EPA Administrator visits New Orleans
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson visited her hometown of New Orleans to attend the National Brownfields Conference
on November 17-18. Jackson has deep roots in the area; she grew up in the Ninth Ward and attended Tulane University. During the two day visit, she took a walking tour of the Lower Ninth Ward with local citizen groups and an aerial tour of the area with Dr. Denise Reed, a coastal geomorphologist at the University of New Orleans. The aerial tour included New Orleans and the coastal wetlands, especially the area impacted by the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet, the collapsing birdsfoot delta, and degraded wetlands in the Barataria Basin.
Additionally, Environmental Defense Fund, National Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society and Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana staff briefed Jackson on coastal restoration issues. The groups also discussed EPA's significant affirmative and regulatory role in restoring coastal wetlands, communities, and economic infrastructure.
EPA plays a critical role in coastal Louisiana restoration and Jackson’s willingness and passion to learn about complex restoration issues is a positive sign for the region.
5523 St. Claude Avenue: bringing fresh food to the Lower Ninth Ward
A small team of University of New Orleans students recently won $25,000 in the JPMorgan Chase’s Community Development Competition to help entice a grocery store to move back into the Lower Ninth Ward.
A graduate research assistant funded by Environmental Defense Fund for the How Safe, How Soon Program, Rosanna Green Ballinger, was a key member of the winning team. Rosanna is a student at the University of New Orleans’ Center for Hazard Assessment Response and Technology. Her team created a roadmap for the new grocery store, which will incorporate flood mitigation techniques, provide fresh local produce and create jobs.
The winning proposal was developed in collaboration with Pam Dashiel, a co-director of the Lower Ninth Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development.
Restoration impacts on recreation
Recreational activities are culturally and economically valuable to coastal Louisiana, and therefore, an important consideration in restoration projects. Below is an overview of two proposed restoration projects and the recreational impacts they could make.
Atchafalaya Freshwater Conveyance
On November 4, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) received public comments regarding impacts to recreation resulting from increasing river flows to North Terrebonne Parish via the proposed Atchafalaya Freshwater Conveyance project.
A variety of interests attended the meeting, including landowners, marina owners, recreational hunters and fishermen, parish officials, and members of Ducks Unlimited, the National Wildlife Federation and Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program.
Overall, attendees' feedback focused on the positive effects of the project. A Ducks Unlimited representative believed that the project eventually would reintroduce freshwater fish to Parish waters,, plus improve the habitat for migrating waterfowl.
Some landowners expressed concerns about marsh health, particularly the effect that additional muddy water would have on underwater plants. However, other landowners believed that with proper monitoring and controls, such as bank stabilization, those concerns could be mitigated.
The Corps will take comments from the meeting into consideration as the agency continues to do studies on the project. As part of an aggressive schedule to complete the project studies, a Corps Chief of Engineers’ Report will be sent to Congress in preparation for future appropriations (funding bills) in December of 2010.
White Ditch Diversion
On November 4, the Corps also received input regarding impacts to recreation resulting from increasing freshwater to the River aux Chenes, by connecting it to the Mississippi via the proposed White Ditch diversion project.
Oystermen, fishermen and groups such as the National Wildlife Federation and Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation attended. Oystermen were concerned that the diversion would ruin their oyster bed leases. Most people in the audience agreed that the diversion will hurt fishing, and some believed that an increase in freshwater would increase growth of water hyacinth flowers that would crowd out duck weed. On a positive note, the diversion could improve duck hunting and white shrimp populations.
The Corps will take comments from the meeting into consideration as it moves forward in project planning. One method to control diversion impacts is by using different operating schemes.
The next step in the planning development is to complete the plan selection process. The Tentatively Selected Plan is scheduled for release in January 2010 and the review process will begin in February 2010. Public review will end in July 2010. A Corps Chief of Engineers’ Report will be sent to Congress in preparation for appropriations bills in December of 2010.
Saving a Vanishing Paradise
National Wildlife Federation launched a new website this month in support of its “Vanishing Paradise” campaign, which is aimed at engaging hunters and anglers in the restoration of Louisiana's coast.
Louisiana often is called a "Sportsman's Paradise." More than 10 million ducks and geese - in excess of 1/5 of North America’s waterfowl population – fly from the Mississippi and Central flyways to the Louisiana coast for the winter. In fact, nearly one million people go hunting and fishing in Louisiana each year, generating more than 16,000 jobs and in excess of one billion dollars for the state’s economy.
The new website describes the Mississippi River Delta, the loss of wetlands crucial to fish and wildlife habitat, and the opportunities for restoration these wetlands. In the "Tell Us Your Story," section of the website, users are encouraged to tell the story of coastal Louisiana wetlands loss in their own words.