Collaborative Efforts in Coastal Protection: CPRA’s 2024 Awards

The Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) of Louisiana announced six recipients of the 2024 Parish Matching Program awards, totaling a combined $7 million. This initiative, designed to support local governments in their coastal restoration efforts, highlights a collaborative approach between the state and parish governments to address pressing environmental concerns, according to this article from The Houma Times.

CPRA Executive Director Glenn Ledet, Jr. expressed his enthusiasm about the partnership with local governments, emphasizing the alignment of these projects with the Coastal Master Plan. He pointed out that the infusion of state and local funds would expedite the implementation of critical projects, thereby enhancing protection for residents and improving coastal ecosystems in Louisiana.

For the fiscal year 2024, the funding was allocated on a reimbursement basis, sourced from state surplus funding and the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA) funds. The awarded projects cover a broad spectrum of restoration efforts across various parishes, each addressing unique environmental challenges.

Jefferson Parish received funding to elevate approximately 22 homes in Lafitte and Grand Isle, which had been approved by FEMA for non-structural improvements. Additionally, the grant provided matching funds to plant four acres of dunes along a two-mile stretch of Grand Isle. This effort aims to enhance the resilience of these areas against future storms and flooding.

In Lafourche Parish, the funding was allocated to construct over 36,000 linear feet of earthen terraces to restore more than 200 acres of marsh along Bayou L’Ours. This area had been significantly degraded by Hurricane Ida, and the terraces would help in mitigating further erosion and promoting marsh recovery.

St. Bernard Parish was awarded funds to support the creation of over 400 acres of marsh and restore 2.5 miles of lake rim along Lake Lery. This project is vital for preserving the lake’s ecosystem and preventing further degradation of the marshland.

St. John the Baptist Parish’s allocation was designated for designing, engineering, and constructing approximately five spoil bank gaps near Bayou Chevreuil. These gaps would help reduce impoundment and enhance the health of around 1,800 acres of cypress-tupelo swamp, promoting better water flow and ecological balance.

St. Tammany Parish received funding to develop and construct approximately 505 linear feet of living shoreline along Goose Point. This project, part of the St. Tammany Living Shorelines initiative, aimed to stabilize the shoreline and protect it from erosion while providing habitat for marine life.

Lastly, Vermilion Parish was granted funds to build over one mile of additional rock breakwater to protect the eroding marsh along Vermilion Bay. This structure is essential for shielding the marshlands from the erosive forces of waves and tides.

The CPRA stands as the primary state entity responsible for coastal protection and restoration in Louisiana. Its mandate includes developing, implementing, and enforcing a comprehensive coastal protection and restoration Master Plan. This cohesive strategy integrates the expertise and resources of various state departments, such as the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Transportation and Development, to address the multifaceted challenges of coastal restoration and hurricane protection.

For the first time in the state’s history, a single authority is harmonizing efforts across federal, state, and local levels to articulate a unified vision for Louisiana’s coastal future. This integrated approach aims to establish a safe and sustainable coast that safeguards communities, critical energy infrastructure, and the state’s abundant natural resources.

By collaborating with federal entities, local political subdivisions, and levee districts, the CPRA is working towards a resilient coastline. Their efforts are crucial for protecting not only local communities but also the nation’s energy infrastructure and natural resources, ensuring they remain robust for future generations.

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Cleaning Up Coastal Paradise: Nicholls Volunteers Remove Over 1,000 Pounds of Trash in 2023

When it comes to the delicate balance of our ecosystems, every effort, no matter how small, can make a monumental difference. This sentiment was exemplified on Saturday, September 16, as Nicholls volunteers with the Nicholls Department of Biological Sciences, in collaboration with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) and the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program (BTNEP), hosted a beach cleanup at Elmer’s Island Wildlife Refuge. Per this news release from Nicholls, this cleanup was part of the Ocean Conservancy’s 2023 International Coastal Cleanup(ICC) – a remarkable event dedicated to purifying our coastlines. The results were nothing short of astonishing: a staggering 1,046 pounds of trash and debris were extracted from a mere 2 miles of Elmer’s Island by 109 dedicated volunteers.

The International Coastal Cleanup, often referred to as the ICC, is a global initiative that takes place annually, involving countless volunteers across the world. Its primary goal is to rid our waterways of the burdens of trash and debris, ultimately making our beaches safer for both humans and wildlife. The scope of this endeavor is nothing short of awe-inspiring, highlighting the sheer scale of the marine debris issue.

