Archive for the ‘Recent News’ Category

Governor Nominates Angelle

Monday, April 26th, 2010

From the Press Release:

State of Louisiana
Office of the Governor April 26, 2010
Press Office: Melissa Sellers, Kyle Plotkin
Contact: 225-342-8006, (c) 225-328-3755

Governor Jindal Nominates Scott Angelle to Serve as Lt. Gov.

BATON ROUGE – Today, Governor Bobby Jindal announced that Scott Angelle will be his nominee to serve as Lieutenant Governor after Mitch Landrieu takes office as the Mayor of New Orleans. Angelle can begin serving as Lieutenant Governor upon confirmation by a majority vote of each house of the Legislature. Once Angelle assumes the role of Lieutenant Governor, he will step down as the Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources, but he will continue in his current part-time role as legislative liaison for the Governor’s Office.

Governor Jindal said, “Scott has worked closely with us for more than two years now as we worked to reform our state. He is a public servant to the core and his incredible work ethic is perhaps only out-matched by his heart. We have a critical agenda in the Legislature this year and Scott is a vital part of our team. We will continue to rely on his insight and direction in passing the budget and addressing our budget shortfalls – in addition to advancing our legislative package.”

Angelle has agreed not to run for the Lieutenant Governor’s office, which the Governor said was a requirement for anyone he nominated for the post. The Governor will appoint Robert Harper as acting Secretary for the Department of Natural Resources. Angelle plans to return to the agency once his tenure as Lieutenant Governor has finished. Harper is currently serving as
Undersecretary at the Department of Natural Resources.

Scott Angelle Bio:
Scott Angelle, of Breaux Bridge, began serving as the Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources in 2004.  For more than a year, he has also served as Governor Jindal’s legislative liaison.

Angelle led the state’s efforts in the Louisiana Legislature to pass a constitutional amendment dedicating future Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) revenues to finance the coastal restoration and hurricane protection plan, and he also led efforts to pass Legislation to create the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) to integrate coastal restoration and hurricane protection efforts in the state.

From 2000 to 2004, Angelle served as the Parish President of St. Martin Parish. Angelle was the first president in the parish’s history, and he worked to reduce business property taxes, upgrade the parish’s health care system and establish an advanced regional fire fighting training program.

He is chairman of the Louisiana State Mineral Board, a member of the Atchafalaya Basin Program Research and Promotion Board, and the LSU Center of Energy Studies Advisory Council. Angelle has a bachelor’s of science in petroleum land management from the University of Southwestern Louisiana (now the University of Louisiana in Lafayette).

Robert Harper Bio:
Robert Harper, of Baton Rouge, has served as Undersecretary of the Department of Natural Resources for nearly two decades. As Undersecretary of DNR, Harper oversees the agency’s Office of Management and Finance.

Harper has been employed by the State of Louisiana for the last 40 years. He began his career in 1970 spending 20 years as a senior budget analyst with the Division of Administration. Harper holds a bachelor’s of arts degree from Louisiana State University in political science and is married to Sherry Penney Harper.

2011 ABP Annual Plan Moving

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

The House Natural Resources Committee favorably reported out the House Concurrent Resolution proposed by Rep. Karen St. Germain to approve the Basin Program Annual Plan for 2010-2011. There were no objections to the plan and Rep. Sam Jones complimented the Basin Program on the Plan and on the staff’s responsiveness to input and concerns from his constituents. Rep. Jones attended many of the public meetings leading up to the Plan and has been supportive of the Program. He offered to co-sponsor the resolution with Rep. St. Germain and declared that she was the “Prom Queen” of the Atchafalaya for her tireless support for the Basin.

Also present and supporting were Harold Schoeffler of the Sierra Club and the Acadiana Council of the Boy Scouts, Randy Lanctot of the LA Wildlife Federation, and this reporter, representing the Friends of the Atchafalaya.

Rep. St. Germain deserves all our gratitude for her work getting Act 606 through the legislature, shepherding the annual plans through, supporting the Basin Program and working to get consistent funding for the Program.

