Senator Landrieu Leads Delegation to Netherlands to Learn How Dutch "Live With Water"
Environmental Defense Fund
Senator Mary Landrieu led a delegation of representatives from various federal agencies, local governments, businesses and non-profits on a trip across the Netherlands from Nov. 9-13 to study how the Dutch “live with water." The delegation included representatives from the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, National Wildlife Federation (NWF), Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and the Walton Family Foundation.
Each day included meetings with high-level Dutch officials and informative tours and presentations. The delegation visited the oldest water board in the Netherlands, the newly-created Ministry of Transport, Public Works and Water Management; Deltares, and the site of the 1953 flood in Zeeland.
The delegation also learned about the Dutch approach to protection and resiliency for the next 100 years, the Room for the River program, Rotterdam’s water and climate plan, and “building with nature.” In between these valuable sessions, the delegation members connected about their work in the Mississippi River Delta over bus rides, meals, coffee and pound cake breaks.
"It was an amazing learning experience and a great opportunity to get to know other people who care passionately about coastal Louisiana," said NWF's Coastal Louisiana Restoration National Campaign Director Karla Raettig.
Please check out the next issue of Delta Dispatches to learn more about some specific lessons learned from members of the delegation.
First Meeting of Gulf Restoration Task Emphasizes Action, Inclusiveness, Comprehensiveness
Environmental Defense Fund
A packed room of approximately 250 people in Pensacola, Fl. welcomed the first meeting of President Obama’s Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force on Nov. 8th. Impassioned speeches from Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Chairman Garret Graves and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Mimi A. Drew
emphasized the environmental, human, and economic need for not only fixing the damage caused directly by the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, but also addressing the long-term decline of the Gulf of Mexico wetlands, barrier islands, and deep waters. Alabama Governor Bob Riley's Chief of Staff emphasized that any solutions must address the economic challenges of the Gulf Coast – with an emphasis on small businesses – including the ones hurt by the oil spill's impacts on tourism and fishing.
The main draw for attendees, however, were presentations by the Task Force's chair, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson, and the Task Force’s new Executive Director, John H. Hankinson. Jackson spoke clearly and passionately about the big issues and challenges facing the effort (you can read her prepared statement here
). She also talked about the importance of expediting construction of existing projects, while planning the full program. Hankinson introduced the group to his new team – drawn from multiple agencies – and his commitment to the deadlines and goals set out in the President’s Executive Order.
The stated agenda of the meeting – beyond introductions and setting of the Task Force’s agenda – was an opportunity for the community and stakeholders to work with EPA on a plan for regular, detailed two-way communication. Attendees broke out into facilitated workgroups to brainstorm, and all look forward to EPA putting the ideas it received into a plan for accessing and building the engagement and commitment of the assembled communities and stakeholders.
Public Scoping Meetings Held for Myrtle Grove Diversion
National Wildlife Federation
Last week, members of the public were invited to attend and participate in a series of scoping meetings about the proposed Myrtle Grove Diversion in southern Louisiana. The three public meetings officially launched the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)/Feasibility Study for the Myrtle Grove Diversion. Ensuring that Myrtle Grove is constructed as a land-building, pulsed, sediment diversion is a key element of our coalition's coastal restoration campaign. Scoping meetings allow stakeholders the opportunity to give input about the potential impacts the project.
Myrtle Grove is one of 15 coastal restoration projects authorized by Congress in the Water Resources Development Act of 2007. It was authorized as a medium diversion with dedicated dredging under a program called the Louisiana Coastal Area Study. Our partnership has worked with state officials to gather data and model scenarios of a “modified” Myrtle Grove, which functions as a sediment diversion and employs pulsing to make maximum use of the river's sediment for land building.
At the meetings, members of the public requested that the EIS examine impacts to fisheries and to local communities that might be flooded by water from a diversion. At the same time, many speakers firmly stated the need to get sediment into deteriorating basins and recognized that local conditions would change and some uses would move within the estuary.
One frequent suggestion already has been adopted: the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) has promised to meet with stakeholders on a regular basis during the EIS process. These meetings will enable information to flow back and forth between the Corps and the public and bring engineering expertise together with intimate local knowledge of the area. NWF will play a role in convening these quarterly meetings.
Working Environments Workshop Highlights Restoration Job Creation
Environmental Defense Fund
Last week, Oxfam America and the Louisiana State University (LSU) School of Social Work co-hosted a two-day workshop (Nov. 15-16) on LSU's campus in Baton Rouge, La. about how to put Gulf State residents back to work restoring and improving their coast. The Working Environments Workshop
brought together local and national architects, academics, state and parish officials, non-governmental organizations, community advocates, and business interests to discuss how to create sustainable "working environments" across the Gulf.
Economic development opportunities for the Gulf Coast included job creation via renewable energy creation, resilient housing construction, and coastal wetlands restoration.
"There was a lot of enthusiasm in the room, people were very interested in the job creation opportunities that restoration could provide, especially in coastal Louisiana," said Environmental Defense Fund's Community Resiliency Specialist Brian Jackson, who participated in the workshop. "In addition, jobs in coastal restoration or construction of resilient housing and infrastructure have a huge potential for employing local workers and being a source of local innovation exportable to the world.”
Groups Submit Comments on Louisiana Coastal Area 6 Project Reports
Environmental Defense Fund
While deliberations about the post-oil spill restoration program continue, ecosystem restoration has been a critical regional need for decades. The good news is that a program of providing ground and stabilization projects for Louisiana’s coastal wetlands – the “Louisiana Coastal Area Program”, or LCA – were authorized in the 2007 Water Resources Development Act and are proceeding toward construction. Six of the 15 projects specifically listed in the LCA authorization have moved most quickly toward construction, and therefore are referred to as the LCA 6.
Last week, the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, Environmental Defense Fund and National Audubon Society reviewed and provided comments on the LCA 6 project reports and final environmental impact statements. The groups praised the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) for completing the Feasibility Reports and Proposed Chief’s Report for these LCA projects, and noted the importance of completing the final Chief’s Report before the end of the year deadline.
The groups provided specific comments that could be addressed during the engineering, design, construction or adaptive management phases of the projects. The groups also commended the Corps and the State of Louisiana for incorporating monitoring and adaptive management plans at the feasibility stage of project planning.
Stay tuned to future issues of Delta Dispatches, as we go through each of the LCA 6 projects, what they are, and what to expect.
Meet Brian Jackson
Brian is a Community Resiliency Specialist for Environmental Defense Fund’s Coastal Louisiana Restoration project. His work focuses not only on community resilience, but on nonstructural flood protection in southern Louisiana.
Brian works closely with local community groups through an initiative called "How Safe, How Soon?". He helps these communities identify and address their flood and storm risks – and future sustainability – in the vanishing Mississippi River Delta. Local partners include: the United Houma Nation, New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development, and the Carrollton-Hollygrove Community Development Corporation.
"Working on coastal restoration in southern Louisiana means so much more than planting marsh and cypress trees," said Brian. "My unique position allows me to explore important questions of how communities live with a landscape and what can be done to make an entire ecosystem more resilient to protect the people, plants and critters who depend upon it for their survival. I have unique experiences every day and with each person or community I meet in this amazing place."
Brian holds a B.A. in Economics from the University of Colorado at Boulder and an M.A. in Environmental Economics from Johns Hopkins University.