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Coastal Restoration in Louisiana

Posted on: September 30th, 2015 by restoreit

Coastal Restoration in Louisiana

Reasons to Restore the Coast in Louisiana

The Louisiana coastline is one of the most fragile ecosystems in the world. The recent influx of rapid change on the coast means more land is being lost every day. The coastline of Louisiana acts as a buffer against natural disasters and without restoration, a larger portion of land and homes will be left vulnerable and exposed to nature’s unpredictable behavior. Causes of coastal erosion include oil drilling and canal dredging, natural disasters, increasing local sinking, increasing salt-water penetration, and global sea level rise. also contribute to the erosion of the Louisiana coast. Mitigating the damage that human intervention and drilling has caused over the past few decades is the top priority of coastal restoration in Louisiana.

mississippi river in Louisiana

National Life Support

Louisiana is the largest fish producer in North America. More than 1 billion pounds of fish are caught every year. Recreational value of the coast is over 1 billion dollars. Louisiana coastline is home to 5 million waterfowl and 70 threatened or endangered species. The coastline is much more than just a piece of land eroding. The coast has a direct impact on so many aspects of life, reaching way beyond the boundaries of the Louisiana state lines. It is a home for wildlife, national source of food, travel, jobs, tourism, and much more.

2012 Coastal Master Plan

The 2012 Coastal Master Plan was passed unanimously by the Senate the same year it was introduced. The master plan used scientific analysis and smaller-scale test projects to conclude its complete phasing process for coastal restoration in Louisiana. Includes several different types of projects. Hydrologic restoration, sediment diversion, marsh creation, barrier island restoration, shoreline protection, ridge restoration, oyster barrier reefs, bank stabilization, and structural protection.

Coastal Land Building

Rebuilding the coastline will support local wildlife like saltwater fish species, freshwater fish species, crawfish, alligator, oysters, muskrat, spoonbill, and other wildlife that directly or indirectly relies on the coastal vegetation and environment to survive.

Hydrologic Restorations

Hydrologic restorations will help to reverse the changes that oil drilling, building levees, new construction, and dredging canals have caused. Interfering with the natural path and tides of the coastal waters has caused ecosystem disruption that needs to be addressed before the situation becomes unrepairable.

Sediment Diversion

Reconnecting the river to its former estuaries using a sediment diversion and channel realignment method is another piece of coastal restoration. This process involved diversion channels for sediment to be built, allowing for basins to receive the sediment caught by the channels. With current sediment diversion processes, the greater the sand load is, the shorter the transporting distance has to be.

oyster barrier reef in louisianaOyster Barrier Reefs

Oyster barrier reefs have been one of the most affected pieces of the coast. Oyster larvae attach themselves to hard surfaces, usually other oysters. Without plentiful oyster reefs, oysters are no longer able to sustain their aquatic population. Oyster barrier reefs have proven to be a less disruptive solution of coastal restoration than concrete or steel bulkheads. The natural filtrations oysters contribute to controlling algae populations, which helps fish survive. Financially speaking, a higher oyster population means economic growth in the Louisiana fishing market.

Rebuilding Louisiana’s Coastline

Coastal restoration in Louisiana is being implemented in many different forms, as explained above. Restoration is important in order to reverse and slow the Louisiana land loss that increases every minute of every day. Combined restoration efforts will promote a better economy, home and land protection, and improve wildlife conditions and populations. Strategic restoration using multiple methods is the optimal choice for total restoration, since recreation by using dredged materials cannot be done effectively for large areas of land. c
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Tags: coastal restoration, Louisiana
Posted in coastal restoration | Comments Off on Coastal Restoration in Louisiana

Ruling Against BP Could Mean $18 Billion in Fines

Posted on: September 4th, 2014 by restoreit
Tags: BP oil spill, coastal restoration
Posted in LA Coastal Parish News, News | Comments Off on Ruling Against BP Could Mean $18 Billion in Fines

On the News With Thom Hartmann: When Big Oil Pays for Its Disasters, the Environment May Recover, and More

Posted on: September 2nd, 2014 by restoreit

On the News With Thom Hartmann: When Big Oil Pays for Its Disasters, the Environment May Recover, and More

To hear the interview or read the transcript click here 

www.truthout.com

September 2, 2014

In today’s On the News segment: When Big Oil is forced to pay for its disasters, the environment has a much better chance to recover; the recent earthquake in Southern California cost over a billion dollars in damages and left more than 100 people injured; Nixon’s War on Drugs demonized marijuana, but science keeps finding new benefits of that miracle plant; and more.

TRANSCRIPT:

Thom Hartmann here – on the best of the rest of….science & green news…..

