Delta Dispatches Podcast – Sediment Diversions
On today’s show Rudy Simoneaux and Brad Barth, from CPRA talk about sediment diversions and Rebecca Triche joins Simone to discuss the Louisiana Wildlife Federation and their upcoming event.
Below is a transcript of this week’s Delta Dispatches Podcast. Listen to the full recording here or subscribe to our feed in iTunes and Google Play.
Jacques: Welcome to Delta Dispatches. This is Jacques Hebert.
Simone: And I’m Simone Maloz.
Jacques: Simone, we’ve got a great show today. We’re talking about sediment diversions with Rudy Simoneaux and Brad Barth, from CPRA.
Simone: Great. And I’m going to talk to Rebecca Triche of the Louisiana Wildlife Federation about her organization and her upcoming events.
Jacques: That’s great. And for those of you who need a reminder, if you want to subscribe to our Podcast Delta Dispatches, go to mississippiriverdelta.org/deltadispatches. You can listen to the last episodes and subscribe for future episodes.
Simone: Sure. And if you want to find out about more about our organizations, Restore or Retreat can be found on Twitter, Facebook, and online at https://restoreorretreat.org/, and the campaign can be found at –
Jacques: mississippiriverdelta.org. I’m going to have a chat with Rudy and Brad, and then we’ll see you later in the show when you talk to Rebecca.
Simone: Okay. See you in a little bit.
Jacques: This is Jacques Hebert and I’m really excited to be here today with two experts from the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, CPRA, Brad Barth and Rudy Simoneaux. They lead the CPRA’s sediment diversion program. Simone and I joke that we got Theriot on the show, we have an Hebert on the show, we now have a Simoneaux. So Brad, how do we make your name Cajun?
Brad: How about Barthinot?
Jacques: Barthinot. Okay, we’ll go with Barthinot for the day’s show. So tell us a little bit, guys, about your roles at CPRA and what you’re working on these days.
Brad: Rudy and I both come from different divisions at CPRA. I’m in the operations division and Rudy’s in the engineering division, but as we stand up this program, with the diversions, we’ve kind of cut across all divisions. We’ve spent a lot of time this past year working on the planning and implementation to stand the program up, which then will turn around and stand up the project. So, as we transition from developing schedules and tasks and how we contract the work to deliver these projects, then we’ll transition into implementing and doing the engineering design, doing the permitting and so forth, to get us to construction.
Rudy: That’s right, Brad. And to echo that, and I think we’ll touch on this a little later, Brad and I are also, as CPRA employees, we’re affiliated with many other efforts. The dredging and the marsh creation of barrier islands, the flood protection. As the master plan says, it’s a comprehensive approach. We do spend most of our time recently on diversions, but at the end of the day, we’re still tied to all the parts and pieces that make up the master plan and things we’re trying to implement.
Jacques: Great. We had Bren Haase, for those of you who may have not listened to last week’s episode, on to talk about the 2017 master plan, which is currently … It’s been updated, it’s in draft form and you can give public comments in and review it by March 26th.
So tell us a little bit, and our listeners, for those folks who may not be familiar with sediment diversions, they’re a cornerstone of the master plan and our efforts to restore coastal Louisiana. For those who may not be familiar with sediment diversions, can you walk us through what they are, and why are they so crucial in this land loss crisis?
Brad: Sediment diversions, we feel, is a key crucial piece because it’s going to help restore the natural process. Since the 1930s we’ve levied up for flood control and navigation, and starved the basins and bays of the sediments, and the nutrients, and the fresh water that it takes to build those bays and sustain those wetlands. The diversion will actually reconnect the Mississippi River to that basin and allow that sediment, the nutrients, and fresh water to re-enter into the basin and create, and maintain and sustain those marshlands.
These two basins, Barataria and Breton basins are some of the hardest hit basins among coastal Louisiana. We’ve lost over 700 square miles in the last 80 years, since the 1930s. This is really getting to the root cause, and stopping the root cause, for the continued coastal erosion into the basins and bays.