Please don’t forget that she is giving us another chance to provide that consistent funding for the Program in the form of a Constitutional Amendment that will appear on the ballot this fall. Friends of the Atchafalaya has gone on record as supporting the amendment and introduced a resolution at the recent LA Wildlife Federation Convention to that effect. The Convention overwhelmingly supported the resolution and the two organizations will be working together to get the word out about the vote.


Below the Surface in the Atchafalaya

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

Karen Westphal sends this picture of the stalwart adventurers from “Below the Surface”, a California group studying water quality issues around the country, who (along with Melanie Driscoll and Karen) braved snow and some downright cold and wet weather to canoe down the Atchafalaya River this month. How ya’ll like that flat pirogue?

The Large and the Small

The Large and the Small

Click the image for a larger version.

Watch here for more of Karen’s account of the great winter Atchafalaya Adventure…


Developments in the Heritage Area

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

With rumors of possible changes in the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area and the National Park Service push ahead with the development of a management plan for the young Heritage Area.

A workshop was held on February 3 and was followed by an open house on February 4 at the Capitol Park Welcome Center. The goal was to solicit input from potential partners for the Heritage Area and the results were heartening. Several dozen people from State and Federal Agencies and non-governmental organizations showed up for the two workshop sessions and the open house to post ideas on flip charts and mark locations on Heritage Area maps. Each contribution represents a short range or long term idea for improvements to the environmental or cultural health of the area. Many involved public outreach and education that would increase awareness of the importance of and the challenges involved in conserving the valuable resources that we have been given.

The input collected during the two days, along with recent discussions with the Atchafalaya Trace Commission (the governing board of the Heritage Area) will be used to merge alternative approaches to the management of the Heritage Area, and the draft plan will be presented for additional public comment at meetings around the area in April 2010.

Watch for more information on the public meetings in the Spring.


BSA Centennial Event

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

The Evangeline Council of the Boy Scouts celebrated 100 years of Scouting in America and kicked off a year-long project in the Atchafalaya Basin on Saturday, February 20, 2010, at the Atchafalaya Welcome Center.

More than 1,000 Scouts, leaders, and family members attended the day-long event. Activities included tree planting, a rock wall, nature tours and booths manned by government agencies and the Friends of the Atchafalaya (FOA). Agencies included the LA Department of Natural Resources Atchafalaya Basin Program, Atchafalaya National Heritage Area, LA Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, LA Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), LA State Land Office, US Army Corps of Engineers, and LSU School of Renewable Resources.

The highlights of the booths included naturalist Jim Delahoussaye at the FOA booth, showing a locally resident garter snake and a collection of alligator bones. Al Hendrichs of DEQ operated a portable Dynamic River Simulation Model and educated scouts, leaders and visitors on the processes involved in water runoff management and residential and commercial development. Al’s model was definitely the most productive and informative booth presentation of the day.

Watch for more information about Scouting activities in the Basin, throughout the project year.


The Annual Plan and the Future

Saturday, February 6th, 2010

Three meetings related to the Atchafalaya Basin Program were held in late January and early February 2010.

On January 26, the Basin Program Technical Advisory Group met and picked up where they left off last year, evaluating projects and looking toward the future of the Basin. St. Mary Parish gave a presentation on a project that was proposed in 2009 but not included in the 2011 Annual Plan. It represents one of the ongoing problems in the Floodway – the silting up of passageways and formerly open areas because of decreased flow through the perimeter channels around the swamps. This one is Taylor’s Cut and it has provided access from Charenton Beach and private boat landing to the main channel and points east. But it is also part of a flow patter that provides fresh water to a St. Mary water system intake that services a large area outside the levees in the western part of the Parish. The system has two intakes; one is inside the levees and the other is outside. With the increased penetration of salt water from the Gulf in some seasons, the one inside the levees has become more important, but the siltation in the Charenton Beach area and in Taylor Cut is threatening the use of the intake in the Floodway. So the Parish is proposing that the cut be dredged back into the remaining lake.

