A look back on 2021 in the Mississippi River Delta
2021 proved to be another year for the books as the world continued to navigate the second year of the pandemic. Coastal Louisiana also faced its fair share of challenges and successes through these trying times. Many of our local communities are still rebuilding homes, schools and businesses following Hurricane Ida’s devastating impacts. (For more information on how to support struggling communities, please visit our resources pages on Point-au-Chien, Ironton, Grand Bayou Village and Houma.)
And while we continue to support our neighbors who are suffering from Ida’s impacts, we also want to acknowledge some bright spots for the coast we experienced in 2021 that hopefully offer some optimism as we head into 2022.
Enjoy this look at some of the progress made for people, wildlife, jobs and major coastal restoration projects along the Mississippi River Delta in 2021. Thank you for being a part of it, and here’s to a more resilient and restored Mississippi River Delta in 2022!
Wins for People:
- Field Tours with Community Leaders and Key Stakeholders: We led 39 expert-led field tours to build active champions through engaging learning opportunities that empower leaders with compelling experiences on the coast – while staying safe outdoors in the Covid era. As restoration projects move forward at a record pace, it is critical for Louisiana leaders to understand the value of restoration and how to effectively support implementation through firsthand tours like these.
- Top US Environmental Regulator visits Bayou Bienvenue Wetland Triangle platform: EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan kayaked the Bayou Bienvenue Wetland Triangle with staff from the Lower 9th Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development – one of our valued leading partners in the MRGO Must Go Coalition. The platform project plays an integral role in connecting the community to marsh restoration and cypress tree planting, in an effort to build a more robust, natural storm surge buffer and a recreation resource for the local neighborhood.
- The Guardian of the Wetlands: Works by John Taylor: In collaboration with the National Wildlife Federation, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art debuted an exhibit featuring works by John Taylor – storyteller, environmentalist, self-taught artist and life-long resident of New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward. The collection featured some of Taylor’s works, including eight walking sticks carved from wood found along the banks of the Mississippi River, Taylor’s photographs of the Bayou Bienvenue Wetland Triangle, historical information about Louisiana wetland loss. The installment also provided a number of ways people can get involved with restoration efforts.
- Helping Black Skimmers Nest Again on the Gulf: For the first time in 10 years, Black Skimmers successfully fledged chicks on the Louisiana mainland, thanks in part to a recent project to restore beaches in the southwestern corner of the state. In late July, Audubon biologists located a Black Skimmer nest “scrape,” or a depression in the sand, containing four eggs along a Cameron Parish shoreline restoration site near Holly Beach. By mid-August, three skimmer pairs had initiated nesting in the area. A dedicated set of stewards and volunteers protected the birds from beachgoers throughout the summer and early fall, and the final chick fledged in September.
- Newly Enhanced Habitat Welcomes Ducks for Fall: The Bay Denesse Delta Water Management Project successfully built 2,500 acres of marsh habitat in Plaquemines Parish and is serving its purpose as countless waterfowl, ducks, other migratory bird and species wintered there this fall. Vanishing Paradise, Ducks Unlimited, North American Wetlands Conservation Council and Louisiana’s Coastal Protection & Restoration Authority all partnered together to sponsor this exciting terracing project.
Wins for Jobs:
- Louisiana’s 2021 Legislative Session Delivered Significant Gains for the Coast: This year’s state legislative session adjourned with a strong effort to protect funding for coastal restoration and prioritize community resilience. This included the unanimous passage of the 2022 Annual Plan, which dedicated $880 million to 125 active projects that will benefit over 57,000 acres of vulnerable wetlands and 109 miles of levee. The legislature also passed HB 2, which included over $200 million in project requests for the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority. These investments will provide economic stimulus and create jobs at a time when our state desperately needs both, even before they save lives and reduce the toll of future disasters.
- Federal Infrastructure Package Delivers Significant Wins for Louisiana’s Coast and Communities: In a historic step toward strengthening our nation’s resilience to climate change, President Biden signed into law the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. This spending package includes $47 billion earmarked specifically for climate resilience, delivering consequential investments that will protect vulnerable communities and save billions of dollars in long-term disaster relief. As Louisiana continues to feel the impacts of Hurricane Ida and other extreme weather events, these commitments are needed more than ever.
Restoration Projects Move Forward in 2021
After decades of work, a major milestone for the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion happened with the release of the project’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement. Our coalition delivered around 50,0000 public comments from a wide variety of engaged citizens in support of the project moving forward, including several coastal leaders.
Several additional noteworthy coastal projects were either completed or made substantial progress this year, including:
- Northwest Turtle Bay Marsh Creation – This completed project can now work synergistically with several nearby existing and planned projects on the Barataria Basin Landbridge.
- Golden Triangle Marsh Creation – Thanks to continued headway on this project, it is now expected to be completed in mid-2022.
- Terrebonne Basin Barrier Island and Beach Nourishment Project – the Trinity-East Island portion of the project finished construction this year and two additional islands, Timbalier and West Belle Pass, are to be completed next year.
- New Orleans Landbridge Shoreline Stabilization and Marsh Creation – will restore 254 acres of brackish marsh near the critical landbridge that protects New Orleans.
- Large-Scale Barataria Marsh Creation – will work synergistically with nearby completed terraces and marsh creation projects as well as the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion.
More on Delta Dispatches
For the last episode of 2021, Jacques and Simone discuss major events and milestones for Louisiana’s coast over the prior year and look forward to what’s to come in 2022. As a reminder, many families in Louisiana are still dealing with the lingering impacts of Hurricane Ida as we head into the holidays. Visit http://mississippiriverdelta.org/ida to learn how you can help those in need this holiday season and beyond. Happy Holidays to our Delta Dispatches family!