Jacques: So in terms of what they might actually look like, you’ve talked a little bit about how it’s important to reconnect the river to its wetlands and delta, to have that process where you’re replenishing the wetlands with sediment. They’re currently sediment starved and a lot of that sediment will pass right through the Mississippi River and fall off the outer intercontinental shelf into the Gulf of Mexico. What will a sediment diversion structure actually look like? And how will it work in terms of, with the Mississippi River and tributary system and levies and that sort of thing?
Rudy: Down in these locations we have flood protection levies, so to reconnect the river out to the basin, we’ll have to go through the flood protection levies. We’ll have gated control structures there to keep the level of flood protection, and then a conveyance channel to get it out to the basin and to the bay. From there it’s a natural process. It’s only engineered basically through, between levy-to-levy, to ensure our protection to our citizens.
Jacques: Great. Last week we had Dr. Denise Reed, with the Water Institute of the Gulf, on the show. She talked about how diversions have been studied extensively, going back to the 1970s, and they’ve been put forth by many scientists and other planners as crucial to combating this land loss crisis. Why is using the Mississippi River so important, in terms of our dealing with land loss?
Brad: I think some of those studies have actually even gone to the late 20s, and again, it’s about the natural process. It’s about capturing what the river was originally meant to do. Again, we’ve kind of changed up how the river works right now, and this is a long term sustainable strategy to make the river work for us like it once used to.
Every second of the day sediments, fine grain sands and silts and clays are coming down the river. Every day we don’t have a diversion is a day that keeps on going down out the coast, like you said.
Jacques: Yeah. It’s definitely a missed opportunity and I remember, I think a few years ago, when they opened the Bonnet Carré Spillway you saw all that sediment pouring into Lake Pontchartrain, and you can often see satellite imagery of it pouring off the river out of Buras into the delta and off the continental shelf. I think one of the things you hear a lot about, in terms of future challenges, environmental challenges, sea level rise … You think about the threats, right? And the master plan really looks out at those threats over time. You have places like Miami and other coastal areas that are facing similar threats from sea level rise, but we do have the Mississippi River and that land building sediment to push back against sea level rise.
Once these sediment diversions are actually built and constructed and in operation, what are some of the results that you expect to see?
Rudy: That’s a good question. Like you said, the coast, and particularly the Barataria and Breton Sounds are attacked from both directions, the bottom in subsides and the top from sea level rise. We have an opportunity to catch up with that, or keep pace with that. In the early years you’re going to see just the input of river water into the system is going to help sustain things. You see it right now on the east bank in the Bohemia Spillway, and even at Mardi Gras Pass, just that small influx of water, what it’s doing to those wetlands.
Then over decades, over time, you’ll see the basin begin to shallow, just because of the input of sands. That’s what we’re trying to divert and reconnect into the basin. Over the decades it’s going to turn from something that’s sustaining the wetlands, to something that’s actually building land. That’s what we’re trying to go for here. That’s why these projects are so unique, because we’re using them to build land using the river sand.
So we have that opportunity, and we do have alarming sea level rise rates and subsidence rates, particularly in this area. We have an opportunity to mitigate that with these projects.
Jacques: Great. In Louisiana in particular, we’re impacted by the relative sea level rise, as you described, so it’s the subsidence and the sea level rise. There are so few places across the coast that are building land, but the places that are, it seems that they have that influx of fresh water and sediment, like the Wax Lake Delta.
Rudy: That’s correct.
Jacques: You mentioned this a little bit earlier, Rudy, but in terms of beyond sediment diversions, and really thinking of this as a holistic approach, that there’s no one size fits all solution. You need all the projects, sort of working together, sediment diversions and marsh creation and dredging and other projects. Sediment diversions are important to build and maintain land, but they also are important in terms of supporting other investments. Right? Whether that be in levies that have been constructed, or marsh creation projects that have been enacted across the coast. Can you talk a little bit about how sediment diversions will work with some of these other projects, and what they do to support other investments?
