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Historic flooding in and around Baton Rouge last month was just the latest crisis for coastal towns dealing with the escalating threats of land loss and rising sea-levels
Historic flooding focused the nation’s attention on South Louisiana a little more than a month ago, as more than 100,000 homes and businesses were inundated by as much as 30 inches of rain that fell over a three-day span.
Streets and neighborhoods far removed from boundaries on federal flood maps became angry lakes and frenzied streams. All of that rain ripped and clawed its way into drains, ditches, bayous, and rivers and, when those couldn’t contain the deluge, water rushed back out the through banks of those waterways and into people’s homes.
In the weeks since that unprecedented rainfall, some South Louisiana communities that were unaffected by the massive downpour have flooded, as well, though it’s doubtful the rest of the country heard much about it.
Small coastal fishing towns like Cocodrie, Delacroix, Leeville, and Dulac flooded, not because of storms that actually made landfall, but simply because the wind blew hard out of the southeast for a couple of days and a tropical system hit hundreds of miles away.
Flooding that covers roads and docks and water creeping into yards, under homes and camps, has become pretty routine for those who live in those towns or visit local marinas to launch boats in pursuit of speckled trout, redfish, flounder, and bass. It happens every couple of months.
Why So Water-Logged?
The Gulf of Mexico is rising, as is every other sea and ocean. In that respect, the threat of increased flooding is not unique to Louisiana’s coast. But what does separate Louisiana’s coast from that of its neighbors is the constant, menacing subsidence—this means that, for a variety of geological reasons, the land, created by millennia of sediment deposits from the Mississippi River, is slowly but surely sinking into the Gulf. The combination of rising Gulf waters and receding land mass, called relative sea-level rise, means Louisiana’s coastal towns are feeling the impact of higher water sooner and more frequently than other parts of the Gulf region.
This is not breaking news to coastal residents, who have had to elevate homes over the last two decades to keep their feet dry. Scientists and engineers are keenly aware of the threat, and are trying to design and build wetland restoration projects and extensive flood-protection systems to help shield New Orleans, Houma, and other coastal Louisiana cities from hurricane storm surges.
An Intensifying Threat
It was recently revealed by the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority—staff working on the state’s revised coastal restoration Master Plan, due out in early 2017—that the latest models show relative sea-level rise may claim much larger swaths of what’s left of Louisiana’s coast over the next 50 years than previously predicted. The last time Louisiana’s blueprint of projects to restore critical habitat and protect coastal communities was updated in 2012, coastal engineers, planners, and wetland ecologists predicted that the worst-case scenario for areas south, east, and west of New Orleans was two to four feet of relative sea-level rise.
Now, those models indicate that might be the best-case scenario for those same areas, and as much as six feet or more of average sea-level rise can be expected in the coming 50 years.
That is sobering news for those optimistic about the future of one of the world’s most fertile areas for fish and wildlife, and the communities that provide access for hundreds of thousands of anglers, hunters, and commercial fishermen. If the models are correct, Louisiana towns like Venice and Shell Beach, renowned as world-class angling destinations, may be more submerged than they are dry—or worse, simply uninhabitable, even with elevated homes and businesses.
Levee systems will be pressured more and more as water regularly laps at their bases. The rebuilt marshes that were supposed to provide protection to the levees and help restore the critical nursery grounds for fish and their forage could succumb to more frequent wave action and saltwater intrusion. And rivers, like the ones overwhelmed by the August rains, and even the Mississippi, will increasingly struggle to push their way into coastal lakes, bays, and eventually the Gulf.
In the diagrams used by coastal planners to show the expected results of relative sea-level rise (above), red ink means land lost, while green demonstrates where sediment deposits will create new wetlands. Unfortunately, those diagrams look like a Santa Claus suit with a single sprig of mistletoe stuck to it.
But those charged with creating these models are quick to point out that this picture represents a future without action. This is what could happen if we do nothing. The upcoming plan includes projects to create marsh, elevate homes, and protect communities that could put a lot more green on the map.
A $20-Billion Opportunity
The settlement with BP over the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster will bring as much as $6.8 billion to Louisiana, and $20 billion in all to the five Gulf States, over the next 15 years. That money will be used to restore and enhance coastal ecosystems and local economies, meaning Louisiana’s coastal planners have their best opportunity yet to take action to address sea-level rise and land loss.
