Sunday, August 23, 2009

Better Artist Statement

            Every 3.8 to 4.3 miles of wetlands reduce storm surges by an average of 1 foot, for the state of Louisiana this fact is a very important one when you consider that its coastline is one of the most hurricane prone regions in the United States. The wetlands provide a natural barrier that absorbs surging water during storms. That barrier can be the difference between land that survives a storm, and land that is destroyed by it.  Even though wetlands may not be able to protect against major hurricanes such as Katrina it can slow the water flowing into populated areas.  The importance of these wetlands is obvious when you consider that they help protect a coast line that’s infrastructure is valued at over 96 billion dollars, most of which goes towards the nations need of energy, navigation and fisheries.  Louisiana has 5 of the one the busiest ports in the U.S.  and is and important part of the U.S economy.  The energy facilities located in Louisiana control and move more the 26% of the nations natural gas and crude oil.  Southern Louisiana ports carry over 21 % of shipping by boats and 57% of grain exports, if the wetlands didn’t exist the canals that these ships use would be unprotected and easily destroyed by storm surges, and hurricanes. The protection of these canals by the wetlands ensures the flow of goods to and from the U.S. markets, and directly affects thousands of jobs and services throughout the entire country. It seems that something as important and the wetlands should be protected; however during the 20th century coastal Louisiana has lost over 1.2 million acres of wetlands.

            This dramatic loss and land is caused by a number of problems that are a combination between human interference and natural changes in the ecosystem.  Its almost impossible to determine how much each of these factors contributes to the loss of the land, because human interference can be a slow build up or an accumulation after years, and other effects like storm damages can happen over night destroying hundreds of acres of land.  An example of man’s interference is that when the Mississippi built the wetlands, its yearly floods pushed water and sediments across southern Louisiana that created its own ecosystem, but in the last century the rivers flooding has been contained by man made levee’s and the water and sediment that continued to build the wetlands is pushed into the Gulf of Mexico, and the wetlands no longer are getting a renewal of the nutrients that allow them to be sustainable, and the wetlands are converting to open water.  An example of storm damages would be the obvious choice of hurricane Katrina. Estimates from the U.S Geological Survey suggest that 75,520 acres of marshland along Louisiana’s coast were shredded or sunk. Exposing the areas to more effects to any following storms.

            As a result of this drastic rate of loss if it isn’t reduced this critical energy infrastructure may be damaged or destroyed the loss of wetlands leaves pipelines, offshore oil supports, and any other facilities built for inland use will be exposed to open water and storm surges that could potentially destroy them.  Another problem is that this land that we are so rapidly losing is breeding ground for fish and shell fish, when the land turns into open water, you lose the fish population causing the commercially important fisheries stock to plummet.

            The CWPPRA or the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act that congress passed in 1990 have been the main protection and defense of the wetlands. It has been Louisiana’s main tool for responding and trying to fix the wetland loss, the program tries to make awareness by emphasizing practical benefits to the human population, and still supporting the economic uses of the wetlands. Some of their restoration techniques include: Vegetation planting, river diversions, hydrologic restoration, marsh creation, shoreline protection, sediment trapping, and stabilization of barrier islands.

            My project is based on this overwhelming knowledge that we are losing these lands that have such and huge effect on the entire nation not just the state of Louisiana. My goal of this project was to show that these lands are beautiful, and serene, but they have a huge importance, and that the rapid loss of them will be very damaging if nothing is done to stop their deterioration. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

            When I started this project I wanted to show the impact and recovery of the ecosystems, and wildlife following Katrina, and the importance of wildlife refuges and the land that they protect. I was able to travel to four different wildlife refuges and one other location that was recommended to me by Ted Jackson of the Time Picayune.  By traveling to these locations able to round out my project because the refuges were located all around New Orleans.

            The first refuge I traveled to was Barataria Preserve. This location was my first glimpse of the wetlands, in the south, and I was impressed with its beauty. It was almost hard to take in. There were photo opportunities everywhere. The refuge allowed me to see the beauty of the wetlands, and I think it was a good location to start with.

            The second refuge I traveled to was Bayou Sauvage. At first to me I was disappointed and unimpressed with what I saw. I expected the refuge to have more wildlife, more trees, and more plants; it was after all a refuge. But there was nothing besides some grasses, and bare trees. It wasn’t until I was able to talk to Byron Fortier, that the absence of everything I thought I should be seeing was explained.  Almost all of the trees, and other wildlife was destroyed during hurricane Katrina, what was once a lush forest, was now almost desolate, and what wasn’t, destroyed during Katrina had been logged and cut down before Bayou Sauvage had become a refuge.  Byron explained to me, that the recovery efforts from the logging where also destroyed during Katrina, so now the park services where not only trying to recover from human interference but natures as well.

            After Bayou Sauvage, Becky and I traveled to Bayou Teche, where we met Donovan Garcia. Donovan grew up on the Bayou and has spent the last 35 years canoeing, boating, and hiking through the wetlands. He gave me an in site into the workings of Wetlands, and the importance of protecting what is fast becoming obsolete. We got into a motorboat and spent the next 5 hours, in the canals of Bayou Teche.  Where mans interference was evident everywhere. Most of the very canals we were traveling on where created by oil companies, to lay pipes in at the bottom of the canals. Everywhere you turn there are no dredging or anchoring signs, to protect the pipes still on the bottom. Donovan was able to show us areas on banks that were broken down dug up where logging companies made little coves to drag the tress out of the forest.  He showed us areas where because of man made earthen levees trapped salt water surges during Hurricanes in, killing hundreds of trees that cant survive in salt water.  Donovan was even able to show us a small oil refinery in the bayou, and pipes left sticking out into the water from oil companies that don’t use them anymore.  Bayou Teche was a great contribution to my essay, I don’t think my project would have been complete without the information I gathered and the photographs I got.

            Big Branch Marsh was the next stop. I was surprised to see the density of forest at this location. But once you got deeper into the refuge you came upon a sight similar to Bayou Sauvage, where the only trees are dead remnants of what they once where, and most surprising of all was through the dead trees you were able to see what appeared to be a very large house. I found it odd that it appears these people built their house with the wetlands as a backyard. I was able to get some photographs that were helpful to my project but I think I this location was the least important of my trip.

            The last place I visited was Delacroix. If there were anything I was missing in my project I found it here.  The Highway on the way to Delacroix provided me with photographs of Cyprus forests being torn down, and new houses being built. Off the highway and onto the small road that took us to Delacroix had a lot of photo opportunities. I must have made Colleen stop the car 40 times, whether from pollution by man or hurricane the bayou along the road, was full with pollution, house siding, car parts, coolers, speedboats, and toilets are just some of the things along that bayou.  Once in Delacroix, I was able to get a photograph that made me sad, it’s of a bunch of dead oak tress that I’m sure were at least a hundred years old. That is the sight that you are greeted with upon entering Delacroix what I’m sure was once a lush grove of ancient oaks, and now are all dead.

            I think my project was successful in showing the devastation of hurricane and man, and the importance of protection what there is left, because it is important. The wetlands protect the city of New Orleans, which is an important city of trade in the U.S. most of the nations goods pass through New Orleans on its way up the Mississippi. Its not only the people of New Orleans or Louisiana that needs to worry about preserving the wetlands but anyone that relies on the shipping and trade industries which is all of us in one way or another.