You need to know this. When Big Oil is forced to pay for their disasters, the environment has a much better chance to recover. Twenty-seven square miles of wetlands along the Texas coastline have been preserved using funds from the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon catastrophe. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation recently purchased the 17,000 acre Powderhorn Ranch using about $38 million dollars from BP’s fines and other conservation group funding. That purchase will protect the salt marshes, oak forests, and pristine wetlands of Texas’s coastline, and it will provide a buffer for storm surge and sea level rise that pose a threat to that state. The Wildlife Foundation had been trying to purchase the land for over three decades, but was unable to raise the funding until BP was forced to pay. This is exactly why it’s so important to prevent corporations from privatizing gains and socializing losses. So many of the natural disasters caused by the fossil fuel industry have been left to taxpayers to clean up, and it was only the massive scale of the BP spill that prompted large fines and settlements. When we divert tax dollars to clean up a corporation’s mess, we make that funding unavailable for other important functions. By forcing Big Oil to pay for their disasters, we are able to clean and protect our environment without depriving our government of the tax dollars needed to operate. And, we raise the cost of business for the fossil fuel industry, and force them to do more to prevent another disaster. Texas’s newest wildlife preserve is proof that fining oil companies can be a success, but we shouldn’t wait until the next disaster to make Big Oil pay up. Let’s make them pay in advance for the destruction they cause by instituting a tax on carbon. To find out more, check out our new video “Carbon” at GreenWorldRising.org.

The recent earthquake in Southern California caused over a billion dollars in damages and left more than 100 people injured. However, a federal nuclear inspector says that the next earthquake could cause a much more serious problem. Michael Peck was the lead on-site inspector for the Diablo Canyon Power Plant in San Luis Obispo County, and he says that plant may not be safe from the jolt of a nearby earthquake. According to Mr. Peck’s report, the Shoreline fault discovered in 2008 poses a serious risk to the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, but the Nuclear Regulatory Commission says everything is fine. That fault line is only 650 yards from the plant’s reactors, and another fault lines lies just three miles away. Mr. Peck’s report says that the structure of Diablo Canyon was never changed after the discovery of the more-distant fault line, let alone the Shoreline fault on which the plant nearly sits. The 2011 Fukushima disaster showed exactly what an earthquake and tsunami can do to a nuclear plant, and it’s unimaginable that we’re not doing more to prevent a similar event here at home.

Nixon’s War on Drugs demonized marijuana, but science keeps finding new benefits of that miracle plant. A recent study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine says that states that have legalized medical marijuana have seen a 25 percent drop in prescription overdose deaths. In fact, the longer that a state keeps this policy, the lower the rate of overdose. According to the researchers, after one year of legalized medical marijuana, these deaths dropped by 20 percent. However, after five years, prescription overdoses declined by 34 percent. The majority of these overdose deaths – about 60 percent – occur in patients who are prescribed opioids for pain. Because marijuana provides effective pain relief without the danger of overdose, many patients are making the switch. Other recent studies have shown that marijuana is also effective at treating nausea, providing relief to cancer patients, and more. It’s no wonder that Big Pharma has made every effort to keep this natural remedy illegal.

There are so many trains carrying oil in North Dakota that farmers are having trouble getting their crops to market. There is a huge problem backlog of trains carrying soybeans, wheat, sugar beets, and other crops, but trains full of oil from the Bakken shale region are being allowed to sail through. In a recent interview with the New York Times, Senator Heidi Heitkamp explained that this backlog is not just a regional problem. She said, “The inability of farmers to get these grains to market is not only a problem for agriculture, but for companies that produce cereals, breads, and other goods.” A recent study from North Dakota State University says that farmers stand to lose more than $160 million dollars because of the railway congestion. The cost to food producers who use these crops may be even higher. Oil doesn’t expire, and we sure as heck can’t eat it. There is absolutely no reason why oil trains should be prioritized over important food crops. We better fix this problem, and do it fast, before the fruit of our nation’s bread basket rots while Big Oil rakes in more profits.

And finally… Humans take almost twice as long as other primates to reach maturity. For decades, scientists have been trying to figure out exactly why we take so much longer to grow up, and they may have finally answered the question. According to a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, humans grow more slowly because so much energy is being consumed by our brains. In fact, 44 percent of all our energy during infancy and 87 percent during childhood is used only on mental development. Because our brains use so much fuel, there is less glucose left over to support physical growth. The next step in this research, measuring exactly how much energy that other primates use for brain function, will be difficult. However, scientists believe that this theory is well supported by their research. This study brings a whole new meaning to the term “brain food,” and shows just how important it is to make sure kids have adequate nutrition.

And that’s the way it is for the week of September 1, 2014 – I’m Thom Hartmann, on Science & Green News.

This article was first published on Truthout and any reprint or reproduction on any other website must acknowledge Truthout as the original site of publication.

