NEW ORLEANS (AP) – Louisiana plans which of the three areas will become the first site dominated by a river delta in a federally sponsored network to protect, study and teach estuaries.
Nine virtual public meetings –- three each on the Atchafalaya, Barataria and Pontchartrain pools – were scheduled in September to let people across the state know about the program and hear their thoughts.
Louisiana is one of seven coastal states that are not part of the National Estuarine Research Reserve System guided and largely paid for by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
It is the only Gulf Coast state without such a reservation, although the variety is more important than state-by-state inclusion.
And that of Louisiana will be unique, said Joelle Gore, chief of the stewardship division of NOAA’s coastal management office.
There is a small delta in the 372,000-acre (150,500-hectare) Kachemak Bay Preserve in Alaska and the Weeks Bay Preserve in Alabama is in the vast Mississippi Delta region, she said Friday.
But “the dominance of this system in Louisiana is unlike any other,” she said.
Estuaries are brackish bodies of water commonly found where rivers meet the sea. The research reserve system is currently made up of 29 estuaries. in 23 states and Puerto Rico. It includes the coasts of the Great Lakes as well as those along the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
Kachemak Bay is the largest and Old Woman Creek in Ohio, at 573 acres (230 hectares), the smallest.
Twenty-one are participating in a study on the effects of climate-induced increases in water level in swamps, Gore said.
She said Long Island Sound in Connecticut will likely become the 30th reserve early next year. She said Wisconsin, which has a reserve along Lake Superior, is working to add a second in Lake Michigan, a different “biogeographic sub-region.” This area and that of Louisiana will likely be added in 2024 or 2025, she said.
Governor John Bel Edwards applied to join the system in 2019 – something previous administrations have never been able to do for one reason or another, Louisiana SeaGrant’s Robert Twilley said on Friday. For example, he said, former Governor Kathleen Blanco was very interested, but Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit in 2005, sending the estuary reserve system low on her priority list.
Twilley said the Louisiana site selection committee, made up of 75 members, reviewed six of the state’s coastal basins. but excluded three: the Calcasieu basin in southwest Louisiana, the Terrebonne basin and the mouth of the Mississippi.
The Calcasieu basin included too little state-owned land, which is an important part of state-federal partnerships as the state manages day-to-day operations, he said. The other two areas were excluded because there was too much of a chance that many associated wetlands would disappear by 2050, he said.
Louisiana has lost about 2,000 square miles (5,180 square kilometers) of wetlands since the 1930s. The state has developed a 50-year, $ 50 billion coastal master plan to slow this loss. Work under this plan has so far been largely funded by regulations and fines from the BP oil spill, although that money is not close to the proposed total.
“One of the things we’re focusing a lot on” is making sure the site is a site where research will enhance restoration as part of the master plan, Kristin Ransom of the NOAA Coastal Management Office told New Orleans.
Twilley said he is delighted that education and awareness is a major focus of the reserve system.
One thing that sets it apart from programs like SeaGrant is a requirement for a location where field trip students and other visitors can learn about estuaries, and which can also serve as a jumping off point for more extensive trips. , did he declare.
He said the Pontchartrain Basin proposal offers a Pontchartrain reserve establishment. Morgan City Visitors Center could serve as such a place for the Atchafalaya basin, just like the national historic park and reserve Jean Lafitte for the Barataria basin, he said.