Working on Water: free event in St. Bernard to feature coastal income opportunities Oct 21 at Docville Farm

Reposted from, story by Benjamin Alexander Bloch

An event in St. Bernard Parish on Tuesday will teach fishers how to leverage their knowledge of local waterways to supplement their incomes through ecotourism, coastal restoration and disaster recovery. The workshop also will create a database with attendees' information to connect them with coastal restoration and disaster work as it becomes available.

The "Working on the Water" event, envisioned as annual event geared toward fishers across coastal Louisiana, will include a keynote address by state Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain, along with presentations from Louisiana and Main Sea Grant agents, and various financial, coastal restoration, tourism, government contract and workforce development experts, among others.

The workshop, which is free and includes a complimentary lunch, was conceived following the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill when the St. Bernard Economic Development Foundation commissioned a study into economic opportunities available for those whose livelihoods were impacted by the disaster.

"Given the volatility of the economy and the hurdles we have had to overcome — from oil spills and hurricanes, to coastal erosion and changing ecosystems — it is important that our fishermen have the tools necessary to adapt and prosper," said Joey DiFatta, the economic development foundation's chairman.

The event is being help from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Arlene Meraux River Observation Center on The Arlene and Joseph Meraux Charitable Foundation's Docville Farm at 5128 E. St. Bernard Hwy. in Violet. Interested participants should arrive at 7:30 a.m. to register.

For more information, call 504.345.9756 or visit

One of the economic development foundation-commissioned study's recommendations was building up ecotourism to provide those already working on the waterfront with an opportunity to use the skills and resources they already have at hand to generate additional income.

And in the fall of 2013, in an effort to reach individuals, the St. Bernard Economic Development Foundation, the Regional Planning Commission, and Nunez Community College began planning the Tuesday workshop.

"Ecotourism, coastal restoration, and disaster response translates to big business," said Ed Shedlock, the assistant director of Nunez's Entrepreneurship Center. "The fishing tradition in St. Bernard coupled with our unique geography and environment presents a large, untapped economic development opportunity for fishermen and anyone interested in working on the water." 

See the draft pamphlet for the event:

WWNO and NPR World Premiere of WATER - Saenger Theatre Oct. 25


NPR Presents the World Premiere of Water +
in partnership with WWNO 89.9 FM

NPR and WWNO are proud to announce the world premiere of NPR Presents Water on Saturday October 25, 2014 at 8:00 p.m. ET at the Saenger Theatre. NPR Presents Water + combines national and local news coverage, music, poetry, storytelling, and visual projections to explore how too much or too little water is shaping lives and affecting communities around the country and the world. Tickets are available at

 NPR Presents Water + brings together Tony-Award winning director Kenny Leon, award-winning NPR Science Correspondent Christopher Joyce, and award-winning theater writers Arthur Yorinks and Carl Hancock Rux with an original sound score by acclaimed violinist Daniel Bernard Roumain (DBR). The show starts its eight-city tour in New Orleans. It will be co-hosted by NPR’s Michele Norris and WWNO’s Eve Troeh and will feature Tony Award-winner Anika Noni Rose (Caroline, or Change); Tony Award-nominee, Michele Shay (August Wilson’s Seven Guitars); Jason Dirden (Tony Award-winning Production, A Raisin in the Sun); and Lucas Caleb Rooney (Boardwalk Empire).

NPR Presents Water + brings together NPR’s journalistic rigor with the artistic and poetic nature of theatrical storytelling, amplifying local stories about water issues that are relevant and meaningful to each region,” said Indira Etwaroo, executive producer and director of NPR Presents. “We are thrilled to partner with WWNO, who received the Edward R. Murrow Award for their coastal coverage, to create and present the premiere event and to hold it at the historic Saenger Theatre, which reopened after its own dramatic water story post-Hurricane Katrina.”

“Water is such an important topic, not only for Louisiana, but also for the nation and the world. NPR Presents Water + will help to open conversations and the meaningful exchange of ideas in a new way,” said Paul Maassen, WWNO general manager. “We are honored to have the World Premiere here in New Orleans, and for WWNO to play a role in this local and national collaboration among NPR and public radio stations across the nation.”

“I am excited to work with NPR Presents on this meaningful and highly relevant undertaking,” Director, Kenny Leon stated. "Theater has the ability to illuminate the human experience in a way that is unique, vital and authentic. Our goal is to allow Water to showcase our shared humanity, our shared challenges across the US and the globe."

Building on NPR and Member Stations’ news coverage, the NPR Presents Water + series will highlight each city’s unique, nuanced relationship with water. The scripts are created in partnership with the Member Station combining local sensibilities with national themes. No artistic licenses are taken with the news content; stories are adapted from on-air and online coverage, as well as oral histories, into monologues and dialogues.