Dr. Ferrara, a distinguished service professor and Jerry Ledet endowed professor of environmental biology at Nicholls, expressed the university’s commitment to this noble cause. He underlined the importance of their participation in the ICC and the vital role played by local partners, BTNEP and LDWF, in this monumental effort. Through these collaborative endeavors, the team at Nicholls aims to ensure the preservation and restoration of Elmer’s Island, safeguarding it for future generations and the could not do so without the help of Nicholls volunteers.

Nicholls, often referred to as Louisiana’s Coastal University, has a distinct role in these cleanup operations. Due to its unique geographical location and circumstances, the university stands as an epicenter for coastal and estuarine endeavors, ranging from research to education and outreach. Nicholls recognizes that its position provides an exceptional opportunity to make a substantial contribution to the well-being of coastal ecosystems and the communities that rely on them.

The commitment of Nicholls to the cause is unwavering. By participating in events like the ICC, they not only remove immediate threats to coastal ecosystems but also nurture a long-term legacy. The students at Nicholls play a pivotal role in this mission. Through academic programs offered by the Department of Biological Sciences, they gain the knowledge and skills necessary to become stewards of our environment. From exploring the coastal waterways and swamps of Louisiana to understanding the intricate molecular mechanisms of cell biology using modern scientific equipment, students are well-prepared for the challenges of the modern world.

The Department of Biological Sciences at Nicholls offers a wide array of academic options, allowing students to tailor their education to their specific career aspirations. With 11 concentration areas to choose from, students find themselves in a supportive and challenging academic environment, encouraging their personal growth and fostering a deep sense of responsibility towards the environment.

As we look ahead to the future, the 2024 International Coastal Cleanup looms on the horizon. Scheduled for September 21, 2024, at Elmer’s Island Wildlife Refuge, this event promises to be another crucial step in the ongoing battle against marine debris. Nicholls and its partners, BTNEP and LDWF, will undoubtedly continue to play a significant role in ensuring the success of this endeavor.

In conclusion, the 2023 International Coastal Cleanup at Elmer’s Island was a resounding success, thanks to the dedication of Nicholls’ volunteers and their invaluable partners. It is a testament to the power of collective action and the difference that a small group of passionate individuals can make in the preservation of our coastal environments. The fight against marine debris is far from over, and with continued efforts and education, we can hope to build a cleaner, safer future for our coastlines and the precious ecosystems they support.

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Ground Broken for New Pump Station in Donaldsonville

It was recently announced that officials in Louisiana have broken ground for a $96 million pump station in Donaldsonville that will help to revive the local barrier islands and marshes that protect a large region of south Louisiana from Hurricanes and sea level rise. According to this article from The Advocate, the construction of the long-delayed pumping station, which is considered to be the key to many Bayou Lafourche and coastal restoration projects, had officially broken ground in Donaldsonville on Friday, October 21st.

The project actually caps a larger $220 million effort to reconnect the Mississippi River to the 106-mile-long Bayou Lafourche, which flows from Donaldsonville and empties into the Gulf of Mexico at Port Fourchon.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, members of the congress, and other elected officials were in attendance at the groundbreaking ceremony. All parties came together in order to honor the start of construction of the $96 million pump station, which will protect the drinking water supply for four parishes (Ascension, Assumption, Lafourche, and Terrebonne) and combat saltwater intrusion in Lafourche and Terrebonne estuaries. These estuaries experience some of the highest land loss rates in the world.

Gov. John Bel Edwards spoke about the long-delayed pump station by saying, “this is tremendous for the entire state. The lack of freshwater flowing into the bayou has endangered wetlands and drinking water supplies for 300,000 people. And it robbed this region of one of its most scenic waterways for too long.”

For more than a century, Bayou Lafourche had been sealed off from the Mississippi River, its main source of freshwater, and this action has led to a series of environmental problems, such as the loss of wetlands south of Houma and New Orleans.

Officials in south Louisiana have announced that the new station will be constructed atop the river levee in downtown Donaldsonville, alongside a nearly-70-year-old pump. The station is set to provide the area with increased water capacity. The pump will triple the flow of the river into Bayou Lafourche and revive marshes and barrier islands that help protect South Louisiana from hurricanes, while also ensuring that a region of South Louisiana has a safe drinking water supply.

