The CWPPRA Program
All levels of government, private interests and citizens in Louisiana have come to understand and appreciate the importance of productive coastal marshes and the urgency of a long-term coastal restoration strategy. To offset dramatic wetland loss, LDNR began constructing numerous coastal restoration projects in 1981, funded through the State’s Coastal Protection Trust Fund (Act 41). In 1989, the Louisiana Legislature recognized the urgency of addressing Louisiana’s coastal wetland losses and passed Act 6 of the second extraordinary session which established a state coastal wetland restoration program and the State’s Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Fund (Wetlands Trust Fund). The citizens of Louisiana supported this effort with passage of a constitutional amendment that dedicated monies to the Wetlands Trust Fund. From 1986 to the present, approximately 100 restoration projects have been funded, at least in part, by the state at a cost of $44 million.
In 1990, the U.S. Congress recognized the national significance of wetland losses and passed the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act (Public Law 101-646, Title III—CWPPRA). In Louisiana, CWPPRA created a partnership between the State and five federal agencies: the U.S. Departments of the Army, Agriculture, Commerce, Interior, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. CWPPRA has made tens of millions of dollars available for wetland restoration projects in Louisiana. The federal dollars are matched on a 75% federal, to 25% state cost-share basis, with Louisiana’s share derived from its Wetlands Trust Fund and state general funds. The additional restoration funds resulting from CWPPRA have provided some of the resources necessary to begin implementing a comprehensive, large-scale, long-term restoration program that benefits not just the state of Louisiana, but the nation as a whole. The total allocated CWPPRA fully funded costs as of May 1997 are $226,759,067. These funds, combined with other CWPPRA planning funds, have enabled the Task Force to:
Priority List Projects
One important accomplishment of CWPPRA is the establishment of a formalized interagency procedure for selection and implementation of restoration projects. Consistent with Section 303a of CWPPRA, the Task Force has submitted annual priority lists of restoration projects selected for implementation to the U.S. Congress since 1991. While CWPPRA does not provide specific guidance regarding project selection procedures, it does indicate that the Task Force shall "prepare a list of coastal wetlands restoration projects in Louisiana...in order of priority, based on the cost-effectiveness of such projects in creating, restoring, protecting, or enhancing coastal wetlands,...with due allowance for small-scale projects necessary to demonstrate the use of new techniques or materials for coastal wetlands restoration" (section 303a, subsection 1). Once a project is selected on any particular priority list, its funding is bligated for the entire period of the project’s lifetime (usually assumed to be 20 years).
Several interagency committees and work groups have been established as a result of CWPPRA to ensure proper guidance of the CWPPRA program (figure 11). The Task Force established the Technical Committee and the Planning and Evaluation (P&E) Subcommittee to assist in the implementation of CWPPRA. Most of these bodies contain the same representation as the Task Force: one member from each of the five federal agencies and one from the state of Louisiana. The P&E Subcommittee established several working groups to develop and evaluate critical information necessary for selection and implementation of priority list projects.
Section 303b of CWPPRA directs that a restoration plan, consistent with the state’s Coastal Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Plan, be developed and submitted to the U.S. Congress. The Restoration Plan was completed in November 1993. Although each project listed in the Restoration Plan is unique, depending on prevailing hydrology and other environmental conditions, each restoration project is classified as one of several project types, such as freshwater or sediment diversions, barrier islands restoration, marsh creation through use of dredged material, hydrologic restoration, marsh management, vegetative plantings, sediment and nutrient trapping and shoreline protection, or combinations of these types (figure 12). The Restoration Plan outlines a Near-Term Strategy and a Long-Term Strategy. The Near-Term Strategy focuses on individual hydrologic basins and identifies easy-to-implement priority projects designed to reduce wetland loss in specific areas of each basin. Those projects are grouped according to their basin-specific objectives. The Long-Term Strategy focuses on implementing large-scale, more costly projects identified through feasibility studies undertaken during implementation of the Near-Term Strategy. Examples of project types used for both strategies are described in more detail in table 1.