Rudy: That’s right. It’s the back bone of the master plan, is a comprehensive approach, and to focus on how projects in a certain region or basin work off of each other. That’s a great point, particularly in Barataria for example. We’re going propose to build many acres of wetlands using the diversion. That’s going to buffer hurricane protection levy. That’s going to help communities like Myrtle Grove, because that levy is exposed right now. With sea level rise and subsidence that water’s only getting deeper and they’re not far from the Gulf of Mexico and the deeper bay. So building land here will help buffer that levy.
Similarly, we’re looking for marsh creation and ridges within the outfall area that are going to be sustained by the diversion, but it also could help the diversion build land quicker, helping to retain the sediment within a very segregated or broken basin. We’re looking at ways to synergistically approach everything, using different project features to work off of each other. Like I said, it’s always been kind of the comprehensive backbone of the master plan, but now we’re actually putting it to work and making it happen.
Jacques: Great. For those of you who might be just joining us, we’re here with Rudy Simoneaux and Brad Barth, project managers with CPRA, on the sediment diversion program, and this is WGSO, 990 AM, Delta Dispatches, and we’ll be right back after the break.
Jacques: Welcome back to Delta Dispatches on WGSO, 990 AM. This is Jacques Hebert and I’m here with Brad Barth and Rudy Simoneaux, with CPRA. We’re discussing sediment diversions. Brad and Rudy, tell me, there are no sediment diversions currently constructed on the landscape, correct? But there are fresh water diversions. I think sometimes folks get a little confused. You know, they hear about a diversion that may exist and it’s in fact a fresh water diversion. What is the difference between fresh water diversions and sediment diversions, and why do you expect sediment diversions to be more effective in terms of building land?
Brad: Good question. They’re very similar in structure type and such, but the main difference is how they’re operated and what their goals are to accomplish. For example, Caernarvon and Davis Pond, those are fresh water diversions. Their primary goal is to fight back salt water intrusion. They do have a secondary goal, is to minimize coastal erosion due to that salt water intrusion. But again, they operate much differently. They’re going to be operating in the summer to early fall, late fall months, or maybe even into early winter, when the basins are starved of fresh water, because the natural flooding cycle of the river.
Sediment diversions work totally opposite of this. Real similar concept with structure, but totally opposite that we flow when the river’s already high, so when the basin’s fresher sediment diversions will flow to get that maximum capture of sediment and nutrients and fresh water out. They follow the natural cycle and process of the river, to help build that land and sustain those sediments.
Jacques: Isn’t it true that, in terms of capturing the maximum amount of sediment, and silts and sands, you have to go a little bit deeper in the water column, correct? The actual structure or sediment diversion may be different in that way, in that it’s seeking that sweet spot, where you are going to get the most amount of sediment and land building material.
Brad: Yeah, excellent point. Both those diversions are much shallower structures. This diversion will be significantly deeper, maybe minus 40 or minus 50 in elevation, there, on down to the sandbar elevation actually. So it will be a much deeper structure than what we associate with fresh water diversions.
Jacques: So just because folks may be familiar with certain fresh water diversions or their impacts and effects, that’s not necessarily to say that they’ll see the exact same thing with a sediment diversion. These are separate projects, they are distinct. Like you mentioned earlier, they’re designed with the goal of building land.
Brad: That’s correct.
Jacques: In the coastal master plan, which we’ve talked a lot about, CPRA has released its updated 2017 Coastal Master Plans, out for public comment until March 26th. We had our last episode on the master plan, in its entirety. There are several sediment diversions in the current master plan, is that correct?
Rudy: That’s correct.
Jacques: Can you give us an overview of some of those projects, and just where they’re located. What are some of the main sediment diversion projects in the master plan?
Rudy: Absolutely. In total there are 11 different diversion projects in the draft 2017 plan. That’s along the Mississippi and the Atchafalaya, with a total cost of over $5 billion, over the 11 projects. Our focus near term has been mid Barataria and mid Breton, and I think we present and we speak a lot on that. That’s, kind of, the ones have gotten the most attention lately, due to the fact that we are actually in implementation of both of those projects. We have secured funding and we’re moving forward with them. We’ll continue to look at the other diversions and get them ready for when planning becomes available, but at this time those are the two that we’re focused on.
