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Atchafalaya Basin Management Coastal Wetlands Loss and USGS

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Atchafalaya Basin Management Coastal Wetlands Loss and USGS Powered By Docstoc
					 A   s the Nation’s largest earth-science and
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 civilian mapping agency, the U.S. Geologi-
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 cal Survey (USGS) works in cooperation
                                                                                                                                                                                                           Atchafalaya
 with many Federal, State, and local orga-                   B.
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 scientific information to resource manag-
 ers, planners, and others throughout the                          RAPIDES
 country. This information is gathered in            31 00
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 every state by USGS scientists to minimize                                           Cocodrie
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 the loss of life and property from natural                                                                                                                                                 X IC O
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 energy, and mineral resources. This Fact                                                                                                                          WEST




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 Atchafalaya Basin Management




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 The Atchafalaya Basin (fig. 1) in south-




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 central Louisiana is the largest river-bot-




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 The USGS, in cooperation with the U.S.




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 Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), is                                                                                                                       ST.
                                                                                                                                                          MARY
 monitoring the basin to determine envi-
 ronmental effects of flood-management                                                                                     Marsh
                                                                                                                            Island

 practices. Physical and chemical-related                                                        29 30                                                                                     TERREBO NNE

 properties being monitored include con-
                                                                                                                                                                                                            Lake
 tinuous velocity and stage, specific con-                                                                                                                                                                de Cade

                                                                                0          10           20      30       40 MILES
 ductance, pH, dissolved-oxygen (DO)
                                                                                0     10        20   30      40 KILOMETERS
 concentrations, water temperature, and
 sediment deposition.