Tags: Big Oil, BP damage, coastal restoration
Posted in Jefferson & Plaquemines Parish, LA Coastal Parish News, Political News | Comments Off on On the News With Thom Hartmann: When Big Oil Pays for Its Disasters, the Environment May Recover, and More

Collapsing Marsh Dwarfs BP Oil Blowout as Ecological Disaster

Posted on: March 3rd, 2014 by restoreit

Collapsing Marsh Dwarfs BP Oil Blowout as Ecological Disaster

Newsweek

By Ken Wells
August 18, 2010

Claude Luke throttles down his 21- foot aluminum work boat. Off to the left, the snout of an alligator disappears near the mouth of a watery gash in the Louisiana marshland.

The 51-year-old Cajun crab fishermen is touring the epicenter of an unfolding environmental disaster that dwarfs the BP Plc spill and predates it by decades, according to state scientists and environmentalists. If unchecked, the destruction threatens to undermine the world’s seventh largest estuary and one of the most important U.S. energy corridors.

His boat idles near a canal dredged more than two decades ago for a petroleum pipeline. Back then it was about 15 feet (4 1/2 meters) wide. Now it sprawls 100 feet wide, opening this once-protected upland marsh to toxic salt water. Not far away, Luke nods toward a water tower visible across about 2 miles (3 kilometers) of almost open water.

“You used to be able to walk there from here,” says Luke, who moonlights as a warden on the private Harry Bourg Corp. preserve deep in Louisiana’s delta. “Before the oil companies came, this was good, solid marsh.”

More than half the 17,000 acres (6,600 hectares) of marshland purchased about 80 years ago by Bourg, a barely literate muskrat trapper, have been lost to erosion and subsidence, according to engineering surveys. The inheritance of Bourg’s descendants is vanishing under a profusion of these runaway canals. They were dug to lay pipelines or float in equipment for the drilling of 90 oil and gas wells that made Bourg one of the wealthiest men in South Louisiana before he died in 1963.

Coastal Crisis

Long before BP’s blowout menaced the Gulf of Mexico, an oil industry-related coastal crisis of another kind began unfolding all over the Mississippi River coastal delta. Dredging for navigation, oil and gas drilling and pipeline construction has ripped apart the estuary’s fragile system of fresh and saltwater marshes.

Between 1901, when drilling began in Louisiana, and the 1980s, the oil and gas industry laid tens of thousands of miles of pipelines and dredged 9,300 miles of canals in an industrial invasion of a wetland that once covered 3.2 million acres. Since the 1930s, more than a third of it has vanished, an area the size of Delaware. Each year, 15,300 acres more disappear, according to Louisiana’s Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast.

Seafood Industry

Not all this can be laid to oil and gas drilling; the industry rejects the notion that it is chiefly responsible. Whatever the case, the destruction of marshland reverberates far beyond Louisiana. The state’s waters and wetlands underpin a commercial seafood industry that generates about $2.4 billion a year in wages and sales and provides almost a quarter of the catch in the contiguous U.S., according to the Louisiana Seafood Marketing Board. They serve as wildlife breeding grounds, sheltering and feeding 5 million migratory birds a year, according to state data.

The wetlands also absorb and filter out pollutants and help slow storm surges. Marsh losses in the past 40 years alone could raise the height of a Category 3 storm surge by as much as 10 feet under certain conditions; marsh loss and the presence of a badly eroded navigation channel called the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet may have magnified Hurricane Katrina’s surge in 2005 and helped turn the storm into a $150 billion catastrophe for the New Orleans region, according to computer modeling by Louisiana State University scientists.

‘Calamity Unequaled’

Coastal Louisiana accounts for 27 percent of U.S. energy production while an 83,000-mile infrastructure of pipelines and transfer stations transports 40 percent of its energy needs, counting petroleum from imports and offshore wells, according to data from the state’s Department of Natural Resources and the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil & Gas Association.

The collapse of Louisiana’s coastal marshes is “an international economic and ecological calamity unequaled in history,” jeopardizing more than “$100 billion in energy infrastructure,” said America’s Wetland Foundation, a Louisiana coastal preservation group partly underwritten by the oil industry, in a 2008 report. Much of the pipeline network is buried beneath marshes. Erosion has already exposed high- pressure pipelines to storms and marine traffic, causing oil spills and accidents.

Mechanism of Destruction

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 damaged 457 pipelines, destroyed 113 oil and gas platforms and caused more than 44 spills totaling 9 million gallons of oil, according to post- Katrina reports by the Coast Guard and the federal Minerals Management Service. The 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska amounted to 11 million gallons.

The state has floated an ambitious marsh and barrier-island rebuilding program that since Katrina it has tied to hurricane protection. The cost may come to $50 billion over time, according to the plan. To compensate victims for its spill, BP set up a $20 billion escrow fund.

Several factors are at play in the state’s coastal decimation. Coastal deltas naturally expand and contract over time. Since the U.S. built levees along the Mississippi following devastating floods in 1927, silt that once built land as the river meandered through the marshes has been falling into the deep waters of the Gulf. Starved of sediment, wetlands become waterlogged, sink and die. This is compounded by rising seas and the natural settling of subsea geological structures, scientists say.