 The Tour:

October 25, 2014, New Orleans in partnership with WWNO

November 8, 2014, Weekend in Washington, NPR

November 10, 2014, New York, NY in partnership with WNYC

November 12, 2014, San Francisco, CA in partnership with KQED

November 13, 2014, Seattle, WA in partnership with KUOW

November 17, 2014, Atlanta, GA in partnership with WABE

November 18, 2014, Cleveland, OH in partnership with Ideastream

November 19, 2014, Detroit, MI in partnership with WUOM

Groundwork NOLA presents Lost Rivers: a film about daylighting urban rivers on Monday Oct 13 at Cafe Istanbul FREE!

On Monday, October 13 at 5pm Groundwork NOLA presents Lost Rivers: Out of Sight, But No Longer Out of Mind! a documentary about the restoration or "daylighting" of once-covered urban rivers. This screening takes place at Cafe Istanbul, 2372 St. Claude Ave in New Orleans at 5pm for FREE. Special guest Ann-Marie Mitroff, River Program Director of Groundwork Hudson Valley will present a short talk. Don't miss it!

USACE to Hold Public Meeting on Landscaping of SELA Project Neutral Grounds on Tue Sept 30

Stakeholder coordination has been critical in the development of conceptual neutral ground landscape designs to be implemented post construction of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Control Project (SELA) drainage improvements along S. Claiborne, Napoleon, Jefferson, and Louisiana Avenues.

Draft concepts for the SELA landscape implementation plan are developed based on guidance and input from city and state representatives and are now ready to be shared with the public.You are invited to attend an upcoming Open House presenting the conceptual designs and gathering public input to further refine the preferred design concept for each construction corridor.

The Open House will be held Tuesday, September 30, 2014 from 5pm to 8pm at the Salvation Army Meeting Room, 4526 S. Claiborne Avenue, New Orleans.

Draft concepts will be presented for the neutral ground along:
A. Claiborne Ave from Monticello to Pine St.
B. Louisiana Ave from Claiborne Ave. to Constance St.
C. Napoleon Ave from Claiborne Ave. to Laurel St.
D. Jefferson Ave from Claiborne Ave. to Magazine St.

For questions about the meeting, please contact Derek Chisholm at 504.218.0909

The Southeast Louisiana Flood Control Project (SELA): In partnership with
the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New Orleans District; the State of
Louisiana, Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority; and the Sewerage
and Water Board of New Orleans.

Water Challenge Peer Mentorship Deadline is October 5th! Water solutions WANTED!

Propeller is seeking local innovators with ideas to take on Louisiana’s most pressing water issues.  Applications are currently open and will close on Sunday, October 5th, 2014.

The program offers mentorship, consulting, and support from Lead Mentor and former CEO of the Weather Channel Mike Eckert, as well as entry into a dynamic cohort of peers who will work together to improve urban water retention, urban and coastal water quality, and coastal restoration. The Peer Mentorship program will culminate in a $10,000 business pitch competition in March 2015 during the 7th Annual New Orleans Entrepreneur Week.

From the seasoned entrepreneur or researcher​ to the community member with a groundbreaking idea, this program has something for everyone. This opportunity is open to applicants from Orleans, Jefferson, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Tammany, St. John, St. Charles, Lafourche, Tangipahoa, and Terrebonne parishes. For-profits and non-profits with $0 to $1 million in annual revenue, are invited to apply.  

The Water Challenge is a collaborative initiative between Propeller: A Force for Social Innovation, the Greater New Orleans Foundation, and The Idea Village.

Louisiana: We can do this!

WEFTEC 2014 Features FREE Louisiana-focused Programming

The world’s largest gathering of water quality leaders, experts and engineers returns to New Orleans for WEFTEC 2014 starting this weekend at the Morial Convention Center. Lots of Louisiana programming and workshops will be available to attendees. Access to the show floor, plenary sessions and most of the Louisiana-focused programming is free, so register today!

Stormwater, Zoning & Development Workshop: Tuesday, Sept. 16th 5:30pm Propeller

Hope to see you there!

Workshop Title: Stormwater and the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance

Date & Time: Tuesday, September 16th, 5:30 - 7:00 PM

Audience: Propeller invites developers, planners, architects, construction professionals, and interested community members to attend our upcoming workshop on stormwater regulations for the new Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance (CZO). Join us to learn about how changes to the CZO will affect development in New Orleans.

