Coastal erosion has been washing away the Louisiana coast for decades, impacting the unique communities and ecosystems that help make our home state such a special place to live and work. A diverse and dedicated group of people has been pushing back against those forces in an effort to preserve the state’s fragile coastline.
The nonprofit Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana (CRCL) has been at the forefront of the effort to restore and save Louisiana’s coastal areas for three decades. The organization is driving bold, science-based action to rebuild coastal Louisiana through outreach, restoration and advocacy.
As a Louisiana company with strong coastal roots, Community Coffee is proud to be a longtime supporter of CRCL and its important mission. We recently partnered with the organization for a promotion featuring Community® Amber Sunrise™ Blend to raise funds to support coastal restoration in Louisiana. For every dollar redeemed on specially marked packages, we provided a matching donation to land-preservation efforts along the Gulf Coast. Nearly 10,000 coupons were redeemed through the program.
“Community Coffee has been a tremendous CRCL partner for a long time,” says CRCL Executive Director Kimberly Davis Reyher. “Their commitment to our coast and to Louisiana as a whole is inspiring.”
The organization’s vital work continues to make a difference. Here are three innovative ways the CRCL is helping to protect the fragile Louisiana coastline.
Restoring Coastal Trees
CRCL has now planted more than 30,000 trees, hitting the milestone during projects in the Lower Plaquemines and St. Bernard parishes in southeast Louisiana as part of a long-running effort to restore trees damaged by hurricanes over the past two decades.
Volunteers plant trees to help reduce impacts from storm surge and flooding, improve water quality and create habitat for fish and wildlife. Coastal forests in Louisiana offer protection from hurricanes and safeguard communities all along Louisiana’s coast.
CRCL spokesman Jimmy Frederick says recent large-scale restoration projects have introduced additional freshwater into many coastal areas, allowing the organization to plant trees in spots where they would previously have been damaged by saltwater intrusion from the Gulf of Mexico.
“The salinity around the swamp in that area has come down, so we can now once again plant cypress trees and black gum and maples and hardwoods that are really important to holding the soil but also breaking up storm surge,” he says. “It also knocks the wind down and really makes a difference for the communities to the north of those forests.”
Frederick says the organization has been monitoring the trees for six years, and has observed an 80 percent survival rate. “It’s really making a difference,” he says.
Oyster Shell Recycling
One of CRCL’s most innovative and successful initiatives, its Oyster Shell Recycling Program, collects used oyster shells from New Orleans-area restaurants to build and restore reefs that help protect Louisiana’s eroding coast line.
“Instead of going to landfills, they are going back into the water where they belong,” Frederick says. “On top of that they’re helping to slow erosion by breaking up wave action and also acting as a little bit of a speed bump for storms.” In addition, the shells provide habitat for a new generation of oysters to thrive.
The program has recycled more than a million pounds of oyster shells since it began in 2014. The first project built was a half-mile-long living shoreline installed in Biloxi Marsh, east of New Orleans, in November 2016. Frederick says the program is preparing to create an oyster reef on land owned by the Pointe-au-Chien Indian Tribe in Terrebonne Parish.
State of the Coast Conference
In addition to CRCL’s work in the field, every two years it hosts State of the Coast, the largest conference of coastal professionals and decision-makers. The next event is set for May 30 to June 1.
The conference includes a smaller event called Restoration on the Half Shell for Louisiana residents who want to learn more about the issue of coastal restoration.
CRCL offers the half-day program in partnership with the The Water Institute of the Gulf and the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority. The program is intended for concerned citizens who are familiar with the problems facing our coast. “It’s for the person who wants to learn more about what Louisiana’s issues are with coastal restoration, how we are going to correct those problems and where the funding is going to come from,” Frederick says.