Oil Industry’s Share

That doesn’t fully explain why a delta built over eight to 10 millennia has shrunk so much in the past eight decades, the scientists say. Dredging to locate drilling rigs and construction of navigation channels have disrupted the delicate interface between upland marshes and saltwater wetlands, says Kerry St. Pe, director of the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program, a marsh-preservation group headquartered in Thibodaux, Louisiana. Salt water poisons freshwater marshes and swamps, he says. Currents, tides, boats and storms hasten the erosion, especially along the unstable banks of dredged canals.

St. Pe also points to the billions of barrels of oil and trillions of cubic feet of gas that have been sucked from beneath the state’s coastal zone by oil and gas development. “We’re not just eroding, we’re sinking,” he says. “The oil and gas extraction has set off a collapse in our coast.”

Economic Benefits

A consensus of coastal scientists puts wetland losses attributable to oil and gas activities at 36 percent, says Douglas Meffert, a deputy director of Tulane University’s Center of Bioenvironmental Research. The Gulf Restoration Network estimates the share as high as 60 percent, says Aaron Viles, the group’s campaign director.

“The idea that we’re mostly to blame is crap,” says Don Briggs, president of the Louisiana Oil & Gas Association, a 1,100-member trade group based in Baton Rouge. He cites a U.S. Department of Energy estimate that the industry accounted for no more than 15 percent of coastal loss.

Economic gains to the state from oil and gas — in jobs, taxes and growth over the decades — far outweigh the damage, according to the association. Oil and gas extraction and refining contribute about $70 billion annually to Louisiana’s economy and supports 320,000 jobs. State oil and gas taxes last year topped $570 million.

Paradoxical Relationship

The state’s view is that much of the damage from dredging is attributable to canals dug before 1980, when the state created its Coastal Resources Program and began to clamp down on oil and gas access canals, says Karl Morgan, administrator of the Permits and Mitigation Division for Louisiana’s Office of Coastal Management. Between 1980 and 1989, the lengths of permitted access canals shrank from 1,300 feet on average to just over 400 feet, he says.

These days, permits are seldom granted except to deepen existing canals, Morgan says. Backfilling is rare because many access canals still serve active wells or production units. The exceptions are canals or trenches dredged for laying pipelines. Before 1980, these canals “were not backfilled in many cases,” says Morgan. Since the advent of the Coastal Resources Program, the state “has always required backfilling,” he says.

In the history of Harry Bourg’s muskrat marsh, about 75 miles southwest of New Orleans, lies a parable of Louisiana’s paradoxical relationship with the oil industry. Bourg and four generations of descendants have reaped untold millions of dollars in royalties over more than seven decades. In 1938, the year oil was discovered under his marshes, Bourg was raking in as much as $100,000 a month in royalties, according to a newspaper report at the time.

Unlikely Millionaire

Yet his heirs have also had “the heartbreak of watching the beautiful marshland that Harry truly loved be damaged perhaps beyond repair,” says James M. Funderburk, the Harry Bourg Corp. attorney.

“If my grandpa knew what was coming,” says Bourg’s grandson, Cyrus Theriot Jr., 68, one of 50 shareholders in the family run corporation and its president, “I think he would have done things differently.”

A portrait of Bourg emerges from a 1938 article in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, a short biography by Bourg’s former accountant and interviews with Bourg relatives and Funderburk.

Bourg was an unlikely candidate to become a multimillionaire. He was born in 1888 in the hamlet of Dulac, Louisiana, one of eight children in a farming and fishing family. Harry’s people descended from the French Canadians who were kicked off their lands in Canada’s Acadian provinces by the British in 1755.

35-Cent Fortune

The survivors became known as Cajuns and eventually settled up and down the Louisiana coast and wove themselves into it, fishing, hunting, trapping and farming the high ground, leaving only a small footprint. Education was sparse, family was central, food was the second religion behind Catholicism. Their cooking, music and joie de vivre took roots from this land.

Harry grew up with a fitful grade-school education. When he married at age 20, his entire fortune was the 35 cents in his pocket, a small house he’d built with his own hands and the shrimp boat his father, a fisherman and farmer, had given him. His wife had to teach him how to speak English, not to mention how to add, subtract, multiply and divide.

Pennies an Acre

Bourg did have a prodigious work ethic, a knack for invention and, despite his lack of formal education, a keen eye for business. Most shrimpers pulled seines by hand or dragged trawls with sail-powered boats. Harry adapted a new-fangled invention, the gasoline-powered outboard motor, and crafted special rigging to go with it.

The shrimp piled up in his nets. In 1908, his first season as a commercial fishermen, he made $300 — equivalent to about $31,000 in wages today.

In 1929, Bourg embarked on a mystifying real estate journey. He began buying up marshland at estate sales and tax auctions, amassing his 17,000 acres by 1933.