- Dale Thayer, Senior City Planner, City Planning Commission
- Louis Jackson, Senior Project Manager, CDM Smith
- Elizabeth Mossop, Director, Spackman Mossop and Michaels
- Rick Dupont, Director of Research and New Initiatives, Woodward Design+Build
- Townsend Underhill, Development Director, Stirling Properties

I. Welcome and Introductions
II. Overview of Draft CZO process and Article 23. Landscape, Stormwater Management, & Screening
III. CZO Engineering Requirements
IV. CZO Landscape Architecture Requirements
V. CZO Impacts on Local Development
VI.CZO Impacts
VII. Discussion and Questions


Rapid erosion of Louisiana coast only expected to accelerate | NewOrleansNews | The Advocate — Baton Rouge, LA

This is one of the most important articles ever written about coastal issues in Louisiana. Please share widely! Thank you to Bob Marshall, The Lens, and everyone involved in producing this work. 

Rapid erosion of Louisiana coast only expected to accelerate

This story is condensed from a broad multimedia presentation produced by the nonprofit newsrooms of The Lens and ProPublica. The full version is available at

Online, you can track land loss from satellite and aerial images dating back, in some cases, to the 1930s and see the vast network of levees, oil and gas canals and other energy infrastructure.

Beyond the loss of actual land, the presentation looks at the cultural loss that Louisiana is suffering as our coast disappears. Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Bob Marshall focuses on distinct areas of the coast that are edging toward oblivion and open water, complete with interactive maps and audio presentations.

Louisiana is drowning, quickly.

In just 80 years, 2,000 square miles of its coastal landscape have become open water, wiping places off maps, bringing the Gulf of Mexico to the back door of New Orleans and posing a lethal threat to an energy and shipping corridor vital to the nation’s economy.

And it’s going to get worse, even quicker.

Scientists now say one of the greatest environmental and economic disasters in the nation’s history is rushing toward a catastrophic conclusion, unabated and largely unnoticed.

At the rates that the sea is rising and land is sinking, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists say that by 2100, the Gulf of Mexico could rise by as much as 4.3 feet across this landscape, which has an average elevation of about 3 feet. If that happens, everything unprotected by levees — most of southeast Louisiana — would be under water.

This land being lost is home to half of the country’s oil refineries, a matrix of pipelines that serve 90 percent of the nation’s offshore energy production and 30 percent of its total oil and gas supply. It is a port vital to 31 states. And for 2 million people, it’s simply home.

The crisis has been speeding along for decades, but at first, even those who work or play in the marshes didn’t appreciate the gradual changes. In an ecosystem covering thousands of square miles, a wider bayou here or a piece of eroded land there seemed insignificant.

Now residents are trying to deal with the shock of losing places they had known all their lives — fishing camps, cypress swamps, beachfronts, cattle pastures and backyards.

Fishing guide Ryan Lambert is one of them. When he started fishing out of Buras 34 years ago, he had to travel 6 miles to reach the Gulf of Mexico.

“Now it’s all open water,” Lambert said. “You can stand on the dock and see the Gulf.”

Two years ago, NOAA removed 31 bays and other features from the Buras charts. Some had been named by French explorers in the 1700s.

The people who knew this land when it was rich with wildlife and dotted with Spanish- and French-speaking villages are getting old. They say their grandchildren don’t understand what has been lost.

“I see what was,” said Lloyd “Wimpy” Serigne, who grew up in the fishing and trapping village of Delacroix, 20 miles southeast of New Orleans. “People today — like my nephew, he’s pretty young — he sees what is.”

If this trend is not reversed, a wetlands ecosystem that took nature 7,000 years to build will be destroyed in a human lifetime.

The story of how that happened is a tale of levees, oil wells and canals leading to destruction on a scale almost too big to comprehend — and perhaps too late to rebuild.

Engineering the river

For communities along its banks, the Mississippi River has always been an indispensable asset and the gravest of threats. The river connected their economies to the world, but its spring floods periodically breached locally built levees, washing away years of profits and scores of lives. Some towns were so dependent on the river, they simply got used to rebuilding.

That all changed with the Great Flood of 1927, when the Mississippi broke through levees in 145 places, flooding the midsection of the country from Illinois to New Orleans. Some 27,000 square miles went under as much as 30 feet of water, destroying 130,000 homes, leaving 600,000 people homeless and killing 500.

Congress passed the Flood Control Act of 1928, which ordered the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to prevent such a flood from ever happening again. By the mid-1930s, the Corps had done its job, putting the river in a straitjacket of levees.

But the project that made the river safe for the communities along the river would eventually squeeze the life out of the river’s delta. The mud walls along the river sealed it off from the landscape sustained by its sediment.

If that were all we had done to the delta, scientists have said, the wetlands that existed in the 1930s could largely be intact today. The natural pace of sinking — scientists call it subsidence — would have been millimeters per year.

