Gulf Restoration Network

United for a Healthy Gulf

Matt Rota
Sand Berm Dredging Deadly to Turtles
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Thursday, 19 August 2010 13:34

As our readers know, we have had significant concerns regarding Louisiana’s oil protection sand berms which have been constructed under the auspices of protecting the coast from oil(see posts from May 14, July 12, and July 14).  In drafting comments responding to Louisiana’s request to continue with and expand the project, we discovered thatin a single two week period , the current sand berm project killed at least five threatened Loggerhead Turtles - and the full toll on turtles is likely higher. In fact, one Army Corps’ report indicated large amounts of turtle activity in the area, stating “Many turtles and turtle heads seen in the area in and around the trawling/dredging site.”

The pictures below depict some of the turtles killed during the dredging for this project.

The above pictures came from the USACE Sea Turtle Data Warehouse

Since these deaths, federal agencies requested that the cutter dredges that caused three of the deaths be moved to the Mississippi river, where there is less turtle activity.  We are glad that the most deadly dredges have been removed from these areas, but other dredging activity can still have a devastating toll on sea turtles.

Up to this point, the sand berms that were authorized under an emergency permit from the Corps of Engineers have done little to prevent impacts of oil to Louisiana’s shores.  According to discussions with federal agencies, other than sheen and tar balls reported on June 30, no oil has been reported on the eastern or western berms.  Also, there are no official reports of oiled materials being removed from these berms.

Given the lack of effectiveness, the time it will take to build the berms, the current and potential environmental impacts, impacts to threatened and endangered species like sea turtles, and lack of scientific review, expanding the sand berm project does not seem to be an effective use of precious time, energy, dredges, and sediments.

GRN submitted comments to the Corps reflecting the above sentiments yesterday.  To read our full comments GRN Comments .

Matt is Water Resources Program Director for GRN


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