Though he sometimes paid just pennies an acre, people thought Harry was crazy. Conventional wisdom said marshland was valuable only if you could drain it to farm or build on. The marsh grew two things in profusion — mosquitoes and muskrats. Mosquitoes gave you malaria.

Muskrats were valuable for their pelts, but trapping a few hundred every season was backbreaking work in the boggy marsh. Undaunted, Bourg gave up shrimping for muskrat trapping. He became an entrepreneur, bringing in a dozen or so other trappers each winter. They’d live in his cabins, trap his lands and hand him a share of their profits.

‘Gasoline Distillate’

According to one family story, Bourg hired a surveyor and over time walked all 17,000 of his acres. One day he carried the surveyor on his back when the exhausted man couldn’t manage the boggy terrain. Bourg invented a small dredging contraption and ringed the entire boundary with a channel — called a “trainasse” in Cajun — just wide enough to accommodate a trapper in a pirogue, the Cajun equivalent of a canoe.

In 1938, Big Oil came calling. Representatives of Standard Oil Co. of California, a Texas oil baron named J.P. Fohs and a New Orleans investor, O.P. Montagnet, stood at Bourg’s farmhouse door. Pools of oil and gas were being discovered up and down the Gulf Coast. The oil men said they had a hunch about his land.

He signed a mineral lease and struck a mother lode of crude. It was so light and sweet the wildcatters called it “gasoline distillate.”

Uncashed Royalty Checks

Sudden wealth didn’t change the way he lived, dressed and carried on. Harry still liked his trapper’s boots, his dungarees, his floppy hats. He spoke English with a Cajun accent so thick some uplanders found it incomprehensible. He stayed in his small farm house on the banks of Bayou Grand Caillou in Dulac, trading up later to a modest brick ranch house.

Although Bourg helped start a bank in Houma, he mistrusted money men. His oil royalty checks often sat uncashed in a desk drawer in the office where he ran his muskrat trading business. Unconvinced that the oil men had calculated his royalties properly, he would summon them to his office and demand that they show him the math amid the stink of drying muskrat hides.

Bourg’s first oil strike, the Standard Oil well, was a technological marvel at the time, says Funderburk. The oil men brought in a dredge and dug a six-mile-long canal through Bourg’s marsh just wide enough to float in a rig on a barge.

“This is a well smack in the middle of Harry’s marsh,” says Funderburk. “How they figured the location, given the technology back then, is mystifying.”

Under Water

At a depth of 13,300 feet, the well was also the deepest in the U.S. at the time.

“That was the beginning,” says Funderburk. “More leases, and more canals, more laterals off of those canals. I’m sure Harry had no idea at the beginning what they were going to do to him over time.”

Today, where the marsh remains intact, egrets still fly, bull alligators still prowl, and redfish and shrimp still school in a tableau as old as the marsh itself. In other sectors, 80 percent of Bourg’s marshes have turned to open water, according to an engineering survey commissioned by the Bourg estate. About 55 percent of the entire 17,000-acre tract is under water, the survey found.

“We’re just trying to hold on to what we have left,” says Theriot, the grandson.

Chronic Erosion

By the time he died, Bourg was no longer ignorant of the effects of all the dredging. In the late 1950s, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers pushed for construction of a 36.5-mile channel called the Houma Navigation Canal. Its sole purpose was to speed workers and equipment from the nearby port of Houma to rigs multiplying offshore in the Gulf.

The proposed channel boundary brushed Bourg’s property. Bourg fought it at public hearings and was the last holdout to grant a right-of-way. He predicted — correctly it turned out — that the channel would become a salt water siphon and poison upland marshes, including his.

Since the channel opened in 1962, its banks have been plagued by chronic erosion. Plans are afoot to build a lock as part of program to prevent saltwater flooding in Houma during storms. The Corps itself said in a report last year that saltwater intrusion from the canal threatens to destroy the 7,400-acre Falgout Canal Marsh Management Area, popular for fishing and hunting, unless rock dikes are placed along the channel’s banks.

One Well Left

These days only one of the 90 wells on the Harry Bourg property is pumping oil, Theriot says. The corporation supplements its income by selling fishing and hunting permits to local sportsmen. It still has a large alligator population that generates revenue from an annual hunt.

In 2004 the Bourg Corp. settled a lawsuit it filed against Exxon Mobil Corp. and several other oil companies to clean up pits full of toxic chemicals and residues. Theriot will say only that the property was restored at oil-company expense. Exxon Mobil declined to comment.

As for suing oil companies to redress damage from the runaway canals, the state supreme court erected a barrier in 2005, says Funderburk, the corporation’s lawyer. In a 4-3 decision in case known as Terrebonne Parish School Board vs. Castex Energy, the court found that companies can’t be required to refill eroded canals or pay damages unless a mineral lease specifically contains language compelling them to do so.

