Blogging for a Healthy Gulf

 

On July 27th, Abby Braman of Madison, Mississippi became the state’s first Pearl Riverkeeper.  The Waterkeeper Alliance gave her official approval on her application made earlier in the summer. Abby came to Mississippi from Virginia and began looking for water activities for herself and her children. She was appalled at the amount of litter and floatable trash clogging the Pearl River and its tributaries.

In a short couple of months, she began #Take2Miss as an anti-litter web based campaign for the Pearl and has organized a September 23rd cleanup that will take in as many of the 490 miles of the Pearl River as there are volunteer section captains. The Pearl River Clean Sweep is being organized from Nanih Waiya where the river begins as a confluence of lowland drains near the sacred mounds of the Mississippi Band of Choctaws, all the way to the river’s end in...

 
Stony colony
Large colony of the deep-water coral at 492 feet. Image: "Deep-water Coral Colony" (CC BY 2.0) by NOAA's National Ocean Service

Stony corals, also known as Scleractinians or hard corals, are in the hexacoral family and build hard skeletons out of calcium carbonate. They are the primary reef building corals. Stony corals have tentacles in multiples of six and can host diverse species of fish and invertebrates. Two species of stony coral commonly found in the Gulf are Lophelia pertusa and Madrepora oculata (zigzag coral), with Lophelia being found much more commonly than Madrepora.
 
While most species of stony coral grow on hard substrate and are solitary, some species such as Lophelia can form giant, branching structures. This is not the most common type of coral found in the deep ocean though, and the 2016 Report to Congress produced by NOAA reported that “stony corals were not especially abundant or diverse. A solitary, small cup coral was the most often...

 
Louisiana Wetlands WOTUS Clean Water Rule

The Trump Administration plans to issue a new proposed rule to review and revise the definition of “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) this week. This is no surprise given that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has been one of the loudest critics of the Obama era Clean Water Rule. The Clean Water Rule sought to clarify the definition of "Waters of the United States." President Trump signed an executive order in February directing the EPA to re-codify the definition of WOTUS. This may not sound very important but if we want to protect our water resources, this is “YUUUUGE.”

The definition of “Waters of the United States” has changed and grown since the inception of the Clean Water Act in 1972. Various court cases and Presidential Administrations have attempted to clear the murkiness surrounding WOTUS. Why does all this matter? Section 404 the Clean Water Act, requires permits...

 

Since fish species are not generally associated with one single species of coral but are instead found among multiple species, this post is going to cover different fish and invertebrate species that live in the deep ocean and rely on deep sea corals.

Alfonsino 
Alfonsino (left) are commercially fished in New Zealand, but not the Gulf, and there are multiple species that live in the Gulf, including the splendid alfonsino. Because they are commonly associated with reefs and other structures, and they are fished with trawls, there is potential for interaction with coral if fishing were to expand into the Gulf. 

Bass 
There are many species of bass that are associated with deep sea corals. Some of the species, like black bass can be caught in shallow waters, but...

 

Hexacorals are the second subclass that contains corals (and if you missed reading about octocorals, it can be found here).  As their name suggests, many have six (“hexa”) tentacles, instead of eight, though hexacorals with both eight and ten tentacles exist.

Including species from stony corals (or true corals) to sea anemones, there is more range in the appearance of these corals than there are in octocorals. Some, like stony corals, have hard skeletons and look like the corals common in shallow water.  Other types of hexacorals may occur as a single large polyp attached to the substrate through one long stocks, or they are deep sea anemones that look like hybrids of species we are familiar with, like the anemone to the left that has a similar appearance to a Venus-fly trap.

The hexacoral subclass includes the following orders:...

 

It’s summertime, and while many Gulf residents are retreating to cooler climes or just doing everything they can to keep cool in their hometowns, things are heating up here at Gulf Restoration Network. That’s because we have an amazing crew of new organizers and interns working with us this summer on our Gulf Fish Forever and Flood Less New Orleans campaigns, as well as our Science and Policy program. Let me introduce you to the team: 

Adia HeisserAdia

I’m a New Orleans native, majoring in Public Health and Environmental Studies at Tulane University. I’m interning on GRN’s Flood Less New Orleans campaign in Gentilly. My motivation for this work stems from personal experiences with the dire repercussions of unsustainable urban and energy industry development, but also from the spirit of resiliency so deeply rooted within my community. Through my...

 

This second post (if you missed the first one it can be found here) will focus on one of the two subclasses (class Anthozoa) of corals present in the Gulf of Mexico, octocorals. This subclass includes most Octocoralcorals except stony corals and black corals, which are hexacorals.  Many octocorals share similar traits: most are non-reef building, but they can provide vertical relief over areas that are otherwise soft bottoms, such as sandy bottoms. In general, octocorals tend to have large, erect frames that stretch up into the water column above the substrate, but they can also occur as smaller forms, as demonstrated by the two octocorlas found living on a deep sea chimney in the image to the left. Being above the seafloor and in the water column allows the polyps to more easily capture...

 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell capped off Trump’s “Energy Week” by announcing a new energy bill that would speed approval of exports of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG). We need your help to stop this destructive bill.
 
The vast majority of proposed new LNG export facilities - almost 30 - would be in Gulf states, which means Gulf communities will bear the brunt of accidents, explosions, and pollution that come with this dirty energy.
 
We say NO! Stand with us to stop this dirty energy bill.
 
This 891 page bill, which just dropped last week, is being brought to the floor without going through committee and before people have a chance to read it. 
 
What’s even more astounding is that the bill’s “Renewables” section ignores solar and wind. They aren’t even mentioned!

For too long, the Gulf has been the nation’s energy...

 
Flooded homes August 2016

Last August's flood broke the hearts and homes of many in the Baton Rouge area. But some of the water was once stored in our local rivers and wetlands. Reckless development has pushed that water onto homes that haven't flooded before.
 
Most homes flooded in the city of Central. And in the past year, Central has a seen 3 large flood events. These intense flood events show that current drainage is inadequate. So new developments should at least follow Central's master plan. The city wrote the master plan to ensure that the drainage system would work. But some developments are so careless that they build right into water-storing wetlands. 
 
This squeezes water out of wetland forests and onto older homes. 
 
For that reason Central residents have opposed The Lakes at Woodland Grove. This development does not follow the city’s Master Plan, which limits flood risks. It would even...

 

The fight to stop the Bayou Bridge pipeline continues. Most recently, GRN and a host of allies filed suit against Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (LDNR). You may have read about it in this NOLA.com article, but here is the press release:
 
St. James citizens and advocacy groups are suing the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (LDNR) for violating the Louisiana Constitution when it issued a Coastal Use Permit to Bayou Bridge Pipeline, LLC and refused to evaluate the negative environmental impact on the majority African American residents of St. James, Louisiana, who are surrounded by crude oil terminal facilities, pipelines and associated industry. The Petitioners, represented by Tulane Environmental Law Clinic, include H.E.L.P. (Humanitarian Enterprise of Loving People) Association, a community based organization in St. James at the terminus of the proposed pipeline, Gulf Restoration Network, Atchafalaya Basinkeeper and Bold Louisiana.
 
LDNR issued the Coastal Use...

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