Edwards highlighted the necessity of this project by saying, “the importance of this project to the Bayou Region and to our state can’t be overstated. The pump station will protect nearly 10 percent of Louisiana’s drinking water supplywhile nourishing over 85,000 acres of marsh in some of the country’s most land-starved areas. We’re investing more than ever before into protection and restoration projects across our coast, and it’s clear these efforts will continue to benefit Louisiana for decades to come.”

Since Hurricane Gustav in 2008 churned up a massive amount of muck and debris that blocked and contaminated the mouth of the bayou, state officials have been hard at work to restore Bayou Lafourche and build up the pump station. When Hurricane Gustav hit, there were weeks-long boil-water advisories in effect for approximately 300,000 residents. U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge spoke at the ceremony about the conditions following the 2008 hurricane saying, “after Gustav, that water was stagnant and disgusting. You could smell the bayou for miles.”

According to The Advocate, the Bayou Lafourche Fresh Water District has spent the past 11 years preparing the bayou for the pump station’s increased flows by widening and deepening several miles of it, raising a railroad crossing in Donaldsonville, installing water control gates, and removing a small dam in Thibodaux, Louisiana.

The bayou projects have already attracted more residents to the neighborhood. Recently, there have been a number of recreational projects in the area that include public docks, boat launches, and bayou-side trails. The new pump station is projected to start operating in 2025, and it should be up and running by the end of 2025.

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Sediment Diversion Project to Move Forward

Recently, the Army Corps of Engineers released a final environmental impact statement that will help to expedite a $2 billion project to fight coastal land loss with a sediment diversion project that will divert sediment from the Mississippi River to Barataria Basin, according to this article from

The Army Corps of Engineers’ final environmental impact statement included a detailed study on Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion. This study will help to determine when federal and state permits will be awarded for the project. Once those permits are awarded, they could come as early as December, which would give final approval to the project, which has been called quite “monumental” by Louisiana officials.

Chairman of the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, Chip Kline, commented on the progress made toward this substantial project by saying, “this is a monumental moment for the state and the state’s coastal program. It has been told to us by members of the Biden administration that this is the largest coastal restoration project in the country, and the largest of its type anywhere in the world.” Kline also commented on the project moving forward in light of the recently released report by saying that it has put Louisiana on the “two-yard line,” indicating that the project’s construction could begin in early 2023.

The $2 billion project, which will be funded by settlements related to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, will prove to provide significant reductions in future storm surge flooding for residents of the New Orleans West Bank. These storm surge reductions will come from the creation of approximately 21 square miles of new land through the year 2070.

Despite this good news in terms of storm surge reductions for New Orleans residents, this project will also significantly impact the area in terms of bringing “significant damaging effects to commercial finfish, oyster and shrimp catches, and some additional flooding risk to communities just south of the diversion location on the west bank of the Mississippi in Plaquemines Parish.”

Environmental deficits notwithstanding, Louisiana state officials still see this substantial diversion project as “the most needed capstone of” the state’s 50-year Coastal Master Plan, as this project represents a significant reduction in the sheer amount of wetlands that are expected to be “sacrificed to subsidence and human-fueled sea level rise along this part of the state’s coastline through the end of the century.” The diversion project will entail the sending of as much as 7 million tons of sediment into the Barataria Basin each year, which is a process that practically mimics the original creation of southern Louisiana.

According to the 12,757-page main report and appendices recently released by the Army Corps of Engineers, the diversion would carry 5-7 million tons of sediment into the basin annually. The report says that this annual carrying of sediment “would have permanent, major, beneficial impacts on land building,” as it would essentially create new land. It’s projected that in its first 10 years, the diversion project would create approximately 10 square miles of new land in the basin and an additional 27 square miles of new land would be created over the next 50 years after that. Although the amount of land created over the first 50 years would be offset by expected wetland losses from sea level rise and subsidence elsewhere in the basin, the final result would still amount to an aggregate increase of 21 square miles in new land area.

Lastly, it was cited by Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority that the diversion project would create 12,000 direct and indirect jobs in southeast Louisiana with most of them being housed in Plaquemines, St. Bernard,Jefferson and Orleans parishes.

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