gaps, such as how the policies outlined in the circular apply to projects already in late stages of planning or design. Another important concern is that the the circular instructs project teams to assess risk and plan for adaptive management, yet the Corps is still developing policies on how to do so.
A new approach to coastal restoration
Louisiana's senior U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu and the Governor's top staff both recognize that coastal restoration work is not progressing fast enough. They are pursuing a suite of policy and technical recommendations to fundamentally change the coastal restoration and risk reduction process.
Senator Landrieu’s efforts
Senator Landrieu seeks to create a system that looks at restoration and structural protections holistically. She recently returned from a trip to the Netherlands and has pointed to the “living with water” philosophy of the Dutch as a guide to the future for coastal Louisiana.
Starting in October, Senator Landrieu will engage stakeholders, through events like town hall meetings, to gather feedback about how the federal government approaches coastal restoration. She says she will make make recommendations to the Obama Administration or propose legislation by Nov. 1.
State of Louisiana Efforts
On a parallel path, Louisiana officials released a document entitled “Concerns and Solutions
,” which details 10 proposals to solve problems in its restoration and structural programs. Examples include elevating the New Orleans Army Corps of Engineers Office from a district office to a division office; combining mitigation funds toward the implementation of large-scale restoration projects; and extending the Tour of Command at the New Orleans Corps' Office so that commanding officers don't leave after 2-3 years, just as they begin to fully understand complex coastal Louisiana issues. The state recently held three public meetings to solicit public input and intends to present interim solutions to the Obama administration and the Louisiana congressional delegation in September.
Gulf Restoration Network holds Katrina anniversary events
Gulf Restoration Network is holding screenings throughout Louisiana of the documentary "Paradise Faded: The Fight for Louisiana," in conjunction with the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina on Aug. 29. The goal is to remind the nation and its leaders that Louisana’s coast and communities have not recovered from the devastating Katrina and Rita hurricanes in 2005 and hurricanes Gustav and Ike in 2008, and to inspire viewers to call on Congress and the White House for action. Find an event near you.
America’s Energy Coast passes coastal restoration resolution
America’s Energy Coast (AEC), an initiative of America’s WETLAND Foundation
, held its annual Leadership Forum in Biloxi, Mississippi on July 29-30 with representatives from National Wildlife Federation, Ducks Unlimited, Shell Energy, the states of Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, and federal agencies. The goal of the initiative is to develop solutions for a sustainable coast as well as economic and energy security.
At the meeting, AEC passed a resolution calling for federal and state leaders to resolve conflicting policies and amend procedures that are slowing or stopping coastal restoration. The resolution recognizes that numerous federal and state agencies have different responsibilities and authorities for restoring and sustaining the coast. Unfortunately, these agencies are often not making decisions in the larger context in which they are acting, often causing conflict and delay.
By adopting the resolution, the AEC started a process for developing recommendations to identify and harmonize coastal restoration authorities and responsibilities. These recommendations may be helpful to Senator Landrieu and Louisiana officials as they undertake their parallel processes to put in place a new structure for coastal restoration and risk reduction.
Cooking for the coast
National Wildlife Federation staff competed in a jambalaya cook-off on Aug. 8 at the 17th Annual Krewe of Hercules Redfish Fishing Rodeo in Cocodrie, La , as a way to promote their upcoming Hunter-angler climate change education event and to do general public outreach about coastal restoration.
Team members included Maura Wood, Ben Weber, Amanda Moore and Chris Pulsaki, and the team’s winnings were pre-pledged toward coastal restoration. While the team didn’t place, “Competition was fierce!” shared Chris, they competed goodheartedly in front of more than 600 cook-off attendees.
“It was tough losing, but it was good knowing that coastal restoration was the big winner,” said Ben, who was “chief-stirrer” at the jambalaya pot.
Corps provides coastal Louisiana restoration plan guidance
In July, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) released guidance on the implementation of a program to carry out ecosystem restoration for the Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA), as authorized by Congress in the 2007 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). The implementation guidance reveals that progress will continue slowly because of a lack of congressional appropriations.
Though the development of a comprehensive restoration plan is the cornerstone of WRDA, the Corps’ guidance clearly spells out that no work will be initiated to develop such a plan until Congress appropriates funds for that purpose. Additional implementation guidance will be provided once funds have been appropriated.
Along similar lines, despite the fact that WRDA establishes a Coastal Louisiana Ecosystem Protection and Restoration Task Force, no formal task force will be convened unless Congress appropriates funds specifically for such work. Until then, the Corps will continue to consult regional representatives of the appropriate state and federal agencies and “Washington level Federal Principals.” Absent from the implementation guidance is any mention of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and its role in encouraging and facilitating government-wide cooperation.
Environmental groups will continue to follow the LCA proceedings and advocate for swift action, particularly through the congressional funding process.
National summit looks at flood risk policies for greater community resiliency
Top state and federal officials are looking closely at federal "mitigation" policies, the rules and incentives that help individuals and communities do everything from plan evacuations to relocate residents away from the riskiest areas, all which are incredibly important to the future of coastal Louisiana. Last month
a third-in-a-series policy summit in Cambridge, Maryland took a look at these policies, and highlighted the importance of redirecting flood-related programs to emphasize greater community safety and resiliency and ecosystem restoration.
Done right, mitigation policies can strengthen and improve the lives of Louisiana's unique cultures and communities, while highlighting the risk reduction benefits of restoring coastal wetlands. Done poorly, mitigation policies can strand the vulnerable, separate people from their traditional connections and livelihoods, and inflate demand for expensive, unreliable, and environmentally destructive new levee projects. As more than half of Americans live in coastal areas, the nation has a strong interest in their success.
This meeting of 80 of the nation's flood risk experts, including representatives of local, state, regional and federal government and the private sector was very timely; the Obama administration is starting a long-awaited update to quarter century-old Principles and Guidelines for planning and evaluating water resource projects and establishing new strategies for dealing with climate changes and sea-level rise.