Who Will Pay

Who will pay to rebuild Louisiana’s wetlands has been under debate for years. Environmental scientists and lawyers argue that the oil industry should help foot the bill. The state says the federal government should pay because its flood-control projects helped cut off the river’s delta-building and its navigation channels fueled erosion.

“I don’t think anyone in the state is denying that oil and gas plays a role, but the overwhelming majority of our problems come from the federal interference in the natural waterways,” says Chris Macaluso, a spokesman for the state’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.

“The industry, in a way, is already paying,” Macaluso says, as Louisiana spends some of its oil and gas royalties on restoration projects. The state is also pinning some of its plans on an additional $500 million a year in shared federal royalties from offshore drilling starting in 2017, he says.

“The oil industry damage to the Louisiana coast via oil and gas exploration over the past 80 years dwarfs the BP spill and all other spills past, present and future,” says Oliver Houck, director of Tulane University’s environmental law program in New Orleans. “The exploration has torn us to shreds, and for this damage the industry has yet to pay a penny. Nor has the state asked. Such is our subservience to the industry.”

Only Good News

Other industry critics say oil and gas operators shouldn’t be treated any differently from strip miners that have been required to restore lands.

The state’s reticence, says Camilo Salas, a New Orleans lawyer who has made a study of Louisiana’s wetlands and its oil politics, reflects Louisiana’s “coal-mining town mentality toward oil and gas.”

“That the state won’t even put the oil industry in the conversation about who is responsible for coastal erosion and who ought to pay for it is laughable,” he says.

At Harry Bourg’s muskrat marsh, the only good news lately is that oil from the BP spill hasn’t encroached on it. The value of the estate had dwindled to $3 million by 1990, according to a district court filing that was part of a lawsuit by two Bourg heirs against the corporation over money lent to a fish-farming enterprise.

Into the Marsh

That was after a $3 million payout to shareholders, the documents disclosed. Theriot declines to discuss corporation assets or finances except to say that it continues to pay dividends as cash reserves permit.

Though he worked 31 years in a white-collar job for Texaco Inc., now part of Chevron Corp., Theriot rejects the argument that jobs and taxes were a fair tradeoff for damage to Louisiana wetlands.

“Some of these oil companies could come back and step up to the plate and try to help fix the devastation they caused,” Theriot says. “But I guess not. You don’t see too many stepping up. Have you seen any of them trying to help BP?”

Claude Luke, the part-time Bourg Corp. warden, still frets that oil left over from the BP spill will wash into the marsh, even though the well has been capped. Fishing grounds near barrier islands to the south remain closed. “If the oil comes here,” Luke says, “we’re doomed.”

To contact the reporter responsible for his story: Ken Wells in New York at kwells8@bloomberg.net.

Tags: BP damage, BP oil spill BP oil damage, coastal erosion, coastal restoration, Don Briggs, environmental damage, louisiana coastal restoration, louisiana environment
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Proposals to Fill in Louisiana Canals Not Gaining Much Traction

Posted on: January 13th, 2014 by restoreit

Proposals to Fill in La. Canals not Gaining Much Traction

BY AMY WOLD

The Advocate

January 12, 2014

Click here for story

At the heart of a lawsuit against a number of oil and gas companies filed by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority — East levee board is the question of how much damage was caused by dredging canals through Louisiana’s coastal wetlands.

But landowners have long opposed one approach to minimizing the damage: backfilling the canals.

“The people who have these canals don’t necessarily want these canals backfilled,” said Don Briggs, the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association’s president. “Some of the best spots to fish are in areas like that.”

Even as early as the 1950s, researchers had concerns about the canals, not only because of the marsh that was disturbed but also because of the spoil banks piled up along each side of the waterways. These small levees of dirt, dug from the canal channels, can impound water in certain areas while the canals let in saltwater and otherwise alter the way the landscape functions.

These indirect effects from the dredging of oil and gas canals compound the direct impact of the canal construction and are considered one of the multiple causes of coastal wetland loss in the state.

State officials, saying these were sins of the past, say the state has changed the way it allows canals to be dredged in the marsh as well as how companies have to “mitigate” or replace the marsh they damage or impact.

In addition, oil and gas canals aren’t needed as often now, thanks to directional drilling technology, Briggs said, and if a canal is needed, industry is required to mitigate any damage.

“If I use 1 acre of land over here, I’ll mitigate 5 acres somewhere else,” Briggs said.

He also said many landowners consider the canals and the spoil banks as a benefit for flood and storm-surge protection as well as a historical means of access to the marsh.

Others involved in coastal research, however, say the state continues to ignore indirect impacts the canals have had and so the required mitigation doesn’t account for the true loss.

Backfilling the canals has been proposed a number of times by scientists and in the Legislature, yet despite some initial interest from the state in the 1980s, the idea hasn’t gotten much traction.