 The USGS Cooperative Fish and Wildlife          Figure 1. Atchafalaya Basin, Louisiana.
 Unit, at Louisiana State University in
 Baton Rouge, has been monitoring the            wetlands in the 48 contiguous States but                                                            The processes and activities that have
 basin to assess the health of the fin fisher-   accounts for 80 percent of wetlands                                                                 contributed to this conversion include
 ies and commercial crawfish farms. In           losses. The State’s coastal area (wetlands,                                                         long-term erosion and land subsidence
 addition, scientists are analyzing digitized    estuaries, and barrier islands) is under                                                            (sinking of the land) caused, in part, by
 historical maps of the basin to assess sedi-    stressed conditions resulting from a com-                                                           compaction of Mississippi River Delta
 mentation patterns. Information from this       plex array of adverse natural environmen-                                                           sediments and by large storms that strike
 study will be useful in designing and           tal processes and human-related activities.                                                         the area about every 5 years, rising sea
 implementing management plans for the           Every year, the Louisiana coastal area,                                                             levels, changes in human population,
 Atchafalaya Basin.                              one of the world’s most productive eco-                                                             energy development, flood control, and
                                                 systems, loses as much as 20 to 25 mi2                                                              maintenance of navigation channels. As
 Coastal Wetlands Loss and                       (square miles) of land.                                                                             wetlands, estuaries, and barrier islands
 Restoration                                                                                                                                         vanish, the State loses important natural
                                                 About 1,000 to 1,500 mi2 of Louisiana’s                                                             buffers protecting New Orleans and
 Louisiana has 25 percent of the forested        coastal wetlands have been converted to                                                             other populated coastal areas from
 wetlands and 40 percent of the coastal          open water during the past half century.                                                            storms and flooding.
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The USGS is assessing changes in             Resources (DNR) and the Louisiana           National Water-Quality
Louisiana’s coastal environment for          Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, is    Assessment Program
improved understanding of the contrib-       monitoring surface water along the Lou-
                                                                                         The USGS is conducting studies in
uting processes and activities to assist     isiana coast to provide Louisiana with
                                                                                         the Acadian-Pontchartrain Study
Federal, State, and local managers and       vital information during hurricanes. The
                                                                                         Unit, http://la.water.usgs.gov/nawqa,
planners in developing and utilizing         data also are used to manage freshwater-
                                                                                         as part of the National Water-Quality
restoration and preservation methods.        diversion and coastal restoration
                                                                                         Assessment Program. This program
The USGS National Wetlands                   projects by the State and the USACE.
                                                                                         is designed to describe the status and
Research Center (NWRC) in Lafayette                                                      trends in the quality of the Nation’s
provides basic information and spatial       Hypoxia Monitoring                          ground- and surface-water resources
analysis of data from small-scale resto-                                                 and to provide a sound understanding
ration projects (fig. 2) throughout the      The USGS is participating in the evalu-
                                                                                         of the natural and human factors that
Mississippi River Delta. The restora-        ation of an area referred to as a hypoxic   affect the quality of these resources.
tion projects are supported through the      or "dead" zone that appears in the Gulf
Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection        of Mexico; the area extends westward        The study unit, which covers about
and Restoration Act of 1992 and man-         from the mouth of the Mississippi River     26,000 mi2 in southern Louisiana and
aged by the Federal and State Wetlands       along the Louisiana coast. Hypoxia          southwestern Mississippi, includes
Task Force. The NWRC also studies            exists when DO concentrations in the        many large drainage basins and Lake
vigorous “super plants” that could           bottom water decrease to levels that are    Pontchartrain, one of the Nation’s
lessen coastal erosion, restoration of       insufficient to support marine life such    largest estuaries. About 3.1 million
threatened coastal prairie habitats,         as fish, shrimp, and crabs. The deple-      people live within this study unit.
effects of hurricanes on wetlands and        tion of DO occurs nearly every spring
                                                                                         Water-quality concerns in the study
barrier islands, and changes in              and summer in response to inflow of
                                                                                         unit include the following:
global climate.                              nutrient-enriched water from the Mis-
                                             sissippi River into the Gulf of Mexico.     •   Elevated mercury concentrations
The USGS, in cooperation with the            The nutrient-enriched water encourages          in fish tissue;
Louisiana Department of Natural              the vigorous growth of algae that, as       •   Nutrient enrichment of water bod-
                                             they die and decompose, deplete the             ies, especially in the Lake Pont-
                                             DO supply. Under hypoxic conditions,            chartrain Basin;
                                             most animals move to an area having         •   Saltwater encroachment into aqui-
                                             higher DO concentrations; animals               fers and coastal freshwater
                                             unable to move, such as those living in         marshes (fig. 3); and
                                             the mud, die if the hypoxia persists.
                                                                                         •   Contamination of fresh ground
                                                                                             and surface water by trace ele-
                                             In relation to hypoxia monitoring, the
                                                                                             ments and pesticides and other
                                             USGS monitors nutrient transport in the
                                                                                             organic chemicals.
                                             Mississippi River as part of the
                                             National Stream-Quality Accounting
                                             Network and the Midcontinent Herbi-
                                             cide Programs. Data and interpreta-
                                             tions from these programs provide the
                                             only nutrient-load estimates for water
                                             transported by the Mississippi River
                                             into the Gulf of Mexico. Furthermore,
                                             the USGS is a member of the Commit-
Figure 2. Example of a successful restora-   tee of Environment and Natural
tion project being monitored by the USGS,
showing before (above) and after (below)
                                             Resources, White House Office of Sci-       Figure 3. USGS scientist sampling flotant
restoration of the LaBranche wetland site    ence and Policy, that is evaluating         marshes at Jean Lafitte National Historical
just west of New Orleans, Louisiana, and                                                 Park and Preserve, south of New Orleans,
                                             hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico.              Louisiana.
adjacent to the Mississippi River.
Sharing Mercury and                      distributed a flood-tracking map for         The USGS is studying the geologic
Related Data                             this basin. The map can be used to           framework, stratigraphy, lithology,
                                         track rising river stages and, by using      and the burial and production histories
Through the Acadian-Pontchartrain
                                         hydrologic information obtained              of the Austin Chalk to assess the
study, the USGS and the Louisiana
                                         through the voice-mail and news              quantitative estimate of this large
Department of Environmental Qual-
ity (DEQ) are sharing data to evalu-     media, to make decisions about evac-         domestic resource. Distribution of the
ate the occurrence of mercury in fish    uation and protection of personal            Austin Chalk from framework studies
tissue and to further understand the     property. The map is available at            will assist in outlining geographic
transport and fate of mercury in the     local public libraries and information       extent, among other factors, to iden-
environment. The USGS has ana-           centers and on the Internet at               tify current and frontier exploration
lyzed bottom-material samples for        http://la.water.usgs.gov.                    target areas.
grain size and organic carbon and
provided fish tissue samples to DEQ      Oil and Gas Assessment
for analysis of mercury.                                                              Coal Assessment
                                         The USGS National Oil and Gas                The assessment of Louisiana’s coal
                                         Assessment is a program designed to          deposits is part of the USGS National
Statewide Real-Time Flood
                                         assess the undiscovered oil and natu-        Coal Resource Assessment. This pro-
Monitoring                               ral gas resources in the United States.      gram is designed to identify and char-
Louisiana leads the Nation in prop-      Ongoing USGS investigations in Lou-          acterize coal zones that will provide
erty damage caused by floods. To         isiana include developing the                the bulk of the Nation's coal-derived
help reduce future losses, the USGS,     sequence stratigraphy of the Tertiary        energy during the next few decades.
in cooperation with Federal, State,      of southern Louisiana, the geologic          The coal mined in Louisiana is used as
and local agencies, operates a state-    characterization of the Austin Chalk,
                                                                                      fuel for electric power generating
wide real-time flood monitoring sys-     and porosity evolution of deep Tusca-
                                                                                      plants.
tem to measure river stage and           loosa sandstones, all of which provide
transmit data. During floods and         geologic information for further             The USGS is working with DNR, the
hurricanes, this information is passed   assessment activities.                       Louisiana Geological Survey, and var-
on to the appropriate emergency                                                       ious mining companies to provide
                                         In 1995, the USGS determined that
response agencies and the news                                                        interpretive information on the loca-
                                         the Austin Chalk is our Nation’s larg-
media through the Louisiana Office                                                    tion, quality, and quantity of the coal
                                         est, onshore domestic unconventional,
of Emergency Preparedness (LOEP),                                                     to be mined in several areas in east
                                         continuous-type oil resource. More
and the USGS provides on-site assis-                                                  Texas and Louisiana (fig. 5). USGS
tance at the LOEP. The information       recently, exploration and production
                                                                                      scientists are studying the stratigraphy
also is available on the Internet at     in frontier areas of Texas and Louisi-
http://la.water.usgs.gov.                ana (fig. 4) have shown that the Aus-
                                         tin Chalk has additional potential as a
                                         continuous-type deep-gas resource
Flood Tracking in the Amite              mostly to the east and downdip of
River Basin                              existing oil plays.
During floods in the Amite River
Basin near Baton Rouge, the USGS
records real-time, river-stage data on
a local voice-mail system (a proto-
type of a planned statewide system),
which is accessible by telephone.
Additionally, the USGS, in partner-
ship with the Louisiana Department
of Transportation and Development
(DOTD) and the Amite River Basin
Drainage and Water Conservation
                                         Figure 4. The Austin Chalk trend in Texas,    Figure 5. Coal assessment study areas
District, has produced and widely        Louisiana, and Mississippi.                   in Texas and Louisiana.
and coal geochemistry of Gulf Coast         scale topographic maps (1 inch on the                           the elevation and shape of terrain. The
coal-bearing intervals to better under-     map represents 2,000 feet on the ground)                        maps are useful for civil engineering,
stand the region’s resources. Planned       for Louisiana. The maps depict land-                            land-use planning, resource monitoring,
results of the study include geologic       scape features such as lakes and streams,                       hiking, camping, exploring, and fishing
and stratigraphic interpretations char-     highways and railroads, boundaries, and                         expeditions. The map revisions for 1999
acterizing the coal and digital, geo-       geographic names. Contour lines depict                          are shown in figure 6.
graphical-referenced data bases that
will include stratigraphic and geochem-
ical information.