Following the approach that was used to create the Cocodrie Swamp project in the 2011 Annual Plan, the TAG members offered to work with St. Mary engineers to look at the area around the water intake and to see if it makes more sense to open an inlet above the intake as well as an outlet below Taylor Cut. Both ends show signs of siltation and restricted flow. Simply dredging the Cut might not improve the situation for long, but designing a coordinated effort with the overall flow patterns in mind could help the water quality, open the flow to the water intake, and improve access, all at once, thereby making the project much more attractive and useful.

The TAG also heard from Paul Kemp of the National Audubon Society and Jonathan Hird of Moffatt and Nichol (M&N) engineering company. With funding from the Walton Family Fund, Audubon has contracted with M&N to develop a hydraulic model of the Atchafalaya Basin, with emphasis on the areas from the Old River Control Structure to the Gulf and inside the protection levees. Their plan is to have a rough version working in 12 months and to refine it over the following year. After that, they hope to find a home for the model in one or more of the agencies responsible for working in the Basin. In order to make sure that they can find someone to take over the operation of the modeling tools that they are creating, Audubon is soliciting input from the Basin Program and the partner agencies for the development parameters of the model. M&N is an experienced player in the modeling area and is using tools that are generally accepted by the Corps of Engineers. Making sure that the Corps can use the tools is one way to create something that might be useful in the future, even while there is no Corps money available for the initial development.

This is not the first attempt to develop a model for the Basin. The Corps has had projects in the past that included model development, but advances in software and computing techniques, combined with assistance from outside funders, could make this effort more productive. The key  will be the followup after the basic model is proven.

The Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) held a meeting on January 27 and approved the ABP 2011 Annual Plan with little discussion after having a month to review it. ABP Director Steve Chustz presented the plan to the CPRA meeting in December and had provided responses to several of the Board members since that time, but there were no challenges during this meeting and the Annual Plan went back to the R&PB for final approval.

On February 4, the Research and Promotion Board approved the ABP 2011 Annual Plan with minor editorial and clarification changes and sent the plan to the Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources for delivery to the Legislature by the end of February and for consideration in the upcoming Legislative Session.

In the same R&PB meeting, Audubon presented its model development plan to the for additional input. Response was generally positive although much coordination will be required in the near future to make the agencies comfortable with the Audubon effort and the timeline is pretty tight to get a model up and running.


Basin Board Forwards Plan

Monday, December 7th, 2009

The Atchafalaya Basin Program Public Hearings on the 2011 Annual Plan are complete. Check the message on this site for a summary.
The Draft 2011 Atchafalaya Basin Program Annual Plan is now posted on the DNR web site.

The Research and Promotion Board approved the Plan with minor changes and will present it to the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority at its meeting in New Orleans on December 9, 2009.

The plan includes several water projects in the East Grand Lake/Flat Lake water management area, which was targeted for detailed planning in the 2010 Plan. That planning is moving ahead and the tools from the Total Basin Inventory and Assessment Project are being improved to analyze the current situation in the Basin and to help determine the best projects to improve the conditions in that area. In the meantime, the Technical Advisory Goup (TAG) chose non-controversial projects that would generally reopen traditional waterways and not foreclose future options for managing the unit.

One project was also approved for the Brown Bayou Area, east of the main channel and south of Interstate-10, again opening a traditional bayou and introducing needed water to the area below the opening.

The other major project proposed involves the reopening of part of Bayou LaRose and making cuts in barriers in the Cocodrie Swamp, south of Henderson Lake and north of the Beau Bayou Area. This project relied heavily on the Assessment Tools and work with the local proponents to arrive at a plan to reduce the fragmentation of several areas within the Cocodrie Swamp area. This area is representative of many areas of the Basin where the blockage of historic waterways has isolated small areas and prevented them from filling and draining as in the past.