A draft of the 2017 Louisiana Coastal Restoration and Hurricane Master Plan will be released in January of 2017, and the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority will accept public comments when the draft is released. We’ll let hunters and anglers know when they can make their voices heard on this important step in the planning process.
For more information about the master plan and the effort to restore Louisiana’s coast, please visit the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority website.
Ambassador Nathan Bailey wants to guarantee his boys have a place to hunt and fish
Launching this fall, TRCP’s ambassador program calls on sportsmen-conservationists to help advance our goals by offering local volunteer support. These #PublicLandsProud hometown heroes are not willing to sit idly by as the wild places we love are lost. They know there’s more to our sports than just hunting, fishing, and going home.
Meet Nathan Bailey, our volunteer ambassador out of Oregon. Bailey has spent a lifetime chasing outdoor pursuits in rural Oregon. He’s determined today to share these experiences with his own kids, and make sure that public lands stay in public hands. Bailey’s commitment to conservation is a big asset for sportsmen and women in Oregon, and we’re proud to have him on our team.
TRCP: What’s your earliest memory in the outdoors and how do you spend your time outside these days?
Bailey: I grew up in the rural Southeast Oregon town named Chiloquin. Like most rural kids, my life consisted of outdoor activities; we had nothing else to do. I was also surrounded by acres and acres of public lands which offered us a playground beyond any young person’s dream. I can’t remember a time in my life when the outside world wasn’t a part of my daily activities. I was ice fishing before I could walk and have never missed a hunting season.
Today, not much has changed, as I continue to spend most of my time in outdoor pursuits. If I’m not guiding people down my home rivers – the Rogue and Williamson – you’ll find me tromping all over Southern Oregon in pursuit of elk, mule deer, and gamebirds of all sorts. I also love to gather wild berries, mushrooms, and anything else our public lands provide.
TRCP: What got you interested in TRCP and the work we do? How do you see yourself helping TRCP achieve our conservation mission?
Bailey: TRCP impressed me in their approach to conservation. It’s a breath of fresh air to see a nonprofit that is so passionate about their cause, yet prudent enough to build bridges rather than walls. Being of the same mind, I can help build bridges through a professional sportsman’s influence. Alongside TRCP, I plan on giving sportsmen/women a voice in in the public forums that decide how we get to use OUR public land.
TRCP: How can everyday sportsmen make a difference for fish and wildlife? Why is it so important?
Bailey: First and foremost, hunters and anglers provide a lot of our nation’s conservation dollars. We need to educate the general public about that fact. Sportsmen need to have a strong voice in the law-making process to ensure that wildlife – and the resources that make strong populations possible – continue to be represented. We also need to support organizations who give us such a collective and powerful voice, such as the TRCP.
TRCP: What’s the most pressing conservation issue where you live?
Bailey: TRANSFER OF PUBLIC LANDS. I can’t say it loudly enough. The big push out West is to sell off public lands. As a sportsmen who as a young man lost miles of river access, trust me when I tell you that we need to keep public lands in OUR HANDS!
TRCP: What has been your most memorable hunt? What’s still on your bucket list?
Bailey: My most memorable hunt was in the Ochoco National Forest in Central Oregon. It was a youth hunt and I had all three of my boys with me. My two youngest stayed with me as we pushed a draw for the oldest. I’ll never forget trying to get my youngest to silence the BBs that were sloshing around in his Red Ryder BB gun as we made our push. The plan worked perfectly. We ran two cows right to my oldest, and he quickly harvested one of them. What a great day all the boys had providing for the family!
TRCP: Where can we find you this fall?
Bailey: I will be chasing wild elk through the cascade wilderness, swinging the Rogue for an elusive steelhead, waiting out a wily blacktail in a gnarled old oak tree, or whispering sweet nothings to a flock of mallards over a set of decoys in the Klamath Basin. It’s a blessing to live in Southern Oregon and have access to its abundant wild lands, and with the help of the TRCP, we can preserve our outdoor heritage to keep it that way.
The TRCP’s scouting report on sportsmen’s issues in Congress.
The Senate and House will both be in session this week.
Lawmakers have five days left to avoid a government shutdown. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) scheduled a cloture vote tomorrow afternoon on a short-term continuing resolution (CR), which would keep the government open at current funding levels – except for full 2017 funding levels for military and veterans’ related agencies – through December 9. The spending package includes $1.1 billion to combat the Zika virus and $500 million in funds to help the residents Baton Rouge, Louisiana recover from recent flooding. However, the CR language does not currently include funding for the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. Senate Appropriations Committee ranking member Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) insists that Democrats will not support the bill without money for Flint, Mich. If cloture is invoked tomorrow, a final vote can be expected on Wednesday.
