West Bank Spotlight: Westwego Rotary gains insight into Mississippi River delta restoration issues

Eden Davis, greater New Orleans outreach coordinator for the Restore the Mississippi River Delta organization, recently spoke at the Westwego Rotary Club meeting about Louisiana’s coastal crisis.

Davis said it’s been reported that the Mississippi River Delta is disappearing at an astonishing rate, equivalent to a football field every hour.

The land loss crisis has claimed more than 1.2 million acres of land, roughly the size of the state of Delaware, since the 1930s.

According to Davis, the causes of wetland loss include subsidence, sea level rise, coastal erosion, saltwater intrusions, oil and gas dredging, river levees and invasive species.

Restore the Mississippi River Delta, a nonpartisan, nonprofit group, is a coalition of the National Wildlife Federation, Environmental Defense Fund, the National Audubon Society, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation and the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana.

“Our goal as a coalition is to ensure the Louisiana coast is restored to protect communities, jobs and the environment,” Davis said.

More than $6 billion annually comes from the wetland infrastructure: oil and gas, shipping and commercial fisheries. But along with the economic role of the wetlands, there is a huge environmental role and effect on wildlife.

Since the oil spill, the National Wildlife Federation has closely monitored the harm done to wildlife and important habitats in the Gulf and along the Gulf Coast.

After bringing together scientists from all over the world to find solutions to stop the wetland loss, the state created a coastal master plan. It was passed unanimously by the Legislature in 2012.

The coastal master plan is a $50 billion series of projects to be implemented over a period of 50 years.

Since 2007, the Coastal Protection Restoration Authority has built or improved 159 miles of levees; improved 19,405 acres of coastal habitat; secured approximately $17 billion in state and federal funding for protection and restoration projects; identified and used dozens of different federal, state, local and private funding sources for projects; moved more than 150 projects into design and construction; constructed projects in 20 parishes; and constructed 32 miles of barrier islands/berms.

Ruppel Academy Awards Day

Parents, students and community members recently attended the annual Awards Day celebration at Ruppel Academy for Advanced Studies in Gretna. They celebrated the academic and athletic accomplishments of the students. The grand event was held on the front lawn of the school. The students received awards for perfect attendance, highest grade-point average, athletics, Student Council, multicultural club and robotics.

Eighth-grader Kaitlyn McCormick was chosen as student of the year.

“The Awards Day ceremony is a special time of year when we recognize the students for their hard work and accomplishments throughout the year. It is a memorable time when parents and community members come together to recognize the students of Ruppel Academy,” Principal Debra Cooper said.

Ruppel Academy presents ‘Hairspray Jr.’

Ruppel Academy for Advanced Studies presented “Hairspray Jr.” in the auditorium at West Jefferson High School in Harvey. It was directed by Debria Upton and co-directed and choreographed by Heather Smith-Stephenson. The cast and crew included students from Adams Middle, East Jefferson High, Ruppel Academy, Truman Middle, Thomas Jefferson and West Jefferson High schools and featured multitalented Ruppel faculty member Ashley Woolledge.

John McDonogh Day

McDonogh No. 26 Elementary School and the city of Gretna hosted the 124th annual John McDonogh Day event at McDonoghville Cemetery in Gretna. The speakers were Jefferson Parish President John Young, Gretna Mayor Belinda Constant, Gretna Councilman Milton Crosby, Jefferson Parish School Board member Mark Morgan and historian Leighton Ciravolo.

Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3121 led the Pledge of Allegiance, and living-history interpreters discussed McDonogh’s role in the Battle of New Orleans.

The event was listed as a Battle of New Orleans bicentennial event and a Gretna city centennial event.

Yetoria Lumpkin DeShazier writes about the people and events in Algiers and the West Bank. Contact her at ydeshazier@gmail.com or call (504) 367-0905.