The Annual Plan and the Future

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.


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