The changes from the public hearings addressed some confusion caused by the editing of the Technical Advisory Group recommendations and some typos. One item added to the Plan was a recommendation by the Audubon/National Wildlife/Environmental Defense Coastal Initiative to recognize the directive given by the Congress to the Corps to re-evaluate the management of the Old River Control Structure as a component of Coastal Management.

The process seems to be working. Now if we can just get some dirt moving.

Stay tuned for  more as the Plan moves forward.


NPR meets Henderson

Sunday, November 29th, 2009

In case you missed it, National Public Radio‘s Weekend Edition Sunday on November 29 had a story about our own Helen Boudreaux, along with Rheta Grimsley Johnson’s book “Poor Man’s Provence”.

Helen is a local cajun music performer that many of you may remember from many Atchafalaya Basin Program gatherings in the early 2000’s.

Rheta Johnson’s book about Henderson is out now and is apparently, worth the read. You can get a taste on the NPR site.


DNR Basin Board Meets

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

On Wednesday, November 4, 2009, the governing body of the Atchafalaya Basin Program held a meeting to complete a draft of the 2011 Annual Plan for the Atchafalaya Basin Program. The Research and Promotion Board is the group designated by legislation to make decisions about the direction of the program and, based on the 2008 update of the Basin Program legislation, one of the main functions of the board is to review technical recommendations for projects and to decide which ones will be presented to the people in public hearings, then to the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority and ultimately, to the legislature for approval and, hopefully, funding.

In the November 4th meeting, Steve Chustz, acting Director of the Basin Program, presented the base plan to the Board. Glenn Constant, representing the Technical Advisory Group (TAG), which evaluates water projects for the Board, then presented a group of seven water management projects to the Board for consideration. Finally, Steve presented a list of ongoing access and recreation projects, which will be included in the plan, and which will be funded to the extent that funds are made available and up to the 25% limit allowed by the 2008 legislation. Seventy-five percent of all funding must be spent on Water Management and Access projects.

Part of Glenn Constant’s presentation included a demonstration of the use of the new Basin Inventory and Assessment Tool in the evaluation of proposed projects. The availability of layered data showing conditions in the Basin at varying River stages and times is already allowing the TAG to not only analyze the conditions in the areas proposed for modification, but to display those conditions to decision makers and to justify inclusion or rejection of specific projects. The accessibility of the tool also allows TAG members to review the situations with project proponents in order to clear up any disagreements about the conditions and effects of modifications.

Finally, the Basin Program not only has some solid reasoning behind its water management decisions, but our scientists can now demonstrate to us how they arrived at their conclusions. Pretty impressive stuff; and they say it will get better as they refine the tools.

The recommendations of the TAG and the Program Staff were incorporated into the draft and the Plan should be available soon on the Basin Web site. Public meetings are planned for November 19- 24 in Plaquemine, Henderson and Morgan City. More on that in the coming weeks.

It is important to participate in these meetings, if for no other reason than to see the results of the assessment tool and to see what the current thinking is on modifications to the Basin Hydrology. We are starting to see an overall approach to water management. We may actually have a Basin-wide water management plan yet.


Basin Program Meetings Completed

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

On Monday night, the last of three public meetings soliciting input for the Atchafalaya Basin Program Annual Plan for 2011 took place in Morgan City. Meetings at Plaquemine and Henderson took place last week, giving everyone around the Basin a chance to propose projects for next year.

Prior to these meetings, ABP staffers have been meeting with groups around the Basin to get a head start on project review for the Technical Advisory Group (TAG), which has a short time to review, refine and select projects for recommendation to the Basin Research and Promotion Board(RPB). The Board is responsible for approving the Annual Plan for submission to the Legislature.

Steve Chustz started off with a quick review of the planning process, the results of the 2010 Annual Plan effort, and a schedule for this year.

One of the three major projects in the 2010 Annual Plan was the Basin Resource Inventory and Assessment Tool, funded by the Coastal Planning and Restoration Authority as a way to characterize the Basin water, plant and animal life, as well as the water quality and changing hydrology.

