For first time, President’s budget provides federal funding for Gulf Coast restoration
President Obama included a $40 million commitment in his congressional budget request for Fiscal Year 2011 (October 2010-September 2011) to restore the Gulf Coast along Louisiana and Mississippi. The unprecendented move won praise
from three national environmental groups heavily focused on restoring coastal Louisiana: Environmental Defense Fund, National Wildlife Federation and National Audubon Society.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers budget provides $35.6 million for Gulf Coast restoration, including $19 million for wetlands construction projects and $16.6 million for wetlands pre-construction studies. The U.S. Department of Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service provides $5 million for Gulf Coast restoration.
By prioritizing the restoration of our disappearing coastal ecosystem, President Obama is recognizing the significance of coastal Louisiana to the nation’s economy and landscape.
The Louisiana Coastal Area restoration program was one of only two construction "New Starts" that President Obama recommended for the entire country. Earning a construction New Start designation will allow the Corps to establish an active general construction program for Louisiana wetlands restoration. This program will help the state and Administration to more easily use dedicated sources of funding for the region, other than traditional funding like the Corps’ Energy and Water Appropriations budget.
As state agencies, federal agencies and the White House Interagency Working Group on Gulf Coast Restoration continue to develop their work plan for coastal Louisiana, efforts to shepherd the president's budget request through the congressional appropriations process and into the final FY 2011 congressional budget will be important far and beyond the initial investment requested this year.
Louisiana’s Annual Plan misses mark on non-structural protection
Environmental Defense Fund
The state of Louisiana has just issued its draft Fiscal Year 2011 Annual Plan, which charts a course for planning and implementing storm protection and coastal restoration projects over the next year. The plan recognizes that non-structural, architectural and land use-based risk reduction, measures -- such as building codes, elevating structures, zoning restrictions, etc. -- are important as part of a “multiple lines of defense” approach and it discusses the development of a coastal planning tool-kit. However, the plan does not fully describe how the state will assist individuals or communities to implement the important non-structural elements of a complete protection system.
Non-structural protection can be implemented in short order and provides immediate risk reduction. Just as has been done with restoration and levees, the state must lead the efforts to plan and implement non-structural measures as an integral part of coastal protection. Comments on the draft plan can be submitted to the Office of Coastal Protection and Restoration's website until March 13.
Audubon launches Louisiana Important Bird Areas web map
David J. Ringer
National Audubon Society
The National Audubon Society is launching an interactive online map depicting Louisiana’s Important Bird Areas (IBAs), says Melanie Driscoll, Audubon’s director of bird conservation in Louisiana. The tool allows visitors to explore the sites on a map and obtain more information about each site, including a description of its importance, key birds, conservation status and places to visit within the IBA.
“Louisiana still has large blocks of intact habitat for birds, and its position on the Gulf of Mexico means that it is tremendously important for all the species that cross the Gulf during migration each spring and fall,” Driscoll says. “We want this web-based tool to help people learn about Louisiana’s diverse ecosystems and their importance for birds.”
Audubon convened a technical working group to identify IBAs in the state. “Survey data for dozens of species, including Audubon WatchList species like Piping Plover and Red-cockaded Woodpecker, help us identify IBAs,” says Driscoll. Three of Louisiana’s IBAs are ranked as globally significant, and one is considered continentally significant.
Photo credit: Bill Stripling
Rebate program should cover resiliency alongside energy efficiency
Environmental Defense Fund
A national coalition made up of a diverse set of voices united to support environmentally-responsible, fiscally-sound approaches that promote public safety, SmarterSafer.org, is urging Congress to expand energy efficiency efforts to cover disaster resiliency measures. (The coalition strongly opposes legislative proposals that encourage people to build homes in hurricane-prone, environmentally-sensitive areas by creating new programs that directly or indirectly subsidize their homeowner’s insurance.) A good vehicle for this is the jobs bill currently under consideration in the U.S. Senate.
The latest Home Star provisions, a rebate program to encourage energy efficiency, provide rebates to homeowners who undertake energy-efficiency retrofits. It is based on the administration's "cash for caulkers" proposal.
There is an opportunity to extend these rebates to resiliency measures within the Senate’s jobs bill, advancing efforts to protect people from natural disasters, while providing a needed shot in the arm for the economy. That translates into immediate risk reduction, infrastructure improvements and near term construction job creation in Louisiana.
A wide spectrum of groups support adding resilience to the jobs bill and put out a statement in support. "Home Star is a great opportunity to help people make themselves safer around the country," said Envrionmental Defense Fund's Community Resiliency Specialist Brian Jackson. "In Louisiana, for instance, building 'green' means more than just energy efficiency. It means you've got to build resiliently and add storm mitigation, because the state gets more than 60 inches of rain a year, faces hurricanes and storm surge, and loses a football field of its coast every half hour."
Local and national groups present sediment project options to state
National Wildlife Federation
Environmental Defense Fund
An important part of the 2007 Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Program’s authorization was the integration of an active Science and Technology (S&T) Program. This program is a partnership between the state of Louisiana, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Geological Survey, and other federal agencies. The S&T Program seeks to improve LCA projects by incorporating the best available science, technology and engineering and advancing scientific and engineering research relating to coastal restoration.
An integral part of the S&T Program is the convening of an active outside Science Board whose members are nationally prominent experts drawn from scientific and technical fields.
On January 13, a partnership of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) presented its scientific activities relating to the coastal restoration to the Louisiana Coastal Area Science Board in New Orleans. Participating NGOs included the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), the National Audubon Society (Audubon), the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana (CRCL) and the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation (LPBF).
Presentations included the following:
• Audubon's Paul Kemp, Ph.D., described the implications of new information about river mouth sediment dynamics from a recent Engineer Research and Development Center draft report on navigation, flood control, and restoration.
• LPBF's John Lopez, Ph.D., presented a compilation of data and analysis on existing diversions (both natural and man-made), and discussed related modeling and monitoring research efforts.
• NWF's Maura Wood presented the results of outreach efforts to diversion project stakeholders, including several stakeholder interviews.
• EDF's Angelina Freeman, Ph.D., and the Louisiana Office of Coastal Protection and Restoration’s Brian Vosburg, described the scope of modified hydrodynamic, sediment transport and morphological modeling investigations for the Myrtle Grove sediment diversion project.
• CRCL's Natalie Snider summarized recommendations and questions posed by the presentations for the Science Board.
• CRCL's Steven Peyronnin and EDF's Jim Tripp provided overviews of the NGO partnership’s scientific and policy activities relating to both the near-term and longer-term deltaic ecosystem restoration activities.
With the Science Board actively considering what its most useful role would be in advancing the coastal restoration program and that program's scientific foundation, it welcomed these presentations and expressed an interest in working with the NGO partnership as their work progresses.
Advocates look forward to and expect continued growth and engagement by the S&T program and Science Board, since President Obama's budget request for the LCA Program includes $6.5 million for the S&T Program, to be matched by $3.5 million in state cost-share funding.