“People were dredging canals and we knew canals were causing land loss back then, so why don’t we look at putting them back?” asked Eugene Turner, Boyd professor and Shell endowed chair in oceanography/wetland studies with the Department of Oceanography and Coastal Science at LSU.

Oliver Houck, professor of law at Tulane University Law School, became interested in oil canals after writing a piece for the Tulane Law Review in 1983. He said there were a number of reports suggesting backfilling of canals be required or at least recommended.

“There were very thorough reports on this done in the 1980s,” he said. “A lot of them were suppressed.”

There was even a report from Joel Lindsey, then administrator of the coastal management section at the Department of Natural Resources, sent to DNR Secretary Frank Simoneaux in 1983, that in part spoke in favor of backfilling canals or at least prohibiting spoil banks by instead pumping dredged material to marsh areas.

The report’s introductory letter states that more research is needed on the efficiency of the technique in different wetland types, “but we feel that this is a positive first step towards the accumulation of a scientific body of data on this subject.”

“They pulled back. They didn’t do it,” Houck said.

Several state legislators also tried to pass legislation that would require backfilling, but the idea didn’t go anywhere, he said.

“They killed it dead. They drove a stake through its heart,” Houck said. “It’s one of those great ideas that just never had a backer.”

So why the resistance?

Houck said he thinks companies or landowners with these canals didn’t favor backfilling them because that would mean admitting the canals and spoil banks were a problem.

Turner has followed up on the approximately 30 backfilled sites that he could find records of, and also designed several backfilling projects at the Barataria Preserve at Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve.

Research on the effectiveness of backfilling, although limited, has shown mixed results; it appears to work better in freshwater marsh areas. But knocking spoil banks back into the canals won’t completely fill them because organic soils reduce in volume after being exposed to air.

Some coastal areas are crisscrossed by so many canals that backfilling one canal would have little impact on the overall hydrology, or water movement, in the area.

“If you restore the hydrology, you can get marsh back,” Turner said.

Starting in the early 2000s, several projects were conducted at Jean Lafitte Park to determine how effective backfilling canals would be in restoring wetlands and re-establishing the natural flow of water through areas of the park.

David Muth, now the Louisiana state director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Louisiana Coastal Campaign but at the time the cultural and natural resource manager at the Jean Lafitte park, said about 5 miles of canals were filled.

“In 2001, we signed a cooperative agreement with Gene Turner at LSU to design and oversee a canal backfilling project,” Muth said. Researchers took two canal segments and tested different methods on each to determine how the restoration would work over time. On one canal, the spoil banks were knocked into the canal, while the other canal was filled with dirt dredged from a nearby lake.

“After five years, there weren’t dramatic differences between the two canals,” Muth said. “These projects have proven to be very cost-effective. The cost per acre is extremely low compared to other restoration measures.”

However, the practice isn’t widely used for old oil and gas canals for a number of reasons.

“It isn’t done more mainly because of opposition of landowners who want to keep the canals,” Muth said.

The canals provide access to hunting and fishing areas, and from one area of the marsh to another, and some landowners want to keep the canals open in case new oil and gas extraction techniques become available that could make an old well profitable again. In other cases, he said, landowners have used the spoil banks in their water management plans to create duck ponds or as locations for camps.

Although there have been some complaints that backfilling canals wasn’t included in the state’s master plan for coastal restoration, Muth said the master plan is at a much larger scale.

“The scale at which the master plan is laid out, there’s no bang for your buck to go around backfilling canals in areas that are doomed in 50 years,” Muth said about the $50 billion, 50-year plan the state has approved to try to halt coastal land loss. The technique of backfilling canals is appropriate for an individual landowner who wants to keep land in place while waiting for larger projects to be built in the area, he said.

“It doesn’t fix the harm the canal and spoil bank did in the first place,” he said. “I don’t think that’s what the state should be spending its money on.”

In addition, he said, backfilling is included in the master plan but in a manner that might not be obvious.

Within the larger projects included in the master plan, such as diverting sediment and water from the Mississippi River and dredging soil to build marsh, some former canals could be in the way.

“There’s no reason you can’t fill in the canals within that footprint,” Muth said.

Kyle Graham, deputy executive director of the state’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, said canals do get filled in during the course of other restoration projects.

In addition, the state is looking at how to evaluate and prioritize areas where backfilling or other stabilization measures could buy some time until larger restoration projects are put in place, he said. Although details still need to be worked out, that effort could involve offering incentives to landowners or expanding current programs that fund smaller projects, some of which could include the closing in of canals.

Tags: coastal erosion, coastal restoration, environmental damage, louisiana coastal restoration, louisiana environment, oil and gas
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New ‘Water Campus’ in Baton Rouge Will Be Hub for Scientists working on coastal, wetlands issues

Posted on: December 17th, 2013 by restoreit

by Diana Samuels, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune 

December 17, 2013

Click here for full story

Baton Rouge

will soon be home to a major new research hub that aims to bring together world-class scientists who will look for ways to restore and protect Louisiana’s shrinking coastline.

