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CWPPRA Celebrates 25 Years with Focus on Beneficial Use Projects

The Weeks Marine Dredge E.W. Ellefsen is loading a barge offshore at the Caminada Headlands Beach and Dune Restoration project site. Six different scows, transported by six large towing tugs, transported the sediment to an unloader, where it was unloaded and pumped ashore.(Photos curtesy of Patrick M. Quigley)

The Weeks Marine Dredge E.W. Ellefsen is loading a barge offshore at the Caminada Headlands Beach and Dune Restoration project site. Six different scows, transported by six large towing tugs, transported the sediment to an unloader, where it was unloaded and pumped ashore.(Photos curtesy of Patrick M. Quigley)

On October 14, the Coastal Wetlands Planning Protection and Restoration Act (CWPPRA) Task Force held its 25th anniversary ceremony at Grand Isle State Park in Grand Isle, Louisiana. The ceremony celebrated CWPPRA’s commitment to coastal restoration.

During the event, the public was encouraged to meet wetland engineers, scientist and policy holders, who have worked together to complete 101 Louisiana projects over the last 25 years.

The Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) of Louisiana and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) led a field trip to the Caminada Headlands Beach and Dune Restoration Increment II project site during the celebration. The tour left Grand Isle State Park by caravan to Elmer’s Island Road, where ATVs took participants to the project site.

Over the last century, Caminada Headland has experienced extensive shoreline erosion and land loss to its marsh, wetland, beach and dune habitats – the result of storm overtopping and breaching, saltwater intrusion, wind and wave induced erosion, sea level rise and subsidence. To restore the beach habitat, the project is transporting sand from Ship Shoal, an underwater sandy body located approximately 30 miles away in the Gulf of Mexico.

Weeks Marine began work in March 2015 on Phase Two of the Caminada Headlands project. Seen here, work continues along the eastern half.

The Caminada Headlands restoration project is taking place in two phases. Phase one, completed in December 2014, restored approximately 300 acres and six miles of beach and dune habitat. It was funded with Coastal Impact Assistance Program and state surplus funds.

Phase two is focused on the larger eastern half, restoring approximately 500 acres and seven miles of beach and dune, and funded through the Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund, which was established by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to manage funds resulting from the settlement of federal criminal charges against BP and Transocean. In total, the two projects represent one of the largest restoration projects ever built by CPRA, with a combined total investment of more than $200 million.

Weeks Marine started work on phase two in March 2015 with 30-inch hydraulic cutter suction Dredge E.W. Ellefsen, which is loading barges offshore. Six scow barges (with approximately 6,000 cubic yard capacity) are transporting material to an Unloader 320 (30-inch), where material is unloaded and pumped ashore. Six large towing tugs (ranging in size from 3,000 to 4,000 hp.) are used to move the scow barges. Michael D. Ernst, general manager of dredging division at Weeks Marine, said the company has temporarily halted operations for the winter, but will complete the project in the summer of 2016.

Work is nearly complete at the Caminada Headlands and has halted temporarily for winter, after which the project will resume for completion in the summer of 2015.

25TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION

Before the tour, at the October 14 celebration, Col. Richard L. Hansen, New Orleans District Commander talked about the CWPPRA program and all it has to celebrate in its 25 years. “Coastal ecosystem engineering and coastal restoration is a relatively new science,” Hansen said. Through the 150 projects and 100,000 acres of restored wetlands, which Hansen called one of the grandfathers of coastal restoration, the Corps has been able to learn many lessons.

Hansen noted that CWPPRA is successful because of its “multiple layers of collaboration,” between many federal agencies and partners.

The CWPPRA program also focuses on multiple layers of defense – beginning with barrier islands, which Hansen said are an integral part of the area’s natural storm defense system. “Barrier islands are the front line, absorbing the storms and acting as a breakwater to bear the brunt of those storms and lessen the impacts to the land behind them,” he said. These islands are an important part of CWPPRAs work, and  the program has contributed $290 million in work over the years on barrier island projects. While Hansen acknowledged that the number of projects and total acerage rebuilt may not seem large, in comparison to the total number that needs aid, the CWPPRA program has provided invaluable education and research, so the Corps can plan projects better in the future. Some of the most importanct knowledge has come in how to manage very complex ecosystem projects over a long period of time, as many of the projects are more than 20 years old.

The most important lesson, Hansen said – collaboration. “Land loss is not for one agency; it has to be a collaborative program. This level of interagency cooperation is CWPPRA’s greatest asset,” he said.

