Last Saturday, Scott, Jonathan and I led a caravan down to Myrtle Grove, LA. In the car behind us were seven women; the top Aveda fundraising team in the Gulf region, from Houston, TX. Through Aveda's Earth month partnership with GRN, salons across the Gulf ramp up to a fundraising frenzy to support our work for clean, flowing waters in the Gulf. These ladies raised the most money out of the whole region during April 2012. Coming to New Orleans for a conference, they were excited to get out on the water with GRN to see both restoration projects and Louisiana's eroding coastline.
On the way down to Myrtle Grove, we drove by the Kinder Morgan coal terminals that GRN has been monitoring, seeing coal piles huge enough to make the loader machinery look like toy trucks. To read more about our fight against these piles of pollution, check out Jonathan Henderson's blog here.
Bob Marshall, columnist, historian, and Lost Lands tour guide began the morning on a sobering note with a presentation encompassing the numerous causes of coastal land loss; oil & gas activity, dredging of canals, subsidence, and the ever rising sea levels. Losing one football field of wetlands every hour not only effects southern Louisiana, but the entire nation. The Aveda folks already understood the cultural influence of creole and cajun food, jazz, and near approaching Mardi Gras, but were surprised to hear that farmers across the bread basket depend on the ports of New Orleans to ship their crops, one third of our nation's energy travels through New Orleans. Our country depends on this place that is disappearing from under our feet. We wanted these Aveda staff to see first hand what their efforts during Earth Month can do to help us restore and protect this special place.
We set out in two boats, stopping every few miles to point out dying marsh, cypress skeletons, and abandoned oil & gas infrastructure. Scott Eustis, GRN's coastal wetland specialist brought his handheld GPS, so we could share the phenomenon of boating over open water while the GPS showed us traversing dry land. Land erodes so quickly the maps can't keep up.
To lift our spirits, we made sure to head to Lake Hermitage, a marsh creation site in the old Magnolia field. 104 acres of open water is being turned into marsh by pumping sediment from the nearby Mississippi River. A portion of BP's $1 billion of early restoration money funded the expansion of this project, providing a good example of how their future fines should be spent. With support from our members and Aveda's fundraising efforts, GRN will be able to watchdog the billions more dollars coming to the Gulf to ensure it's used for effective restoration like this project. Peering over the earthen barrier, we saw workers manning the machinery to spread the slurry over the newly made land. Marsh vegetation will be planted here once the soil is built up. This is only a short term fix, as the land will continue to sink without frequent flooding of new sediment, but an important one to hold us over until river diversions can be implemented to build land naturally.
A boat trip out to the marshes woudn't be complete without some sampling for oil, so we headed back to a spot where Jonathan and Scott had found oil earlier this year. We spotted some weathered oil amongst the marsh grass, and it was obvious the land was eroding quickly as the exposed roots were pounded by waves every few seconds. With a cooler of water and soil samples in hand, we boated back to Myrtle Grove.
We enjoyed showing the Houston Aveda team our lovely marshes, and thank them for taking the time to spend the day learning about the national importance of Southern Louisiana.
Natasha is GRN's Deveopment Director