Mapping Partnerships

The USGS, in partnership with the
Louisiana Office of the Oil Spill Coor-
dinator, several Federal agencies, and a
private aerial mapping company, has
completed about 95 percent coverage
of color infrared aerial photography of
the State, as part of the National Aerial
Photography Program (NAPP). The
NAPP coverages can be useful in iden-
tifying areas that could be affected
from potential oil spills along the Gulf
Coast. One of the products from the
color infrared aerial photographs will
be 1:12,000-scale digital orthophoto
quadrangles that can be useful as base-                                  6WDWH·V UHTXHVWHG UHYLVLRQ FDQGLGDWHV
maps in geographical information sys-
                                                                         &DQGLGDWHV IRU UHYLVLRQ GXH WR KLJK VDOHV
tem data bases.

The USGS and DOTD partnership pro-                Figure 6. Status of 1:24,000-scale topographic map revisions for Louisiana, 1999.
vides current and accurate 1:24,000-


                   The USGS office locations                                       USGS State Representative
                                                                                   3535 S. Sherwood Forest Blvd., Suite 120
                                                                                   Baton Rouge, LA 70816
                             The USGS has 139                                      Telephone: (225) 389-0281
                             employees in Louisiana                                Fax: (225) 389-0706
                                                                                   E-mail: crdemas@usgs.gov

                                        Ruston
                                                                                   USGS Home Page:
                                                                                   http://www.usgs.gov



                                                                                   Reports and products:
                                                                                   1-888-ASK-USGS
                                                     Baton Rouge


                                      Lafayette



                                                                                     U.S. Department of the Interior




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