The program’s funding began around 20 to 30 million and has grown to 80 million annually. With this “relatively modest” funding, Hansen said, the program has learned to be productive. He said CWPPRA is authorized through 2019 and should be extended another 25 years. “The nation is going to fight coastal land loss with the effects of sea level rise across the country, but it’s fighting it right now first in southern Louisiana,” Hansen said.

Chip Kline, chair of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) paid tribute to John Breaux, who fought hard against coastal land loss in Lousiana, which began after the 1930s. The Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act of 1990, known affectionately in Louisiana as the Breaux Act, took major strides in conserving and restoring coastal wetlands. This was possible, thanks to federal partners – the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Environmental Protection Agency the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration.

“Together they have accomplished a lot,” Kline said, “though it is often hard to note because the frontlines of our restoration battles take place on marshes and barrier islands off the coast.”

CWPPRA PROJECTS

The CWPPRA 25th anniversary celebration highlighted a number of projects, including the Little Lake Shoreline Protection project,  located in the central Barataria Basin in Lafourche Parish, Louisiana. The project protects approximately 3,000 acres of fragile interior marshes between the Little Lake shoreline and Bayou L’Ours Ridge. Without assistance, the project area’s marsh was expected to convert to mainly open water over the next 20 years. This project’s goals included preventing erosion along four miles of Little Lake shoreline; creating 288 acres of intertidal wetlands along the shoreline; nourishing and maintaining 532 acres of intermediate marsh; and reducing land loss rates by 50 percent over the 20-year life of the project.

The project had two major features, a shoreline protection structure and a marsh creation and nourishment area. The 25,976-foot foreshore rock dike was constructed by placing rocks on top of a geotextile foundation. The dike was constructed using three lifts and includes gaps every 1,000 to 1,500 feet for fisheries access. Phase one of the project began in January 2002; Phase two began in November 2003, and construction was completed in 2007. Project cost: $29.4 million. 

The Pass Chaland to Grand Bayou Pass Barrier Shoreline Restoration began in 2002 and was completed in 2009. The project prevents the breaching of the Bay Joe Wise shoreline by increasing barrier shoreline width; increasing the back-barrier, emergent marsh area by approximately 225 acres; and creating emergent marsh suitable for tidal aquatic habitats. The project included building a beach and dune platform along approximately 2.7 miles of gulf shoreline, and a marsh platform, landward of the beach and dune, spanning 860 feet. Along with a water exchange channel, the project created 420 acres with 2.95 million cubic yards of dredged sediment from ebb shoal borrow areas. Project cost: $40.7 million.

For the Barataria Barrier Island Complex Project, 3.4 million cubic yards of sand and silt from an offshore borrow area in the Gulf of Mexico created 230 acres of dune, beach and berm at Chaland Headland, and 2.6 million cubic yards of sand and silt created 190 acres of dune, beach and berm at Pelican Island.

At the Bayou Dupont Ridge Creation and Marsh Restoration, land loss was occurring at a rate of 1.7 percent per year. The increasing area of open water was circumventing the natural tidal flow and drainage patterns in the bayou. The project goals for the CWPPRA project included creating and nourishing approximately 330 acres of marsh by hydraulically dredging sediment from the Mississippi River and pumping it to the marsh area; also creating a two-mile long ridge along a portion of the southwestern shoreline of Bayou Dupont. The ridge is designed to mimic the configuration of other natural ridges within the watershed. The ridge will help redefine the limits of Bayou Dupont and reestablish the natural bank that once flanked the bayou and protected adjacent marshes. The project began in the fall of 2014 and was completed one year later. Project cost: $38 million.

The Lake Hermitage Marsh Creation project included dredging sediment from the Mississippi River and pumping it via pipeline to the project area, creating 549 acres of marsh. Funding from the Louisiana Oil Spill Coordinator’s Office, the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources – Office of Coastal Management, and Deepwater Horizon Early Restoration allowed construction of an additional 215 acres of marsh. Construction began in February 2012 and was completed in 2015. Project cost: $38.3 million.

The Grand Liard Marsh and Ridge Restoration project restored the structure and habitat of Grand Liard Bayou and the flanking marshes, approximately 328 acres of marsh and nourishing an additional 140 acres of existing marsh. The project began in July 2014 and was completed in August 2015. Woody vegetation is scheduled for planting in Fall 2017. Project cost: $42 million.

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