Volume VI – An update from The Water Institute of the Gulf

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Collaboration is key to addressing coastal challenges

The challenges facing the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem are many and complex. In Louisiana, we face a land loss crisis threatening our economy, culture, and the continued existence of our communities. In coastal Texas, our partners are working hard to conserve land in strategic areas and preserve highly productive coastal ecosystems. Across Florida and throughout coastal Mississippi and Alabama, folks are focused on water quality and quantity issues. At The Water Institute of the Gulf, we seek to bring the best available science and most creative thinking to these challenges and develop real solutions that, when implemented, lead to more sustainable and resilient communities and ecosystems. Doing so requires forging meaningful collaboration across government, academic, nonprofit, and private sector entities. At the end of the day, we know it’s only when people work together – united in confronting shared challenges – that we develop the best solutions to our most pressing problems.

The Water Institute was formed in 2011 with a mission to generate integrated, interdisciplinary approaches to coastal restoration and protection. Over these years, we have sought to bring together and collaborate with the best minds across the Gulf and around the world to do just that. We know that the solutions that we and our partners help to implement in the Gulf will not only aid our people and ecosystems, but will also pioneer techniques that can be applied to coastal challenges around the world.

The Institute’s ability to achieve this critical mission was dramatically enhanced last month. On July 10, we were honored to stand with Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards in announcing a new partnership between the Institute and Deltares, an internationally renowned coastal and deltaic applied research institute based in the Netherlands. This game-changing agreement creates a powerful collaboration that will provide integrated, cutting-edge solutions to coastal and water challenges around the world. In the agreement, we identified areas where our scientists and engineers will work more closely together including integrated strategic water resources planning, coastal dynamics, nature-based solutions to coastal challenges, optimizing the management of watersheds, improved predictive tools and training for modeling across many water issues, and real-time monitoring of levees and control structures.

I’d like to highlight one of these areas as it holds such great promise for the Gulf – nature-based solutions to coastal challenges. Working with the Greater Lafourche Port Commission, the Institute has established a Public Private Partnership (P3) to determine how to best use dredge material to protect critical infrastructure around the port; generate ecosystem service benefits; and make communities in the greater Fourchon area more resilient to storms and rising sea levels. Our partners in this important work include Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron, Edison Chouest Offshore, and Danos. Should the port move forward with dredging to 50 feet, this will yield more than 20 million cubic yards of material to work with – a remarkable amount of sediment to rebuild degraded coastal features in our sediment-starved system.

By combining the resources and expertise of public, private, and non-governmental organizations, the goal of this P3 is to find the best way to use the dredge material to not only enhance coastal habitat, but to also provide protection to critical infrastructure and communities. The use of nature-based protection features such as wetlands and ridges represents an approach that can serve as a model across the Gulf and around the country with respect to collaborative planning and shared funding.

Erosion, subsidence, storm flooding, sea level rise, and the associated increase in vulnerability that people face along the coast are real challenges. Our collective goal is to establish scientifically sound methodologies to create sustainable communities – resilient to environmental change and adaptable when natural stressors cannot be overcome. As we all move forward into this new world, The Water Institute team looks forward to collaborating with all of you to ensure that we meet the pressing challenges of today and tomorrow.

Justin R. Ehrenwerth
President and CEO

Featured Project


Using lessons learned in Louisiana, The Water Institute of the Gulf is working with communities in the Pacific to determine how best to stabilize eroding shorelines and provide more resiliency from ocean forces. The Institute’s Director of Coastal Ecology Tim Carruthers and Director of Physical Processes and Sediment Systems Mead Allison are heading the project, called “Informing Pacific Islands Adaptation Decision Making Using Coastal Models.”

This project is being done in partnership with the Pacific Ecosystem Based Adaptation to Climate Change (PEBACC) being implemented by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP). The Institute is specifically working with the communities on Taveuni Island, Fiji.

The Institute’s focus is to provide technical support for addressing coastal erosion issues, as these communities prioritize an array of ecosystem-based adaptation options to adapt to climate change.

Carruthers traveled to Fiji in late March to participate in community meetings and identify where coastal erosion was of concern and to identify sites where coastal wave attenuation and erosion models could benefit adaptation prioritization. In June, Carruthers and Allison brought an Institute team back to Fiji to collect data, focusing on the Somosomo and Naselesele villages on Taveuni Island. The Institute team measured land elevation using a Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) sensor, a remote sensing method that uses a laser to create a visual image of elevation, as well as measuring water depth in the lagoon and vegetation along the shorelines. This data will be used by the Institutes Hoonshin Jung to develop the coastal wave and erosion models.

Wave monitoring instruments were placed across the lagoons to continuously take detailed measurements including wave period, length, height, and depth while the Institute team was in Fiji.

Equipped with batteries that will allow them to log data over the next three months, the wave instruments are still on the ocean floor until Carruthers returns to collect them in September. The data showing how waves move across the area will validate the accuracy of the Institute’s model to increase confidence in predictions of the effectiveness of possible adaptation actions. The validated model outputs will then be made available to the communities and local managers, with opportunities for testing additional options, so as to inform the community decision making on the relative benefit of different coastal adaptation options.


In the News

The Institute has been making waves! Check out a few recent news highlights below. Topics include a recent publication about the importance of river mud in land building, the development of a flood simulation model, and the Institute’s Memorandum of Understanding with Deltares.

For a full list of press releases and news article, pleace visit the Institute’s website.

Follow @TheH2OInstitute

Building update

Extending out over the Mississippi River, the under-construction Center for Coastal and Deltaic Solutions has drawn a lot of well-deserved attention since the groundbreaking ceremony in late 2015. Scheduled to be completed in late November, the first tenant of the building will be The Water Institute of the Gulf which will occupy the second floor of the three-story building.

The top floor will be a conference and event space called “The Estuary,” which will open in March for meetings, weddings, receptions, and other events. Bookings for the space has already begun, said Tina Rance, with Commercial Properties Realty Trust the real estate arm of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation. The main room overlooking the Mississippi River can accommodate between 200 – 220 people for a seated dinner and approximately 300 for a conference and 400 for a standup reception. The floor also includes five break-out meeting rooms that can hold anywhere from 12 to 75 people.

The first floor will offer co-working office space that can be rented by the year, month, or even just for the day. Five offices and four cubicle spaces are reserved to be leased for up to a year, while the rest of the floor will be a co-working space. Like a YMCA for offices, people would buy a membership for a certain amount of time for access to this office away from home. A $25 day pass would also be available to give people a place to work between meetings or if they’re in town for a couple of days. CPRT will begin accepting memberships in October with the facility to open in January. For more information about the co-working space or the conference center, contact Rance at trance.

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