State of the Beach/State Reports/LA/Shoreline Structures
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In the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the Louisiana Legislature restructured the State's Wetland Conservation and Restoration Authority to form the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA). Act 8 of the First Extraordinary Session of 2005 expanded the membership, duties, and responsibilities of the CPRA and charged the new Authority to develop and implement a comprehensive coastal protection plan, including both a master plan and annual plans.
Prior to the hurricanes, safeguarding Louisiana's coast meant separate planning for hurricane protection and coastal restoration. Act 8 directed that the CPRA consider both "hurricane protection and the protection, conservation, restoration, and enhancement of coastal wetlands and barrier shorelines or reefs" and further defined the "coastal area" as the Louisiana Coastal Zone and contiguous areas that are subject to storm or tidal surge. In time for submission to the May 2006 legislative session, the CPRA completed its first assigned task - the first annual coastal protection plan for the state that integrates both hurricane protection and coastal restoration projects.
The CPRA is now established as the single state entity with authority to articulate a clear statement of priorities and to focus development and implementation efforts to achieve comprehensive coastal protection for Louisiana. The CPRA is working closely with other entities on coastal issues, including the state legislature, the Governor's Advisory Commission on Coastal Protection, Restoration, and Conservation; and the Louisiana Recovery Authority (LRA).
The Governor's executive assistant for coastal activities chairs the CPRA. Agencies in the CPRA membership include the following: the secretaries of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR); the Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD); the Department of Environmental Quality; the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries; the Department of Economic Development; the commissioners of the Department of Agriculture and Forestry; the Department of Insurance; and the Division of Administration; the director of the state Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness; and the chair of the Governor's Advisory Commission on Coastal Protection, Restoration, and Conservation. Additionally, the CPRA membership includes two executive board members of the Police Jury Association of Louisiana and three levee district presidents from coastal Louisiana.
As charged by Act 8, the CPRA also established an Integrated Planning Team (IPT) to jointly coordinate development of the master plan with state and federal agencies, as well as political subdivisions (including levee districts). The IPT consists of senior staff from DNR and DOTD. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New Orleans District, has also assigned a senior staff person to the team as a liaison.
Utilizing extensive existing work as well as input from a wide variety of stakeholders, the Integrated Planning Team is formulating an overall master plan that clearly portrays the state's needs and desires relative to a sustainable vision of comprehensive coastal protection integrating hurricane protection and coastal restoration. The master plan will address these coastal protection efforts from both short-term and long-range perspectives. It will also incorporate structural, management, and institutional components of both efforts. The CPRA master plan for coastal restoration and hurricane protection was approved by the Louisiana Legislature on May 30, 2007.
Much of the master plan seems to borrow elements from Coast 2050, released in December 1998.
The United States Geological Survey (USGS) has mapped the southeastern Louisiana coast (43 km segment between Abel Pass and East Timbalier Island), which includes an assessment of structures along this stretch of coast. They report: "Twenty percent of the shore is influenced by hard structures; most of the structures are offshore segmented breakwaters with some riprap revetments and geotubes built in the backbeach along Grand Isle and at Fourchon."
USGS also has assessed the western Louisiana coast from Lower Mud Lake Entrance Channel to Sabine Pass. For this stretch they report: "Only 14% of the shore is influenced by hard structures; most of the structures are riprap revetments built in the backbeach area or segmented breakwaters constructed offshore."
Holly Beach, Louisiana has 91 breakwaters and Grand Isle has 36 breakwaters. See this report for an assessment of their effectiveness.
The 2006 Coastal Assessment reports:
A GIS database with the location of levees and pump stations including basic and pertinent information about each of those features does not exist and is needed by many agencies of the State of Louisiana to more efficiently and effectively perform their mandates in the LCZ. Additionally, for those critical applications of protection of life and property, specialized user interfaces, queries, and displays are needed that provide for use of the application without a great deal of training or knowledge of the GIS software. The goal of this project is to complete a GIS dataset of all levees and pump stations in the LCZ and to develop tools that fulfill aspects of emergency response and planning, as well as to design the project so that it is flexible enough to be used as a basis for future projects that refine and/or add to the data and utility of the data and tools associated with this project. These data and tools will be used for emergency response and planning; flood protection and drainage projects planning; coastal restoration project analysis and design; and for coastal use regulatory permit application review and determinations.
Approved CWPPRA (Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act), implemented State, and non-CWPPRA Federal restoration projects are listed and described on DNR's website. These projects are a mixture of types of projects, including wetlands restoration and creation, water diversions, dredge and fill projects and shoreline protection (armoring). Many projects do involve shoreline armoring. As an example, here's the description of the project titled "Holly Beach":
The objective of this project is to protect the marsh north of the Gulf of Mexico shoreline by expanding shoreline protection in phases from Ocean View, Louisiana to the east near Calcasieu Pass. A total of 34 breakwaters were constructed in 1991, 21 breakwaters were constructed in 1992, 21 breakwaters were constructed in 1993, and nine breakwaters were constructed in 1994 between Calcasieu Pass and Holly Beach, Louisiana. Eighteen of the existing breakwaters were raised and/or extended in 2003 utilizing marine mattress foundations and armor stone.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New Orleans District has launched a Mississippi River – Gulf Outlet (MRGO) Website to share information with the public regarding closure of the MRGO, development of an MRGO Ecosystem Restoration Plan Feasibility Study and implementation of certain wetland creation and shoreline protection projects identified in the study.
A news article in May 2012 discussed building a $5.9 Million, 10,000-foot-long breakwater from the mouth of the Tangipahoa River westward toward Pass Manchac.
The Fiscal Year 2017 Civil Works Budget for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers provides $4.62 billion in gross discretionary funding for the Civil Works program. This budget lists proposed projects and the associated budget justification by state.
Perception of Effectiveness
Investigation of the effects of detatched breakwaters at Holly Beach and Grand Isle, Louisiana provides some information, as do the USGS reports referenced above.
Public Education Program
NOAA has published information on Shoreline Armoring: The Pros and Cons.
Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant has prepared a summary document What are the regulatory rules for shoreline stabilization in the Gulf of Mexico, especially in Alabama, Mississippi and Florida?
This fact sheet says:
- Wetlands and barrier islands provide a protection barrier from strong winds and hurricanes: every 2.7 miles of wetlands absorbs one foot of storm surge.
- Data from past hurricanes indicates that the loss of every one-mile strip of wetlands along the coast, results in an estimated $5,752,816 average annual increase in property damage.
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