Priority Project List Formulation Process
Following completion of the Restoration Plan, projects considered for annual priority lists are identified from the Restoration Plan and then screened according to numerous criteria before ultimate approval by the Task Force. Since enactment of CWPPRA, six priority project lists have been submitted (one for each year), with additional lists planned for subsequent years. While the exact process for proposed project screening is continuously evolving, all lists were formulated with interagency and public involvement and screened on a number of criteria, including environmental benefits, through the Wetland Value Assessment (WVA). The criteria currently used to evaluate projects also include:
The WVA is a quantitative, habitat-based assessment developed to estimate anticipated environmental benefits for restoration project proposals submitted for funding consideration under CWPPRA. The WVA quantifies predicted changes in fish and wildlife habitat quality and quantity as a result of a proposed wetland restoration project. The WVA is a modification of the Habitat Evaluation Procedure (HEP) developed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS 1980). HEP is widely used by the USFWS and other federal and state agencies in evaluating the impact of development projects on fish and wildlife resources. A notable difference exists between the two methodologies, however, in that HEP generally uses a species-oriented approach, whereas the WVA utilizes a community or habitat-level approach. The WVA has been developed for application to fresh/intermediate marsh, brackish marsh, saline marsh, cypress-tupelo swamp and bottom land hardwood forests.
Figure 12. Restoration techniques for CWPPRA projects in coastal Louisiana
Academic scientists assist with project evaluations and with modifications to the WVA models. The WVA models are constantly evolving to incorporate recent scientific findings and secondary criteria, and to include recommended changes from variable sensitivity tests and statistical analyses. For complete WVA procedures, please refer to the WVA Methodology Document (CWPPRA-EWG 1994).
In addition to interagency cooperation in determining the projects to be selected each year, the CWPPRA public-involvement process provides an opportunity for outside interested parties to express their concerns and opinions and to submit ideas. The Task Force meets quarterly and has held at least three public meetings per year since 1992 to present information to and obtain input from the public concerning coastal restoration projects.
The Task Force also established a Citizen Participation Group (CPG) to provide general input from the diverse interests across Louisiana’s coastal zone who represent local officials, landowners, farmers, sportsmen, commercial fishermen, oil and gas developers, navigation interests and conservation organizations. The CPG provides public review and input into the plans and projects being considered by the Task Force and assists in the public-involvement program. Members of the CPG are:
TABLE 1 - Restoration project type description for CWPPRA-funded restoration projects in coastal Louisiana
CWPPRA Monitoring Program
Monitoring Program Mission and Goals
CWPPRA requires an evaluation of the effectiveness of each coastal wetland restoration project in achieving long-term contributions to arresting coastal wetland loss. This requirement has resulted in the development of a monitoring program designed to quantitatively assess the effectiveness of each coastal restoration project, thus ensuring the best use of state and federal funds for the restoration and conservation of these wetlands (Steyer and Stewart 1992). Monitoring data are crucial in helping to define ecological conditions and changes resulting from individual restoration activities, and helping to quantify any changes which may occur on an ecosystem level. To address the monitoring requirements, the Monitoring Work Group was established under the Planning and Evaluation Subcommittee of the CWPPRA Technical Committee.
Initial development of these monitoring protocols began in November 1991. The Monitoring Work Group consists of representatives of federal and state agencies, as well as academia. Their specific responsibilities were to develop standardized protocols for monitoring variables, develop statistical review procedures and develop quality assurance and quality control guidelines. In pursuit of these goals, group members conceived a monitoring program that considered:
Methods and protocols were then developed for seven monitoring variable categories:
The protocol design was developed to broadly categorize project types, goals, ecological variables and data-collection methodologies. Monitoring protocols are applied to all restoration projects across the coastal zone to provide the data necessary for effective management planning at that scale. The CWPPRA Monitoring Program develops monitoring plans and collects data on individual projects based on specific project goals and objectives. All monitoring efforts are coordinated within each hydrologic basin to attempt to address secondary or cumulative effects of projects. Since estuaries are open ecological systems, it was imperative to monitor entire coastal ecosystems, not just the areas directly affected by individual projects. This is the long-term strategy that the CWPPRA Monitoring Program will employ as more projects are implemented in coastal Louisiana and adequate funding is provided.