In terms of the locations of some of these diversions, of course, Barataria and Breton are sediment diversions. They’re located in the lower river, as well as the lower Breton diversion, which I think a lot of folks are familiar with, as well. Which is also a sediment diversion project. Moving up river, there are quite a few diversions up river, and these are mainly fresh water diversions that are used to reintroduce fresh water into areas like Maurepas Swamp, which we know is under attack from the higher saline waters of Lake Maurepas, and really gets impacted during storm situations. We see that further up river we see smaller diversions, but very much important, because those areas don’t … May not necessarily need land building per se, but the reintroduction of fresh water is critical in some of those other diversions.
Jacques: You made the point that in the current master plan there’s $5 billion allocated toward sediment diversions and emphasizing that, this is a holistic approach. I believe marsh creation projects had something up to around $18 billion, so it really is not an issue of dredge or divert or one or the other. You really are doing both and even, in fact, there’s a ton of marsh creation that’s happening across the coast in the current master plan.
Rudy: Absolutely. Unfortunately, there’s a limited amount of areas within our coastal zone that we can take advantage of diversions. They primarily focus on the Atchafalaya and Mississippi Rivers. There’s marsh creations spread throughout the whole coast, from border to border. So you see that larger price tag and that larger interest in marsh creation because we’re more flexible and we have other areas that we can build those projects.
There’s definitely a focus still on dredging. Currently, right now we have three or four dredges operating on marsh creation projects, on critical projects that we’ve been working on for many years.
Jacques: That brings up a good point. There are only so many areas that can necessarily be influenced by the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers, so you have to use other solution and other projects in areas that don’t have that influence. In terms of project selection, I know there are the two that you mentioned, mid Barataria and mid Breton, and they’re on either side of the Mississippi River down in Plaquemines Parrish. How do you optimize where and how you select a project for a diversion?
Rudy: We let the river tell us first. As you mentioned, in the case of a land building or sediment diversion, we’ve placed these projects in the proximity of a sandbar. That’s an area that we feel we can continually reap the benefits of a sediment feed from the river. First and foremost, in the case of a sediment diversion, we look at the river and see what it gets us.
Secondly, we look at the basin and see what is an ideal area to build land in? Obviously if it’s very deep, or it puts you right into a bay or the Gulf of Mexico, that might not be the ideal opportunity to build land with a sediment diversion. In the case of the fresh water diversions, we looked at areas of Cypress Swamp or other swamplands that obviously need that reintroduction of fresh water. It’s a combination of looking at the river and looking at the basin and teasing out which is the best opportunity. These are billion dollar projects, so at the end of the day we want to make sure we invest our money in the right place and the right location.
Jacques: There has been, to that point, an extensive amount of studying and modeling and science that has gone into that very process of selecting those locations.
Rudy: Absolutely. There has been an exhaustive effort to study and make sure, but as you can understand, it’s very important that we put these projects in the right location, to operate in the right way and get our best investment out of it.
Jacques: Great. Once these diversions are on the land and ready to be operated, can you talk a little bit about operations and what you might do to make them more successful in terms of operating the actual diversion and the structure.
Brad: Yeah. There’s several things we’re looking at there. One of our objectives at CPRA is to restore natural process. As we talked earlier about the natural flooding cycle of the river, we really want to follow that and follow that natural process. Pre-1930s in the lower Mississippi Valley, any time you had a significant flooding event, you would have crevasse splays open up through the natural levy, and allow water, sediment and nutrients and so forth to flood the landscape. Sediment diversion is in essence a crevasse splay, so the goal here would be to have it to be able to be operated when the river hits a certain stage or a flow in the river. Then it would be operated until the river would come back down at some point in time. That would be the ideal operation.
In addition to that, we know we can do things smarter and more efficiently so we’re looking at the efficiencies of the sediment capture and the amount of water that gets sent out into the basin, so we can minimize or avoid any potential impacts in natural resources. Looking at that operations plan, then if we get to a point where there’s potential impacts, that cannot be avoided or minimized, then we would look to mitigate those potential impacts.
