In summary, the 62 CWPPRA projects selected as of May 1997 (this number excludes the four that have been deauthorized, and 14 small-scale demonstration projects) are anticipated to create, restore or protect 73,687 acres during their 20-year life, at a total fully funded cost of $226,759,067 (table 2). Including additional acreage that is anticipated to be enhanced, a total of 879,428 acres (1,374 square miles) will benefit from CWPPRA restoration projects–an average project area of more than 14,184 acres. The relative magnitude of CWPPRA projects becomes apparent when this average project size is compared to acreage of wetlands affected through similar efforts funded through the National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grants program, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act and the USFWS’s Coastal Ecosystems Program (figure 34). The unprecedented size of these CWPPRA projects is necessitated by the fact that Louisiana’s average coastal land loss rate accounts for 80% of the national total (LCWCRTF 1993).
Because of various natural processes and past human modifications, it is not feasible to restore coastal Louisiana to its historical conditions. Numerous studies have provided action plans and general recommendations for restoring Louisiana’s coast to the extent possible (EPA/LGS 1987, Boesch et al. 1994, Gagliano 1994, van Heerden 1994, Edwards et al. 1995). While the specific strategies may differ, these studies share a common set of objectives–offsetting coastal land loss and attaining a sustainable coastal ecosystem.
The formation of the CWPPRA Task Force and associated committees and groups has resulted in an integrated coast-wide process for planning, selection, construction, operation, maintenance, monitoring and scientific evaluation of restoration projects throughout coastal Louisiana. Through CWPPRA, five federal agencies, the state of Louisiana, academic organizations and the general public have joined together to implement projects selected from the Louisiana Coastal Wetlands Restoration Plan. One of the most significant accomplishments of CWPPRA may be the establishment of its planning, coordination and implementation procedures.
Priority Project List Formulation Process
CWPPRA has led to the development of a continually improving selection process that results in annual lists of restoration projects, chosen to best meet high-priority coastal restoration objectives. Selection of each year’s projects is based on cost effectiveness and other secondary criteria. Each priority list is submitted to the U.S. Congress from the interagency CWPPRA Task Force, with involvement from the public and academic communities.
CWPPRA Monitoring Program
CWPPRA has resulted in development of monitoring protocol for data collection and analysis that ensure data quality and integrity. Monitoring variables and performance assessment methods are tailored to meet the specific restoration goals of each CWPPRA project and are based on each project’s corresponding restoration technique and the prevailing environmental conditions. The CWPPRA Monitoring Program is currently developing an integrated coast-wide network of monitoring stations that will be able to provide a holistic view of the synergistic impacts of CWPPRA restoration efforts in addition to project-specific performance assessments.
CWPPRA Future in Louisiana
As a group, CWPPRA projects selected to date will provide numerous benefits (in terms of created, restored, protected and enhanced wetlands) to Louisiana’s coastal zone for many years. The actual net gain of emergent marsh resulting from these projects can only be assessed through performance evaluation after numerous years of postconstruction data collection. Future performance data can be used to determine not only the actual benefits associated with the combination of restoration technologies implemented under CWPPRA, but also the remaining magnitude of coastal loss in Louisiana. Wetland loss in an area not yet covered by a CWPPRA project is a failure neither of a project nor of the project-selection process. Instead, remaining marsh loss should set the stage upon which the future role of CWPPRA in Louisiana is based.
CWPPRA projects selected on the first six priority lists represent only a portion of the accomplishments towards the long-term goal of offsetting coastal land loss and attaining a sustainable coastal ecosystem in Louisiana. Results from monitoring project performance and planning efforts like the "Mississippi River Sediment, Nutrient and Freshwater Redistribution Study" and the "Louisiana Barrier Shoreline Feasibility Study" will help guide future restoration project selection in Louisiana’s coastal wetlands. Implementation of the Coastal Wetlands Conservation Plan through section 304 of CWPPRA will help ensure that no net loss of wetlands results from future developmental activities in coastal Louisiana, even though significant losses are still resulting from other causes. While CWPPRA constitutes only a "first step" toward overall coast-wide, no-net wetland loss, it has paved the way for an integrated comprehensive strategy through which Louisiana’s coast can eventually be sustained. Although CWPPRA has made bold strides to save coastal Louisiana, the magnitude of the problem has not yet been addressed by a response of comparable scale. However, with support from the state and local levels, and with additional federal authorities and funding sources, CWPPRA can act as a catalyst for implementation of a coordinated network of restoration projects throughout Louisiana’s coastal zone. Already, programmatic changes have begun that integrate CWPPRA with other coastal planning efforts in Louisiana. Ongoing studies and numerous public education and outreach efforts are also utilizing CWPPRA as a cooperative planning tool to form liaison groups that will ensure a common vision for the future of coastal Louisiana. By coordinating restoration and resource protection efforts in Louisiana, CWPPRA can minimize redundant efforts and conflicting goals, thereby maximizing the long-term productivity of Louisiana’s coastal wetlands.