Posted January 3, 2019
There's much to do to address land loss and reduce flooding along the Louisiana coast. Yet, here are 16 ways that progress was made toward those goals in 2018.
1. New land built
In 2018, Louisiana's Coastal Program dredged 22 million cubic yards of sediment and created 4,753 acres of new land and marsh. Since 2007, the program has dredged 152 million cubic yards of material, benefiting 46,058 acres of land.
2. More cute birds
Audubon Louisiana monitored 145 nest boxes of prothonotary warblers across nine study sites in Louisiana this year. Three sites were entirely run by volunteers. Average nest success across all study sites was 80 percent. A total of 311 prothonotary warbler chicks fledged from the nest boxes.
3. Additional cha-ching
In 2018, Louisiana's Coastal Program secured an additional $1.4 billion for projects. Since 2007, the program has secured a total of $21.4 billion for projects in 20 parishes.
4. Acknowledgment that New Orleans is a coastal city
Experts from academia, advocacy, government, community and other areas gathered together in January 2018 to draft a framework for the role New Orleans will play in coastal restoration and protection. A report published in April outlines the recommendations from the event.
The recommendations include leveraging the city's existing funding sources through local and regional partnerships, and creating a plan for Louisiana residents who will likely migrate to New Orleans from areas more vulnerable to sea level rise.
5. Greater flood protection
Louisiana's Coastal Program improved 18 miles of levee this year. The program has improved 315 miles of levees since 2007.
6. New ideas to raise capital
A report released this summer by the Environmental Defense Fund and Quantified Ventures looked at a new source of revenue to help save Louisiana's disappearing coast: environmental impact bonds. The idea is that investors would purchase bonds with the understanding that they would be repaid based on the success of an environmental outcome, such as reduced land loss.
The bonds could help fund the state's coastal master plan and speed up restoration projects by making funds available sooner, according to the Environmental Defense Fund. The organization points out that inflation and additional land loss make waiting to build projects until money is available more expensive.
7. Progress toward a statewide approach to flooding
In May, Gov. John Bel Edwards issued an executive order to create the Council on Watershed Management. The goal of the council is to develop a statewide, interagency approach to flood risk management.
The management plan will increase state and local resilience to flooding by working to improve responses to flooding and reduce instance, damages and amount of time needed to recover, according to the executive order.
8. Less trash
Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, along with its partner organizations, cleaned up 92,665 pounds of trash from around the lake during their 2018 Spring Sweep and Beach Sweep events.
9. More native grass and trees
In 2018, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana recruited 273 volunteers through its Habitat Restoration Program. The volunteers planted 26,000 plugs of native marsh and dune grasses and 3,800 native hardwood trees .
10. Added shoreline protection
Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana recruited 266 volunteers who prepared 250 tons of oyster shell to be returned to Louisiana's coastal waters. The shell will be used to construct two living shoreline oyster reefs in 2019, helping to slow erosion, buffer wave action and provide more habitat for fish, oysters and other wildlife.
11. A 360-degree view of the issues
Restore the Mississippi River Delta launched Coast 360: A Virtual Day in the Delta in June 2018. This 360-degree experience takes people to the forefront of coastal land loss and restoration through a virtual flyover of the coast, comparing the Atchafalaya Basin to neighboring Terrebonne Basin, as well as showing the Whiskey Island barrier island restoration project during construction. Coast 360 premiered at the State of the Coast conference and has been shown at summer camps, the New Orleans Film Festival, Society of Environmental Journalists conference, Restore America's Estuaries conference and many other venues.
12. More rare birds found
Before 2017, only 13 black rails had been identified in Louisiana. Audubon Louisiana has since been able to observe and study the elusive marsh birds. They've documented the species 50 times and banded nine of the birds.
13. Fewer eggs and chicks harmed
Audubon Louisiana protected 34 acres of nesting habitat on Elmer's Island and Grand Isle with fencing and community outreach. The effort helped 500 pairs of Least Terns -- about 15 percent of the state's population -- and saw no eggs or chicks injured by beachgoers for the first time in seven years of the program.
14. Increased coastal awareness among Louisiana students
Restore or Retreat hosted the inaugural Working for Our Coast event in November. Nearly 900 Terrebonne Parish 11th graders visited Fletcher Technical Community College to explore coastal careers.
Students from all four Terrebonne Parish public high schools were transported to the main campus in Schriever during Fletcher's fall break. After a video welcome by Terrebonne Parish President Gordon Dove and introduction to the coast, students heard from several guest speakers on coastal careers like engineering, construction, biology, government, geomatics and journalism.
15. More marine life saved
Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation removed more than 3,000 abandoned crab traps. The organization estimates that the effort prevented about 84,000 crabs from unnecessary death and saved more than 100 turtles from abandoned crab traps.
16. Increased access to state's master plan
Restore or Retreat, in partnership with the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority and the State Library of Louisiana, provided the 2017 Comprehensive Master Plan to all 340 public libraries in the state, distributed by the State Library's delivery service at no additional cost to taxpayers.