This article is excerpted from Wave Maker's News, our quarterly update on all things water in the Gulf of Mexico, check out the full newsletter here.
Mountain of Coal at International Marine Terminals, downriver from the Myrtle Grove Marina. After years of examining data, running computations, public comments, and conflict resolution, the Final 2012 Master Plan for restoring Louisiana’s coast has been issued. Use of the Mississippi River to build sheltering wetlands is a core strategy of the Plan. The Master Plan is Louisiana’s Hail Mary pass, our imperfect, best, last shot at turning the tide of our coastal crisis.
The Master Plan already faces great challenges. As the United States moves away from burning coal, more of this dirty fuel is exported to China, Chile, and other countries with lower standards, and coal piles at shipping terminals in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana have grown into mountains. RAM Terminals, LLC, is threatening to place another mountain of coal adjacent to and just upstream from the mouth of the Myrtle Grove sediment diversion – one of the premier land-building projects in the Master Plan.
After a long history as the sewer for two-thirds of the United States, the Mississippi is already thoroughly polluted. Louisiana urgently needs to put this river to work moving sediment and building wetlands for the sake of the people and infrastructure on the Gulf Coast, but a river burdened with acidic coal runoff is less likely to build healthy wetlands. Coal runoff has heavy metals, sulfides, and other toxics that will impair the health of the existing marshes and compromise the habitat value of whatever wetlands the restoration project builds.
If that weren’t enough, the dust that blows from the coal piles can cover boats in black, and coat people’s lungs with - leading to diseases of the heart, lung, and kidneys. This coal dust is a threat to the health of the people in nearby communities like Ironton and Myrtle Grove; the runoff is a threat to the health of all of us on the coast sheltered from storms by healthy wetlands, and the carbon from China’s power plants and iron smelters, put into the upper atmosphere, will only accelerate climate change and cause our swollen Gulf of Mexico to rise higher and faster.
[UPDATE] We at GRN are assisting our allies in their challenge of the RAM Terminals Air permit. Also, thanks to your comments, We have recieved a public hearing from DNR in the Myrtle Grove area. We still have not received any reply to our request to an alternatives analysis. We still need your voice!
We in Louisiana need you to tell the Army Corps and state agencies that they cannot fail the public by allowing the premier coastal restoration project, the Myrtle Grove sediment diversion, to be polluted with coal runoff. Click here to take action.
Scott Eustis is GRN's Coastal Wetland Specialist.