Jacques: Great. Rudy, you mentioned this earlier, the mid Breton and mid Barataria sediment diversions in Plaquemines Parrish are further along than the others in terms of implementation. I believe y’all put out a call for … Actual engineering on the diversion. Is that correct?
Rudy: For mid Barataria, correct.
Jacques: For mid Barataria? When can people actually expect to see these diversions constructed and on the landscape?
Brad: We’re looking right now for early construction in 2020 for mid Barataria, and then early construction efforts for mid Breton in the 2022 time frame. There’s a significant amount of engineering and design and environmental work and permitting work that has to occur in the next three to four years. But we think there’s definitely some opportunities out there, working with the federal family and the state and the state’s consultants to get some early construction out there.
Jacques: And we’re back. Delta Dispatches on WGSO, 990 am. This is Jacques Hebert and I’m here with Brad Barth and Rudy Simoneaux of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority. We’re talking about sediment diversions. Before the break, Brad, you were discussing the road to get these sediment diversions actually constructed. Can you talk a little bit about what the process is between now and that actual construction date.
Brad: Yeah. The next three to four years is going to be quite challenging for us. We have a lot of stuff to accomplish in a short amount of time. The two main things that we’ll be working on is going to be Environmental Impact Statement, which will be worked through a local contractor and the Army Corps of Engineers. In a parallel process, the engineering and design, so we have to take a project, say mid Barataria, which has just had some preliminary engineering done, and work it through to a final engineering package. And with that, it involves penetrating the Mississippi River levy, a federal backed levy, so we have to have a very detailed coordination with the Army Corps to get their blessing with this project. So that will be the primary focus.
In addition to that, we also have to go through land acquisitions. There’s a lot of land that will need to be acquired as part of this project over the next several years.
Jacques: Great. I know these are two hugely important projects to anyone who cares about coastal Louisiana and people across these regions. I know you and your staff have been doing a ton of outreach and engagement, education of people in the areas, but really people across the coast, to educate them about sediment diversions. Can you talk a little bit about the work you all have been doing to make sure people are aware or understand, they have an opportunity to ask questions.
Brad: We’ve really made a push with these projects to get out into the local community. To do a lot more information sessions where we can collect information from the locals who know the area, who know the practical ideas in these locations, and to work with the locals and have that transmittal and that communication of information back and forth. One thing we’ve started this Coastal Connections, which is a monthly working hour session, that we go down into the community, mostly Plaquemines Parrish. I think we’ll have an event in St. Bernard Parrish here shortly. But we spend the day down there and let anybody come by and visit with us that wants to ask questions about the project or would like more information about the project.
Then we do a lot of presentations to the CPRA Board, to the Governor’s Advisory Committee, and then to events like this.
Jacques: I know those Coastal Connections have been pretty well attended. You had one recently in Empire on the dock there, right?
Brad: Yeah. It was actually at a bait shop right there in Empire and it was a huge success. We had over 40 people come out to either provide their support or ask questions or gather information, so it was a really good event.
Jacques: That’s great. I know polling definitely shows that the vast majority of people in Louisiana support sediment diversions. We understand how important they are from a scientific perspective. But there are some who are opposed. Why is that?
Rudy: There’s a lot of misunderstanding out there, and obviously people have their opinion and are entitled to express their opinion. There are a lot of misconceptions and misunderstanding and a lot of that gets spread pretty quickly. We feel that the more we can get out and get into Plaquemines Parrish and St. Bernard’s Parrish and deliver our message, the better off we’ll be. We’re starting to see that already. We’re coming up on our fourth or fifth Coastal Connections here, and we’re starting to see people from the locals to show up to support us and to help us explain diversions and explain the issues to other folks.
It is working, we can present power points and board meetings and things like that, but when we can get down and go to bait shops and go to their communities and explain it to them. It’s really resonating well and I think the message is getting out there.