Glenn Constant of US Fish and Wildlife and formerly with the LSU Ag Center, has done a lot of work on the creation of the Assessment Tool and presented some inundation and water flow information at various river stages, taken from the data in the Tool database. These preliminary data present useful observations about the challenges of improving water flow and subsequently, water quality throughout the floodway. The images show that even when there is a substantial amount of water, at the annual average high water mark of about 16 feet, there are many areas with poor water circulation and therefore, poor water quality. One long term goal being identified is getting water circulation at 16 feet more like that present at a seldom seen stage of 21 feet.

Toni Debossier covered the projects that have already been identified and invited everyone to submit a new project or comment on one that has already been proposed. Input can be received until August 24, when the projects are prepared for presentation to the TAG meeting on August 27. Projects received after the deadline will be added to the list for the next round of project evaluation for the next Annual Plan.

Many of the water projects involve openings of streams or cuts in banks for improved water flow; others suggest closures of openings to reduce backwater sediment distribution. Some suggest modifications or additions to currently planned projects.
Access projects were also suggested for boat launch improvements. Most of the discussions at the Plaquemine and Henderson meetings took the form of informal proposals without a lot of details. Apparently, some of the projects previously collected by Toni have more detail but not much of that was presented in the meetings. The TAG will review those projects in more depth. The Morgan City meeting was different in that several projects were formally proposed by the officials, with slide presentations and documentation.

At all of the meetings, most of the comments about the process, the current projects, and the new direction of the Basin Program under Act 606, was positive, however the officials in the Morgan City meeting took the position that the transition from the Master Plan to the Annual Plan process may have occurred too fast to complete the commitments made in earlier years. The current process allocates 25% of new funding to recreational projects but defines boat landing projects as part of the 75% allocated for Water Management and Access, so there is some room to continue to fund the recreation features.

St. Mary Parish President Naquin re-proposed water projects which did not make the cut in the 2010 Plan review. Those included clearing of an area near Charenton at Taylor Point for improved public water intake. Also re-submitted was a proposal for dredging of American Pass. Some critics of the American Pass project contend that sedimentation from American Pass is impacting areas in the lower Basin swamps. St. Mary contends that American Pass has functioned as a natural sedimentation trap and should be treated as one and cleaned out. Mayor Tim Matte of Morgan City and Myron Matherne spoke in support of the American Pass project. All speakers agreed that the American Pass project deserved additional study.

In the general public comment section, Morgan City Mayor Matte and consultant Lou Cutrera suggested that the Basin Program use some of the non-water and access money to move forward on projects previously planned for Lake End Parkway development on land newly-deposited in Lake Palourde from dredge materials taken from the Atchafalaya River under the bridges at Morgan City.

Mayor Matte proposed that the Basin Program look at the elements of the original State Master Plan, including Lake End Park improvements and the AMAC and Lake End Parkway developments, which appeared in the original plan. Mayor Matte showed images of the improvements which have been accomplished and the visitors that use the areas. Lake End Parkway infrastructure was improved by FEMA in conjunction with short-term use for housing for storm victims after Hurricane Katrina. The planned Interpretive Center is still being considered by the City as a part of their plan. Mayor Matte noted that the object of the original Master Plan was intended to introduce visitors to the Basin and that effort should continue.

Parish President Naquin proposed development of the Jesse Fontenot Memorial Boat Launch in the Berwick area.

Charlotte Ratcliff, chairperson of the Lower St. Martin Parish committee showed status of phase 1 of the Stephensville and Belle River Recreation projects and proposed additional investment in those projects. Both Lower St. Martin areas passed local taxes to pay the local portion of the project cost. A representative of Assumption Parish relayed a similar story of local citizens passing a tax to match State funds and feeling that they had a commitment from the State that has not been fulfilled. These areas would like to pursue the next phases of their previously-supported plans.

All in all, i think the meetings went well and input was positive. The Basin Program certainly has its work cut out for the next few months.