CWPPRA: What’s Cooking with Coastal Habitat Restoration In Louisiana?

CWPPRA: What’s Cooking with Coastal Habitat Restoration In Louisiana?

Louisiana’s diverse heritage and cuisine are akin to the state’s diverse coastal wetlands which include barrier islands, marshes, ridges, and forests.  These habitats provide protection for communities and habitat for numerous fish and wildlife resources.  Over the last 85 years, Louisiana has lost an area of coastal wetlands equal to the land mass of the State of Delaware – a rate of approximately 1 football field per hour on average.  Restoration efforts such as the Coastal Wetland Planning, Protection and Restoration Act, CWPPRA (pronounced quip-ruh) are creating wetlands and thus reducing land loss based on analyses over the last ten years.

CWPPRA invests between $60M and $80M per year in the engineering and design, and construction, of  wetland restoration projects.  Since 1990, CWPPRA has authorized 210 projects benefiting over 88,000 acres of wetland habitat.

Under CWPPRA, NOAA Fisheries and other Federal and State partners continue to work on developing, evaluating, designing, and constructing coastal wetland restoration projects in Louisiana.  Most recently the team completed three weeks of intensive field work collecting data on water depth, salinity, and coverage of submerged aquatic vegetation to  evaluate  the probable costs and benefits of ten projects competing for engineering and design funding.  Additional analyses are ongoing for six projects that will be competing for construction funds this year.  The NOAA Fisheries team prides itself in having projects with a great diversity of habitat types and distribution across the coastal extent of the State.

Coastal wetlands are necessary for fish and wildlife resources.   They serve as nursery and feeding habitat, resting areas for migratory waterfowl and neotropical birds such as hummingbirds and buntings, and support a wide variety of wildlife, including marine mammals and sea turtles protected by NOAA.  America’s  national bird, the bald eagle, has made a huge recovery in coastal Louisiana with nests common in coastal areas across the State.  The presence or absence of necessary habitat can mean feast or famine for many species.  Restoring or creating functional marshes with edge habitats, tidal connections, creeks and ponds is necessary to support the variety of life styles of fish and wildlife species found in Louisiana’s coastal habitats.   Commercially and/or recreationally important fishery species like shrimp, spotted seatrout and red drum are dependent on these coastal wetlands.  Without intervention, continued wetland loss of the magnitude being experienced in Louisiana will lead to reduced harvests of a number of economically important fishery species.      

Habitat is essential to conserving resources like coastal fish and wildlife.  The CWPPRA program is in it’s 26th year and has invested more than $1.7 billion in restoration efforts to date, making it the largest and longest lasting wetland restoration program in the United States.  The NOAA Fisheries CWPPRA team has been an active and effective program participant given our oversight of almost 50 projects since the program’s inception in 1990.

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Constructed tidal creek on created marsh, BA-42 Project (photograph credit, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)