Sugar Roots Farm

Today, we went to Sugar Roots Farm, a non-profit farm that raises various plants and animals and supports the local community. They have various goats, a cow, chickens, horses, and a pony for animals. It’s popular on weekends for small children to come ride the equines. Lauren, the manager of the farm, is also in charge of planting various grasses and other natives, such as Louisiana grass, chicory, herbaceous mimosa, and partridge pea. The organization is a very positive place to learn about natives and support local farms.

IHNC Lake Borgne Surge Protection Barrier

March 22, we visited the North end of the Lake Borgne Surge Barrier. Stacy Gillmore who works for Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East gave us our tour. You can see the pre and post Hurricane Katrina Flood walls on either side of the entrance gate. The original walls were only 16 feet high and the newer walls are 30 feet high. Katrina flooded the upriver industrial area 20 to 21 feet of surge water from Lake Borgne. 

During recovery the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Agency was formed through several pre existing levee districts. The Flood Protection Authority worked closely with the US Army Corps of Engineers during planning and construction of the Hurricane Storm Damage Risk Reduction System. Construction on the Surge Protection Barrier began in late 2008 and was completed in 2011. 

The total length of the structure is 1.8 miles long and includes 3 different navigational structures. The structure we saw was the First Sector Gate. It takes approximately 20 minutes to open and 20 minutes to close. Regardless of opinion of flood management it is impossible to deny that this is a marvel of engineering. 

NOLA 2023 First Day

After a rainy morning at the Woodlands Conservancy, the team went for a quick levee failure tour in the lower 9th ward. We stopped right in front of the rebuilt levee where a barge had bumped into the wall, causing the flood waters & storm surge from the Mississippi River to burst into homes, down streets, and destroy almost everything in the first few streets along the levee. During this time, the team heard the story of how in 1927, levees in New Orleans were bombed to save the city. Unfortunately, those affected by this bombing were mostly poor, black residents, some of whom were forced off their properties at gun point. Because of this past/generational trauma, it was believed by some that the government had bombed the levee walls again to deliberately destroy the lower 9th ward during Hurricane Katrina.

Dr A tells the history of a conspiracy theory

In typical Dr A fashion however, he quickly squashed this conspiracy with scientific backing by showing aerial photos of the levee before, during, & after the Hurricane Katrina, all photos showing a barge which had moved from the river, into a house in the lower 9th. There is a lot more that went wrong during Katrina, including but not limited to way in which the levee was constructed.

In its basic form, the levee was not created to withstand the force that overtook it. The Army Corps of Engineers (The Corps) built the levee system in 1985 to replace surge barriers, but they were not built tall enough, nor were they properly braced to stop the force of Katrina. The Corps had originally believed I-walls to be structurally sound, yet they failed to account for several factors: variability in soil strength, wall deformation (which opened a water-filled gap on the flood side) & critical water pressures beneath the levees.

Source: Journal of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering/Volume 134 Issue 5 – May 2008

The Corps went back to the drawing board after Katrina & redesigned the floodwall to become a T-wall. In addition, they raised the height of the floodwall to the proper dimensions & the walls were completed in 2013, 8 years after Hurricane Katrina. The better design of the floodwalls, seen below, have mostly kept up so far, but still require regular maintenance when gaps are noticed between the floodwall & the levee.

Although it may not look like it in the picture below, the new floodwall is between 15 & 18 feet high, with some areas reaching above 30 feet. It’s support pylons reach down to 100 (& even 200 feet in some places) into the ground throughout the 130 mile ring levee system around New Orleans & are built to hold out a storm surge of 30+ feet.

After a long, cold, rainy, day, the team hopped back into the vans, much more appreciative of their raincoats & warm boots.

Capstone Community Garden

March 21st – We returned to the lower ninth ward again to meet David, who runs a community garden in a food desert. We were tasked with building two above-ground ponds for raising catfish in. The gardne produces a variety of veggies and fruits and even honey, but these catfish are an opportunity to provide the community with protein. It was really fulfilling to help out and know that we made a difference.

Watch to hear directly from David about the history and impact the garden has had.
Our completed frames will be lined by David, after which he can stock them with catfish.

Capstone & David Young

Dr. Sean Anderson and David Young explain the circumstances of the communities in the Lower 9th Ward, a parish of New Orleans experiencing lack of resources due to being a food desert, and what David has taken on to mitigate that in his own home.
A tour of the aquaponic system as reference for the 2 additional we were going to build.

Food For Thought

-New Orleans School of Cooking-

On saturday March 18th we attendend the New Orleans School of Cooking, this place is family owned and was established in 1980. Our instructor and chef was Michael who started our class with a walk around the French Quarter. Michael gave us the historty to the ninth ward and is an exceptional story teller and guide! All the information spoken by Michael was tied back to food and the histoty and impact it has had on New Orleans. Once at the school we got into different groups to prepare New Orlean dishes. The experience was more than amazing, learning the history while learning the food of this area is a great hands on experience that I recomned everyone have. We cooked the corn and crab bisque, cajun sweet and spicy coleslaw, muffaletta sandwich, BBQ shrimp and grits, and bread pudding. All the food was fantastic and such a fun time! 🙂

Building Aquaponic Systems

Today our NOLA team traveled to the Lower 9th and were welcomed by David Young a retired police chief who founded a nonprofit community farm called Capstone. In this location he grows vegetable gardens and fruit trees for this community as food is limited. Our main task for the day was to build two aquaponic systems where catfish will be kept to grow more plants and vegetables. It was interesting to learn that in aquaponic systems the fish and plants work together in a symbiotic relationship where the fish waste provides all the necessary nutrients for the plants to grow while the plants purify and filter the water for the fish making this a self-sustaining closed system that requires minimal maintenance.

To create these foundations we used cinder blocks and glued them down with liquid nails. These foundations were a rectangular shape that had five levels in height. It was a challenging but rewarding task because these systems will now be in place for many many years and will help the Lower 9th ward.

Aquaponic Systems

Day 1 Nature Walk of Nola 2023

Everyone shows great respect to Tom and pays close attention while he is sharing his knowledge with us. Tom is explaining how this leaf from the Quercus Virginiana (Southern Live Oak) is a prime example of a plant with entire leaves, compared to lobed or pinnate leaves. We are fortunate to have people who are so passionate about plants and teaching with us. Whenever an elder like Tom or John is speaking, the class knows it is time to listen closely.

Environmental Journalist

Todays talk with Mark Schleisstein included a ton of information about New Orleans master plan to make the city more sustainable. A variety of methods were discussed such as diverting the overflow of water from the Mississippi River by carving out a tunnel for the water to collect in when it floods. This method was interesting to me because it mimicked the natural reoccurring flooding of the river using man made techniques. However there is always a trade off, this method puts a pod of bottle nose dolphins at risk because of the new exposure they would have to fresh water. Still, this method as well as adding sediment to the marsh was discussed, and many others. The city aims to eradicate problems such as flooding and hurricanes, which is triggered by poor engineering, landscape management and temperature increase due to climate change. Part of the approach is to monitor carbon reductions and to receive more funding from point source polluters such as bp oil corporations. In the photos we see what used to be the historic river system and, what is now the river system. Engineers have funneled the water system into one river, causing immense amount of pressure which creates increased risk of flooding. Mark Schleisstein takes immense efforts to expose those responsible for the reconfiguring of the land that’s is causing these issues as well as informing the public about who is funding the solutions. Thanks to people like Mark Scleisstein, oil corporations are being held accountable and, prevention instead of intervention of natural disasters is being discussed.