Jacques: That’s great. I think one of the things people talk about is the impact of fresh water and not wanting to have more fresh water in our estuaries, but in fact, our estuaries have become more salt water dominated, right? Through salt water intrusion over time. Is that correct? Sediment diversions are hoping to restore that natural balance of an estuary, where you have the fresh water swamps all the way out to the brackish and salt water marshes.
Rudy: That’s absolutely right. An estuary can be thought of as a transition zone, between a river environment and a maritime environment. As you know, our river environment was cut off from the estuary. So, like you said, the estuary has probably taken a saline effect than it should be. All we’re trying to do, as Brad mentioned several times, we’re trying to re-establish a natural process and bring that estuary back into balance. We’re trying to bring in the river and influence back into the estuary.
Jacques: Great. I think another thing we hear often, and kind of referenced this early in the show, but a lot of people say, “Dredge. Don’t divert.” Right? We talked about how the master plan actually does have a lot of dredge marsh creation projects in it, to the tune of $18 billion. At the same time, we recognize marsh creation in its own is not enough. Why is that? Why can’t we just pump our way out of this, as some people would suggest?
Rudy: We have successfully dredged, and there are a lot of successful projects on the ground. Caminada Headland, for example is a massive dredging project along the sediment pipeline corridor. In the case of dredging projects in this environment, in the Barataria and Breton sounds, due to the salt conditions, due to the sea level rise, there is a time frame that these projects will remain on the landscape. They will not keep up with the relative sea level rise. We’re seeing that now in some of the older CWPPRA projects that we built in the late 90s, that have come upon their 20-year mark. There not as functional, they’re lower than they were when they were in their prime, if you will.
There is a window that a dredge marsh creation project, just as anything else in south Louisiana that’s built on unstable soils, it will sink. It will continue to consolidate, and the sea level rise issue will catch up to it and actually impact it.
Jacques: I hear you all at CPRA are building a pretty cool model of the Mississippi River, that’s actually going to be a live model that people can go and check and it’s in this, kind of a massive room. Tell us a little bit about that. What people can see and what you’re hoping to accomplish with that river model.
Rudy: It’s an exciting project. We hope to get as many people out there to view it as possible. A lot of people don’t know, in cooperation with LSU, we built a physical model of the lower Mississippi River in the early 2000s and operated it successfully for many years. It actually helped determine the current location of the mid Barataria diversion. We actually ran that model to help validate some of the other models that were done.
In short, a physical model is basically taking what’s in nature, shrinking it down to something you can manage, and running it just as you would in nature. It’s a powerful tool. The model that we’re building represents a 14,000 square mile domain of coastal Louisiana from Donaldsonville to the Gulf of Mexico. We capture Barataria, Breton, Pontchartrain, and Terrebonne in this model. It’s a qualitative model so what we’re trying to do is, it’s a movable bed model. We run water and sediment on there, we open diversions and we test them. We test different diversion scenarios, different operation scenarios, different sea level rise scenarios, to see the optimal location of some of these diversions. Barataria is set but we’re looking at other diversions further down the line.
Jacques: That’s great. We’ll look forward to hearing more about that and knowing it’s open and we can come check it out.
For folks that want to learn more about our sediment diversion … Your sediment diversion programs and projects and provide feedback, maybe learn about what’s in the master plan. Where can they go to learn more about your program?
Rudy: First of all, the key initiatives page of our CPRA website. If you go to CPRA’s website, they have an Our Works section, key initiatives, you’ll see the landing page for the diversion program. That is the best place to get the latest and great information. If you have questions, there’s always an email address, firstname.lastname@example.org. That is the best place to shoot your questions and we’ll respond to those. Those will get to Brad and I if they’re related to diversions or anything else.
River model related, too, as well, if there’s a topic in there that someone wants to ask a question, please email that email address and we’ll make sure we respond to that.
Jacques: Great. Well, thank you both so much for being on the show today. Rudy Simoneaux and Brad Barthinot, actually Brad Barth, with CPRA, we appreciate it and hopefully we’ll get to have you back on again soon.
Brad: Thank you.
Rudy: Thank you.
Jacques: All right. This is Delta Dispatches, WGSO, 990 am. We’ll be right back after the break.