But we didn’t stop there. Just as those levees were built, a nascent oil and gas industry discovered plentiful reserves below. Oil companies dredged canals off natural waterways to transport rigs and crews. The canals averaged 13 to 16 feet deep and 140 to 150 feet wide — far larger than natural, twisting waterways.

Eventually, 50,000 wells were permitted in the coastal zone. Conservative estimates say 10,000 miles of canals were dredged to service them.

Such drilling and dredging happened so extensively in an area near Lafitte, it became known as the Texaco Canals.

“Once the oil companies come in and started dredging all the canals, everything just started falling apart,” said Joseph Bourgeois, 84, who grew up and still lives in the area.

From 1930 to 1990, as much as 16 percent of the wetlands was turned to open water as those canals were dredged. But as the U.S. Department of the Interior and many others have reported, the indirect damages far exceeded that:

    Saltwater crept in, killing plants and trees whose roots held the soils together.

    Shorelines crumbled without fresh sediment and dead plants, increasing the size of existing water bodies.

    “Spoil levees” buried wetlands. When companies dredged canals, they dumped the removed soil alongside. The weight of the spoil on the soft, moist delta caused the adjacent marshes to sink.

All of this disrupted the delta’s natural circulatory system and led to the drowning of vast areas. Research has shown that land has sunk and wetlands have disappeared the most in the areas where canals were concentrated.

As the water expanded, people lived and worked on narrower and narrower slivers of land.

“There’s places where I had cattle pens, and built those pens … with a tractor that weighed 5,000 or 6,000 pounds,” said Earl Armstrong, a cattle rancher who grew up on the river 9 miles south of the nearest road. “Right now, we run through there with airboats.”

A U.S. Department of Interior report says oil and gas canals are ultimately responsible for 30 to 59 percent of coastal land loss.

More damage was done when drilling moved offshore in the late 1930s because companies needed pipelines to get oil and gas onshore. So they dug wider, deeper waterways to accommodate both the pipelines and the large ships that served the platforms.

Congress authorized the Corps of Engineers to dredge about 550 miles of navigation channels through the wetlands. The Department of Interior has estimated that those canals, averaging 12 to 15 feet deep and 150 to 500 feet wide, resulted in the loss of an additional 576 square miles of coastal land.

By 2000, coastal roads that had flooded only during major hurricanes were going underwater when high tides coincided with strong southerly winds. Islands and beaches that had been landmarks for lifetimes were gone, lakes had turned into bays, and bays had eaten through their borders to join the Gulf.

“It happened so fast, I could actually see the difference day to day, month to month,” said Lambert, the fishing guide in Buras.

Maps illustrating what the state will look like in 2100 under current projections show the bottom of Louisiana’s “boot” outline largely gone, replaced by a coast running practically straight east to west, starting just south of Baton Rouge.

Plan to rebuild, but no money

Similar predictions had been made for years, but it took Hurricane Katrina to finally galvanize the state Legislature, which pushed through a far-reaching coastal restoration plan in 2007.

The 50-year, $50 billion Master Plan for the Coast includes projects to build levees, pump sediment into sinking areas and build massive diversions on the river to reconnect it with the dying delta.

The state’s computer projections show that by 2060 — if projects are completed on schedule — more land could be built annually than is lost to the Gulf.

But there are three large caveats: The state is still searching for the full $50 billion; if sea-level rise is as bad as the worst-case scenario, the projects may not do the job; and building sediment diversions on the river, a key part of the land-building strategy, has never been done before.

Some of the money will come from an increased share of offshore oil and gas royalties, but many coastal advocates say the industry should pay a larger share.

Kyle Graham, executive director of the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, said recently that the industry understands its liability for the crumbling coast and is discussing some kind of settlement.

“It’s very difficult to see a future in which that (such an agreement) isn’t there,” he said.

Graham has said current funding sources could keep the restoration plan on schedule only through 2019. He was blunt when talking about what would happen if more money doesn’t come through: There will be a smaller coast.

“There are various sizes of a sustainable coastal Louisiana,” he said. “And that could depend on how much our people are willing to put up for that.”

A vanishing culture

Trying to keep pace with the vanishing pieces of southeast Louisiana today is like chasing the sunset; it’s a race that never ends.

Signs of the impending death of this delta are there for any visitor to see.

Pelicans circle in confusion over nesting islands that have washed away since spring.

Pilings that held weekend camps surrounded by thick marshes a decade ago stand in open water — mute testimony to a vanishing culture.

Shrimpers push their wing nets in lagoons that were land five years ago.

The bare trunks of long-dead oaks rise from the marsh, tombstones marking the sinking of sediment-starved ridges.

“If you’re a young person, you think this is what it’s supposed to look like,” Lambert said. “Then when you’re old enough to know, it’s too late.”