Gov. Bobby Jindal announced at a press conference Tuesday that a new “Water Campus” will be built near the site of the old city dock. The project emerged from the combined efforts of the state, the Baton Rouge Area Foundation,The Water Institute of the Gulf, the city-parish and Louisiana universities.

The campus will cover about 30 acres just south of the Mississippi River Bridge, off of Nicholson Drive. Initial plans call for three buildings to be constructed at a cost of about $45 million. But officials ultimately envision a much larger campus arising over the next 10 years, as the initial “anchor tenant” facilities attract other research organizations and businesses that want to locate nearby.

“Baton Rouge will become the epicenter for the study of the science of river deltas,” Mayor Kip Holden said. “It will be a place where people can come from around the world to preserve our great natural resources.”

The first phase of the project is the construction of a $16 million physical model of the lower Mississippi River, to be operated by LSU. The model will be housed in a 50,000-square-foot facility built on a 3.3-acre tract. It will depict about 190 river miles, from Donaldsonville to the Gulf of Mexico. LSU currently has a Mississippi River model, but it is outdated, officials said.

The second component of the campus will be a $20 million coastal education and research center, built on the old dock itself, which will house the headquarters for the Water Institute of the Gulf. It will also include public education exhibits.

The institute is an independent nonprofit organization, but with deep ties to both the Baton Rouge Area Foundation and the state, and provides assistance to the state’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority. It was founded in 2011 and has been working out of offices at One American Place. It is envisioned as a central research hub that can bring together scientists from state universities, engineering and construction companies, levee districts and nonprofits, to work on water issues facing Louisiana and beyond.

The third element of the campus will be a $9 million coastal research office building to house other organizations, including the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.

Construction on the first phase of the campus, the river model, is expected to start in Feb. 2014. Construction on the education and research facility on the dock is expected to begin in the second half of 2014.

Officials said the development will drive economic development, between spurring more jobs in the water sector, and helping to revitalize that area of Nicholson Drive. The water sector could create 25,000 to 45,000 new jobs by 2030, Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret said.

“Coming together to create the water campus is not just a critical tool for coastal restoration, but is truly a major catalyst for state of Louisiana,” Moret said.

The campus is made up of 13 acres of land BRAF purchased from the East Baton Rouge Housing Authority, another 11 acres the city-parish is leasing to BRAF, and 13 acres donated by the state. Another adjacent parcel, owned by stakeholders including developer Mike Wampold, is expected to be developed privately, but following the “master plan” for the water campus.

The Baton Rouge Area Foundation and Commercial Properties Realty Trust, the foundation’s real estate arm, will develop and manage the campus.

Jindal said the new campus will help the state with a “comprehensive approach to (coastal restoration) that takes all the tools in our tool chest.”

 

“As a Baton Rouge native, I’m looking forward to resuse of our dock,” Jindal said. “(This will help Louisianians) protect our property, our culture, and our environment. And in doing that, it will create tens of thousands of jobs.”

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Tags: aquifer, coastal restoration, environmental damage, Garret Graves
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Governor Jindal Discusses Coastal Restoration Project in Cameron Parish

Posted on: December 16th, 2013 by restoreit

Governor Jindal Discusses Coastal Restoration Project in Cameron Parish

Written by  By Monica Grimaldo/ Monday, 16 December 2013

for full story click here

 

CAMERON PARISH, LA (KPLC) –

Gov. Bobby Jindal along with local officials stopped by Cameron Parish on Monday to discuss a shoreline restoration project east of Holly Beach.

“What you’re seeing here is really the state’s effort to protect our people, to protect our property from the next hurricane and from coastal erosion,” Jindal said.

The $45.8 million dollar project is funded entirely through the state. The project will add approximately 1.9 million cubic yards of sand from federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico to the shoreline. The project will also help protect La. 82/27, the parish’s only east-west highway and one of the main routes for evacuation.

“If we don’t restore this land, that tidal surge, that damage, all that wave action not only comes through Cameron Parish but ultimately gets to the wetlands, the wildlife refuge and ultimately gets to the people of Lake Charles as well,” Jindal said.

With upcoming job development expected to hit Cameron Parish, Jindal said he wants to be prepared.

“This is going to have a huge impact,” Jindal said. “Tens of thousands of jobs, tens of millions of dollars in capital investment coming, we have to have sustainable development. We need to be planning ahead for housing, schools, roads and the other impacts. We want those folks to build houses, we want that to be sustainable growth in our economy.”

The shoreline restoration project is overseen by the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority of Louisiana, which was created by the state after hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 to oversee all coastal and flood control projects.

Copyright 2013 KPLC. All rights reserved.

Tags: coastal erosion, coastal restoration, environmental damage, Garret Graves, John Carmouche, louisiana coastal restoration
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