House leadership will consider the short-term CR after the Senate passes it and before the end of the fiscal year at midnight on Friday. We expect the Senate and House to return to their respective states and districts after the final passage of this stopgap spending bill and not return until November 14, after the general election.
The House will debate a water bill on the floor this week, which includes provisions for Everglades restoration. As you may remember from the last Glassing the Hill, the Senate passed its version of the two-year authorization of “The Water Resource Development Act” (WRDA) with a 95-3 vote. The House will consider their own version of a WRDA bill that would authorize funding for, among many other projects, Florida’s Comprehensive Everglades restoration effort, a key TRCP priority. The House WRDA package authorizes $5 billion for water and infrastructure projects, while the Senate version would authorize $10.6 billion, which includes funds for the water crisis in Flint, Michigan.
Amendments for WRDA will be considered Monday night during a House Rules Committee meeting. One of the amendments being debated during the meeting is a bipartisan amendment offered by Representatives Reid Ribble (R-Wis.) and Richard Nolan (D-N.M.), which would require funds to be used on natural infrastructure, such as wetlands and riparian buffers. TRCP and our partners continue to advocate for nature-based features that would enhance critical fish and wildlife habitat. Click here for information.
Should the House pass its bill, Senate and House leadership could begin the conference process to negotiate a final package. We expect negotiations to occur during the lame duck session – which will occur between the election on November 8 and the start of the new administration.
The groups behind the movement to recruit, retain, and reactivate more sportsmen share a few simple ways you can celebrate our hunting and fishing traditions
In the hunting and fishing community, very few days are held more sacred than the opening day of your favorite season. The long wait to get into your treestand or duck blind is finally over. It’s marked on the calendar with a giant red circle, a day when you can’t be expected to take an extra shift, clean the gutters, or go see the in-laws (unless they’re waiting for you at deer camp.)
But there is another day that should be just as important to sportsmen—National Hunting and Fishing Day, this Saturday, September 24, when we celebrate the contributions hunters and anglers have made to conservation in this country and reflect on the freedom we have to enjoy America’s great outdoors.
We should also take this opportunity to reckon with the state of our sports and the serious decline in hunting and fishing since the 1980s. For the last several years, it seems that almost every study has shown that our worst fears are, in fact, reality.
It’s no secret that sportsmen foot much of the bill for conservation in this country through the purchase of our hunting and fishing licenses, permits, and stamps, plus the excise taxes on hunting, shooting, and fishing equipment through the Pittman-Robertson Act and Dingell-Johnson Act. That money is a primary source of funding for state fish and wildlife departments; in some cases it’s the majority their funding. And while the “user pays” model is one that sportsmen and women should be proud of, we should also be concerned that the future of that funding source is tied to waning participation in our sports.
That’s a huge, huge problem, but it isn’t going unanswered.
Welcome to the R3 Community. R3 stands for “Recruit, Retain & Reactivate.” The whole concept focuses on finding new ways to get potential sportsmen outside (recruit), making sure that current sportsmen continue to hunt and fish every year (retain), and finding sportsmen who maybe haven’t hunted or fished in a while and bringing them back into the sport (reactivate). The R3 Community has created a “National Plan” aimed at boosting participation in our sports and, therefore, conservation funding.
This is the focus of the Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports (CAHSS), which was formed in 2010, but the R3 movement is buoyed by a whole community with groups like the Archery Trade Association, the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, Wildlife Management Institute, and many, many more doing their part. United, we are now equipped with the best tools possible to ensure that there is a National Hunting and Fishing Day in ten, 20, or 100 years.
Here’s what you can do to become an R3 advocate: Tomorrow, take someone hunting or fishing for the first time, and perhaps make someone a sportsman for life. If you haven’t bought a hunting or fishing license in recent years, Saturday is the perfect time to do so. And if you already plan on being in the field or on the water this weekend, buy an extra box (or five) of shells—don’t worry, it’s going to conservation.
In the last two years, policymakers have committed to significant investments in conservation, infrastructure, and reversing climate change. Hunters and anglers continue to be vocal about the opportunity to create conservation jobs, restore habitat, and boost fish and wildlife populations. Support solutions now.Learn More