JULY 2020 | ISSUE 2
Welcome to the latest newsletter from the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana. We know this is a busy time, and a lot has changed since our last publication. Demonstrations demanding change have spread around the world after the violent death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, at the hands of Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, on the other end of the Mississippi River in Minneapolis. Social justice is at the core of our values. The communities that are most likely to be affected by climate change, land loss and the threat of pollution along our coast often have significant populations of black and indigenous people and other marginalized groups that have faced oppression for generations. The communities experiencing systemic racism and violence need the support of those of us who are privileged, including environmental organizations like the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana. And we also need action. We believe that racial profiling and police brutality are unacceptable. We support the rights of the American people to demonstrate. We share the anger over the murder of George Floyd and those who faced similar fates before him. Black lives matter. As an organization, we developed a strategic plan that includes values such as building collaboration, including everyone, empowering others and driving change. But we know we can do better. We know that we have a long way to go in making sure that we include people of all races and communities in our work and that our organization -- our staff, our board, our volunteers, our partners -- is more representative of the people who live along our coast. We are listening and we are learning. We would like your help. We are demanding of ourselves and our institutions an end to anti-black racism and injustice.
Post alone You may have noticed that we have settled on a name for our newsletter: The Gulf Coast Post. We intend to epublish once every couple of months, and our plan is to bring to you curated news about the state of our coast, the status of restoration projects, and what we are up to at the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana. You can expect to hear about what’s going on at the Legislature and on Capitol Hill that affects south Louisiana, as well as our stances on the issues. You’ll hear about our habitat restoration efforts and about large-scale CPRA projects to reintroduce sediment from the Mississippi River into the surrounding wetlands. We’ll share information about our biennial State of the Coast conference (now scheduled for 2021) and about our coastal stewardship awards. And we’ll also write about hurricane protection, fisheries and the communities where we live, work and play in south Louisiana – on the front lines of climate change in North America. We hope that you find it informative and interesting, and we value your feedback. To subscribe, click here.
See shells down by the seashore Our Oyster Shell Recycling Program was one of the first of its kind, and at one point it was the largest such program in the country. We have recycled nearly 10 million pounds of shell – partnering with nearly two dozen New Orleans area restaurants to collect shells before returning them to the water to create what are known as living shorelines – oyster reefs that protect the nearby soil from erosion. We have completed two reefs. A third is under construction, and a fourth is in the works. It’s a great program, and it’s one you can support from several different angles. For instance, there are our volunteer events in which people (sometimes groups of them from local companies; these are great team-building exercises!) join us in the field to put cured shell into bags. Our program experienced a snag when the Chinese factory that makes the gabions – large steel cages, essentially – that hold shell in place in the water shut down because of a fast-moving and deadly illness that began sweeping through that country.
That was in January, before COVID-19 was even considered a pandemic. By mid-March, the coronavirus had spread to New Orleans and other parts of the United States and forced us to shut down our office and cancel our volunteer events, and resulted in severe restrictions or complete shutdowns of our restaurant partners. One of the side effects of the public health crisis was that the oyster industry in Louisiana was devastated almost overnight. As a result of the vanishing demand, our Oyster Shell Recycling Program collected no shell in April, May and June. Meanwhile, this spring we partnered with Urban South Brewery in New Orleans to create Shucks Y’all, a Belgian wheat beer that was created to promote and the benefit the Oyster Shell Recycling Program. We had plans to introduce the brew at an event saluting coastal champions and marking the anniversaries of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster and the passage of CWPPRA. With the pandemic, all that had to be put on hold. (You can buy Shucks Y’all beer and support our oyster shell recycling by ordering online from Urban South and picking up curbside.) The coronavirus is still affecting us all, and that crisis is by no means over. Of course, our coastal crisis isn’t over either. But there is some good news. The Chinese factory that makes our gabions is up and running, and we have received the gabions for our Barataria reef. A contractor has assembled and filled the gabions, and soon we’ll be deploying them into the water. Our quarterly report on our Oyster Shell Recycling Program will be available soon, and Urban South still has some Shucks Y’all in supply as of press time. We hope to resume collection of oyster shells from our partner restaurants soon. Look for more on the future of shell recycling in Louisiana in the weeks to come.
Volunteer with CRCL! Our Habitat Restoration Program, which uses volunteers to plant native grasses and trees to help stabilize coastal marshes and beaches, also had to go on hiatus because of the coronavirus. Social distancing requirements have eased somewhat, but, to be honest, itâ€™s too hot to hold volunteer events in south Louisiana this time of year. The good news is that we have planned volunteer planting events for this fall. Watch this space, our website, our social media and our EventBrite page for dates, and remember that these events are great team-building exercises.
Mask up During Give NOLA Day this year, we introduced a promotion through which people could get a coastal-themed facemask if they made a donation of $50 or more. That idea is being extended until we run out of masks. Now you can help us safeguard the coast and safeguard community health at the same time!
Get Your Mask Today!
WE’RE (NOT) SCREWED (YET)! You may have read a doomsday headline recently in the Advocate: “We’re screwed.” It refers to the fact that we have lost so much land in south Louisiana already, and are continuing to lose it at a rate of a football field-sized chunk every 100 minutes, that it will be impossible to restore all that we have lost, according to a new peer-reviewed study.
That’s where we come in – not just the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, but all of us who live, work and play in south Louisiana. And we need help from government.
It’s a grim situation, to be sure. Lead author Torbjörn Törnqvist of Tulane University says that open water could one day extend near Interstate 12 on the north shore of the New Orleans area.
Our executive director, Kim Reyher, recently touched on the new study and about the path forward that will help maximize our restoration efforts. Our policy director, Emily Vuxton, spoke to WWL-AM about why saving our wetlands is so important. And our friends at CPRA and the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, which recently was rechristened Pontchartrain Conservancy, also had some thoughts on the study and the window of opportunity to save our coast.
But if you read down a few paragraphs, he makes what we think is an important note: that by taking action, we can slow the northward march of the Gulf and can hold on to our wetlands for centuries.
Fortunately, in our state, saving our coast is one of the few issues that brings together people of all political stripes.
A PERFECT STORM One of the reasons our wetlands are so important, of course, is that they provide hurricane protection. They are part of the multiple lines of defense for our coastal communities, which include densely populated cities such as New Orleans, Lafayette and Houma. (Other components of the multiple lines of defense include elevated homes, evacuation routes and strategies, and flood control infrastructure such as levees and pumping stations.) We’ve already had a brush with tropical weather once this season, and we urge you to remain vigilant and to have a plan in case you have to evacuate. Of course, everything is complicated this year by COVID-19. Our communications and marketing director, James Karst, recently spoke with KPLC-TV in Lake Charles for their hurricane season special and discussed how the pandemic has affected our coastal restoration efforts.
SOC 2021 State of the Coast has been rescheduled for June 2-4, 2021. We had planned to convene this May at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in downtown New Orleans. Our conference is the premier gathering on coastal restoration in the region. It’s a great networking opportunity, and we had lined up a distinguished list of speakers and a timely program. Among other things, we had intended to discuss what’s gone on with our coast in the 10 years since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. We know that there’s a lot to talk about, so we are thrilled to have rescheduled for next year. We hope you’ll join us.