The LDNR/Coastal Restoration Division (CRD) is responsible for managing most monitoring activities of CWPPRA, including monitoring plan development, data collection and storage, statistical analysis, quality control, initial data interpretation and generation of regular performance evaluation reports. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)/National Wetlands Research Center (NWRC) is responsible for aerial photography acquisition and subsequent habitat mapping and GIS (geographic information systems) analysis and support, and other related monitoring as deemed appropriate for each project. The LDNR/CRD, USGS/NWRC and federal project sponsor jointly prepare performance evaluation reports for each CWPPRA project implemented. These reports utilize data collected for each project and assess the degree to which the project’s objectives are being met.
Determining the effectiveness of CWPPRA projects in creating, restoring, protecting and enhancing coastal wetlands in Louisiana is a daunting task because spatial and temporal variability in coastal land loss rates cause differences between reference and project areas and hinder traditional experimental design and statistical techniques (Underwood 1994). This variability necessitates a monitoring approach with a high degree of flexibility to detect the effectiveness of management actions under different environmental conditions (Boesch et al. 1994). Monitoring activities have been initiated on approximately 30 CWPPRA projects as of January 1997. There are two basic types of project specific evaluation reports: progress reports and comprehensive reports. Progress reports are submitted once a year for the entire projected 20-year project design life. These annual progress reports include sections pertaining to the project’s current monitoring status, design and results. The comprehensive report is compiled every three years, for the entire 20-year design life. This report compiles all available monitoring information and is structured to include more project performance details, as compared to the progress reports, with greater emphasis being placed on specific conclusions as to whether the project is meeting design project goals and objectives. These comprehensive reports are reviewed by the Technical Advisory Group, P&E Subcommittee, Technical Committee, and submitted to the Task Force for final approval.
In 1995, a quality management plan (QMP) was produced by USGS/NWRC, LDNR/CRD, and Louisiana State University (Steyer et al. 1995). The QMP was developed in accordance with EPA Executive Order 5360.1, Policy and Program Requirements to Implement the Mandatory Quality Assurance Program. The QMP is a program-level document, rather than a project-specific document, and therefore incorporates the Quality Assurance Program elements that are required under EPA’s Quality Management Plan and Quality Assurance Project Plan guidelines. This QMP sets the standards by which restoration projects are monitored and ensures consistency in data collection, handling, and evaluation. CWPPRA management is fully aware that restoration science is a new field and that many avenues exist for improving monitoring technologies and the associated quality system. Therefore, like the Restoration Plan, the QMP is a "living" document that can respond to evolving scientific knowledge, restoration technologies and goals for CWPPRA.
An accessible ORACLE/ArcInfo data base of temporal and spatial monitoring data, maintained by LDNR/CRD and USGS/NWRC, encourages the publication of monitoring results so that the management techniques developed in Louisiana can be peer reviewed by a national and international audience. The monitoring data are providing essential baseline and post construction information to aid in determining the effectiveness of existing projects, in the beneficial modification of existing projects, in the design of future projects, and most importantly, support future decisions on selection of projects proposed for creating, restoring, protecting and enhancing Louisiana’s coastal wetlands. One example of the flexibility of the monitoring program is the deauthorization of the CWPPRA Dewitt-Rollover Plantings (ME-8) project. When monitoring data indicated that this demonstration project was not successful, additional spending on the project was curtailed so that appropriated funds could be utilized more effectively.
The CWPPRA Monitoring Program is generating a tremendous amount of data and information. The program ensures that information gathered is made available to the general public as well as governmental agencies and the research community (customers). As requests from the public and the scientific community for informational and educational materials on coastal restoration continue to increase, the ultimate user base for this valuable information will expand well beyond a national level.
CWPPRA’s long-term plan calls for large, aggressive coastwide efforts. Two major feasibility studies initiated by CWPPRA help address this long-term need: The Mississippi River Sediment, Nutrient and Freshwater Redistribution Study and the Louisiana Barrier Shoreline Feasibility Study.
Mississippi River Sediment, Nutrient and Freshwater Redistribution Study
Use of Mississippi River sediment, nutrients, and freshwater for coastal restoration is the focus of a feasibility study initiated by the New Orleans District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The three-year study, initiated in June 1995 through a process involving public participation, is evaluating the environmental benefits and socioeconomic impacts of possible freshwater diversion sites in coastal Louisiana. The study is being directed by the CWPPRA Task Force and costs approximately $4 million.