Simone: Hey. This is Simone Maloz and welcome back to Delta Dispatches on WGSO, 990 AM, where we’re discussing Louisiana’s coast, it’s people, wildlife and jobs, and why restoring it matters.
I have with me today Rebecca Triche. Hello, Rebecca.
Simone: How are you?
Rebecca: I’m great, and I’m here to talk about an event we have coming up.
Simone: Great. Rebecca is the executive director – a fellow executive director. We’re in the trenches together for an organization called Louisiana Wildlife Federation. We’ll talk about your event in just a minute, Rebecca. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about LWF? You’ve been around a while, right?
Rebecca: Sure. We were formed in 1940 so we’ve been around for 75 years. We have affiliate organizations around the state. We conserve wildlife and habitat. One of our key focus areas is on coastal restoration and the habitat for wildlife and people. Our members are people who enjoy being outdoors, so they’re hunters, they’re anglers, they’re paddlers, they’re birdwatchers. Some of them do all of those things throughout the year. So they’re concerned not just access and the right to use our natural resources, but that they’re conserved in a way that they can enjoy them now and in the future.
Simone: So you’re guided by a board of directors. You also have some outreach staff. Maybe tell us a little bit about even Camo Coalition, that goes along with you guys?
Rebecca: Sure. Because our membership is mostly sportsmen. We have our Louisiana Camouflage Coalition and that is where we focus a lot of our education and advocacy for people to let their opinions be known about coastal restorations. So we’re telling people what is the latest information as relates to interests of sportsmen. At lacamo.org they can sign up and get notices of how they can take action. Whether it’s communicating with CPRA about the Coastal Master Plan or the annual plan, or if there’s something going on about GOMESA or other issues for coastal protection and restoration. They can talk to their legislators or up to Congress. We have information about that when it’s key for sportsmen to weigh in.
Simone: Great. I know you’re like us, Rebecca. You follow specific projects and one project coming up is the Caminada Beach restoration and Elmer’s Island. Want to talk a little bit about how LWF works into a project like that?
Rebecca: Sure. Yes. We’re really excited about some funding that’s come open that … Enhancement projects on Elmer’s Island would be perfect for. There’s no area of the coast that’s more eligible in terms of mitigation for recreation dollars from the oil spill, as well as being in the line of some of that waste that washed in from the spill. Since the Caminada project has laid such a nice beach and Elmer’s Island is included in the restoration, it’s just really obvious that we could do more for access as well as wildlife protection. People love going to Elmer’s Island … But wildlife, it’s important for them, too, for bird nesting and for other migratory wildlife, and the benthic column for fisheries right at the edge. We need to put more resources toward restoring that area, allowing the right kind of access so that people can enjoy it. It’s phenomenal beach fishing. Our members are very passionate about Elmer’s Island and it’s one of our key initiatives over the last decade that we’re very proud of protecting.
Simone: Restore or Retreat’s proud to have teamed up with you and have really followed the Caminada’s progress. It really is one of the best things that we have to show people that we’re serious about where we live, work and play, because something like Caminada protects Port Fourchon. Certainly it is a beautiful recreational habitat. We love working together with you guys on issues. Just like Caminada they have a ribbon cutting coming up, which is great, because we look forward to more successes on projects that follow Caminada’s example.
Tell us a little bit about some of the events you have coming up. You have a pretty big awards banquet coming up this weekend, right?
Rebecca: Yes, we do. Annually Louisiana Wildlife Federation recognizes significant achievement in conservation. We solicit nominations every year, and this year our judges, who are past winners, leaders in agencies or other conservation organizations. We gather them together and look at the nominations and select people. I tell you, this program really inspires me every year, because you just hear about what people are doing. Sometimes just motivated by their own conservation ethic, or their desire to make their community or their little part of nature better. It’s a really great program.
Saturday, March 18th, in Baton Rouge at Boudreaux is when we have the banquet. It’s the Governor’s Conservation Achievement Awards banquet and Secretary Jack Montoucet will be there for the governor. We present these awards in conjunction with National Wildlife Federation. They’re beautiful statuettes and very noticeable. We’ve had some really phenomenal people receive these awards in the past and I’d love to talk about who’s going to be getting an award Saturday.
Simone: Right. So tell us some of the folks that will receive the award. Like you said, some folks definitely not short on passion. So tell us a little bit about some of those folks.
Rebecca: Right. The Governor’s Award is selected from the top of all of the categories, and this year Apache Corporation was selected to recognize their continued, year after year, contribution of trees to numerous agencies and non-profits. Not just in Louisiana, but in surrounding states. They have the Apache Tree Planting Program and they’ve just been consistent. We’re talking about thousands of acres that have been restored. What’s important about a tree donation and consistently to groups that really want to do this is, it’s good for a match. As we both know in non-profits, you’re looking for grants and you need a match with that, so it’s important to have that kind of participation. Apache’s really committed to that and I think some people might recognize Apache for … When the Pickett’s Shore was going to be … Rigs were going to be removed, the Apache stepped up and put some structure back there to continue with the kind of habitat for recreational fishing. So Apache Corporation’s been a good corporate member in our coastal zone, but it’s really fun to see what they’ve done throughout Louisiana.
That’s just one of the award winners.
Simone: Yeah. We have a connection to Apache. They’ve always been supporters of Restore or Retreat, but they are good coastal land donors and I’m very glad to see that they’re recognized for … They go above and beyond, so I’m very pleased to see that you recognize their efforts.
You have some other great individuals, too, right?
Rebecca: Yeah. We’re going to recognize Theryn Henkel. Dr. Henkel works for Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, and she did some great work in 2016 on coastal forest restoration and some other really great projects.
We have the phenomenal volunteer, Ronald Coco, who’s from Avoyelles Parish. Year after year, and again, in 2016 just culminated in volunteering for hunter’s safety education, for numerous projects that engage youth in learning about in conservation or participating in shooting sports. There’s another one similarly, and it’s funny how these all work out. Connor Arthur, who’s from Florien, near Toledo Bend, is our youth conservationist of the year. He’s taught classes to other youth, is about hunter safety, about conservation, about wildlife, respect for wildlife, volunteered in his community.
There’s just some wonderful people out there. Barry Gilliot, in Luling is a great educator and has a wetlands project. Tegan Wendland with WWNO. And we’re going to recognize QDMA for some phenomenal work that they’ve done in protecting white tail deer in Louisiana.
Simone: Rebecca, tell us where we can find more information about LWF, your website. You also have a very cool Dat Dog fund raiser coming up. Where can they find all this information?
Simone: Cool. Right here in New Orleans. All right. Thank you, Rebecca. We very much appreciate your time this afternoon. I hope you come back in and we can chit chat more about some of those other projects that we work on together, maybe even around Lake Pontchartrain and all along the coast.
So, thank you, fellow executive director. We appreciate you coming in today and very much. We wish you very much success with your banquet on Saturday.
Rebecca: Thank you. I’d love to come back.
Simone: Welcome back, Jacques.
Jacques: Hey, Simone. It’s great to be back. So, I heard you got an award yourself from the Coalition of Restored Coastal Louisiana?
Simone: I sure did. I was nominated by my colleagues and peers and I greatly appreciate their Coastal Stewardship award. I heard it was your birthday.
Jacques: My birthday was yesterday. Yes. Thank you very much.
Simone: Happy birthday.
Jacques: Thank you. And congratulations. So we’ve got an important announcement for everyone. There’s one week left to give public comment on the Coastal Master Plan. The public comment deadline is March 26th, so go online to coastal.la.gov to learn more about the master plan and submit your comments.
Simone: Right. You can find the master plan there, all the appendices and you can also find versions of the executive summary in English, French, Spanish and Vietnamese.
Jacques: And you can also go on our website mississippiriverdelta.org/takeaction and give comment that way. We have a form ready to go that will go directly to CPRA.
Simone: Great. We’ll see you next week. We have another great show lined up.
Jacques: All right. Thanks. See you next week.