Currently, several plans are being evaluated and the availability of resources, physical features required, and the benefits, impacts and costs associated with each alternative are being compared. The findings of this study will address and compare trade offs with the current use of river and wetland resources and the limits to which these trade offs may be accepted. Ultimately, the study will be published as a combined Feasibility Study/Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and will identify the most efficient, effective and complete plan that achieves wetland restoration and allows for navigation, flood control, water supply and other uses of the Mississippi River. The study will determine if the investment of federal and state funds in such a plan can be justified in relation to the benefits attained. Completion for this study is anticipated during federal fiscal year 1999.
Louisiana Barrier Shoreline Feasibility Study
The Louisiana Barrier Shoreline Feasibility Study will assess the significance of Louisiana’s barrier formations in protecting its coastal wetlands. Barrier islands separate the Barataria, Terrebonne, Plaquemines and St. Bernard estuaries from the Gulf of Mexico, while in the western part of the state, chenier formations provide a barrier between the gulf and interior marshes. Currently, Louisiana’s barrier islands are experiencing narrowing and area loss due to wave and storm action and human influences. These barrier shorelines of Louisiana potentially protect interior marshes, coastal communities, and industrial infrastructure from saltwater and erosive tide and storm influences from the Gulf of Mexico.
The purpose of this $3.7 million feasibility study is to assess and quantify wetland loss problems linked to protection provided by barrier formations along the Louisiana coast. The study will identify solutions to these problems, attach an estimated cost to these solutions and determine the barrier configuration that will best protect Louisiana’s significant coastal resources from saltwater intrusion, storm surges, wind/wave activity and oil spills. These resources include, but are not limited to, oil and gas production and exploration facilities, the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, pipelines, navigable waterways, and fragile estuarine and island habitats.
Feasibility study tasks completed as of January 1997 include: reviewing prior studies, reports and existing projects; developing a conceptual and quantitative system framework; assessing resource status and trends; inventory and assessing physical conditions and parameters; and inventory and assessing existing environmental and economic resource conditions. Future tasks include: forecasting trends in physical and hydrological conditions with no action; forecasting trends in environmental resource conditions with no action; formulating and assessing strategic options; identifying management and engineering alternatives; and producing a final report and EIS. Completion for this study is anticipated during federal fiscal year 1998.
Coastal Wetlands Conservation Plan
LDNR has been designated as the state agency to develop a Coastal Wetlands Conservation Plan (Conservation Plan) under authority of Section 304 of CWPPRA. LDNR has been awarded an EPA Assistance Grant (No. CD-996503-01-0) and will be the lead agency for the development and submittal of the Conservation Plan to the federal agencies authorized to approve it. These federal agencies are the U.S. Department of the Army, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The approval of the Conservation Plan will change the federal/state cost-share for restoration projects selected under CWPPRA Section 303 from 75% federal/25% state to 85% federal/15% state.
The first series of five public meetings was held in October 1996, to solicit concerns and issues from the public and to identify items that the public felt should be included in the plan. The first draft was written and distributed to everyone who attended any one of the five public meetings. Participants were asked to review the draft plan and provide comments, either in writing or at any one of the second series of public meetings that were held in January 1997. The comments received at the public meetings were incorporated into the plan. Based on requests at the public meetings, the second draft was sent out to the public for a second review and another public meeting was held April 30, 1997. It is anticipated that all public comments will be incorporated and the plan will be submitted to the CWPPRA Task Force by May 15, 1997. All Task Force revisions will be made and the plan could possibly be accepted as early as September 1997.
The goal of the Conservation Plan is to achieve "no net loss of wetlands in the coastal areas of Louisiana as a result of developmental activities initiated subsequent to approval of the Conservation Plan," exclusive of any wetland acreage gains achieved through implementation of CWPPRA restoration projects selected from the Restoration Plan. Participation and input by the public and by federal and state agencies are integral to the success of the Conservation Plan, both in the plan development process and in communicating benefits of the plan through outreach materials.
CWPPRA effectiveness, as a whole, depends on both a comprehensive conservation and restoration strategy in Louisiana’s coastal zone. In fact, a restoration program addressing only natural and past development activities can only be successful if future development activities are also addressed (in this case, by the Conservation Plan).
Previous Section Contents Next Section
Back to LA Coast