Blogging for a Healthy Gulf

 
Florida Pollution Sign
Photo by: Christian Wagley

And the hurricanes just kept coming…In finishing my first full month on the job as GRN’s coastal organizer for Florida and Alabama, here came another one as Hurricane Nate churned toward the northern Gulf Coast. 

Fortunately, Nate was only a Category 1 storm when it came ashore on the Mississippi coast, but it still managed to do some damage. Here in the Florida Panhandle, despite avoiding a direct hit, there was still some coastal flooding, and even another sewage spill that sent about 100,000 gallons of partially-treated effluent into Santa Rosa Sound at Pensacola Beach.

These sewage spills seem to be a regular consequence of tropical weather here in Florida, pointing-out one of many vulnerabilities in our system that places the environment and public health at-risk. Every time the wind blows...

 
Gulf coral
NOAA image 2009

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council met the first week of October in Biloxi, MS, to consider Coral Amendment 9, which is focused on protecting 15 Habitat Areas of Particular Concern for sensitive deep sea corals and protecting them under existing federal law.  

While we were pleased to see the Council move forward on this amendment protecting coral habitat, we were disappointed to see the Council eliminate key portions of Coral Amendment 9. The Council voted with almost no opposition to entirely eliminate all fishing regulations on two of the 15 areas in the Gulf of Mexico previously designated by scientists on the advisory committee as priority areas for protection. For two other sites, the council also voted to allow bottom long-lining and bottom trawling, two fishing practices with well documented risks to fish and their habitats.

Deep sea corals live in waters that sunlight does not reach...

 

Flood control alternatives, including the “One Lake” project for the Pearl River in Jackson, have been out of the spotlight, under technical review by the Army Corps of Engineers for nearly four years since scoping meetings were held in the fall of 2013. When the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and engineering studies are published late in 2017 or early 2018, it will signal the last practical chance for public comment/input until the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works makes a decision.


The Rankin-Hinds Pearl River Flood and Drainage Control District (the District) offered four flood control alternatives in 2013 during project scoping: levees and floodwalls, non-structural measures, channel improvements, and a lake development. Among these alternatives, only the lake development has its own public relations campaign thanks to John McGowan’s non-profit Pearl River Vision Foundation which has consistently promoted dredging and damming the Pearl River to create...

 
Santa Rosa Shore
Photo by: Christian Wagley

Santa Rosa Island is a gem along Florida’s Panhandle coast, with 52 miles of white sand beaches stretching from Destin to Pensacola and buffering the mainland from storms while providing habitat for a great diversity of life. Despite its value to both nature and people, a bill working its way through Congress would reduce protections for some of the Island’s natural areas and facilitate the dredging of a channel across it.

The Federal Government granted much of the Island to Escambia County back in 1947, with the stipulation that lands not be sold or conveyed to private owners and that they be used in the public interest. And so residents of Pensacola Beach and Navarre Beach lease rather than own their land. County governments in recent years began to tax residents on the value of their improvements...

 
Biloxi Dust
Photo by: Kemberly Groue, Keesler AFB

Residents in East Biloxi continue to face unbearable living conditions due to a fiasco of a road project that has left over fifty miles of city streets torn up awaiting repair. East Biloxi residents have dealt with this situation for over three years and the project is expected to take years more to complete. What were once roads are now pock marked dirt trails.   

Driving through endless dust and potholes has become an unwelcome routine for the community in East Biloxi. The soil and dust from the road project is carried by wind and rain into people’s air conditioners, homes, cars and yards eventually ending up in local waters clogging and polluting them in violation of the Clean Water Act. 

Gulf Restoration Network has taken legal action  on the matter. GRN filed suit against the contractor, Oscar Renda , for storm water violations of...

 
Irma Beach
Photo by: Daniel Di Palma

In my very first days as GRN’s new coastal organizer for Florida and Alabama, I was greeted by the dramatic lead up to and, ultimately, tragedy of Hurricane Irma. The storm brings a crash course in post-storm environmental issues for me, and challenges us all on issues of environment, infrastructure, climate change, environmental justice, and resilience.

As of this writing, the direct human toll from Irma is 82 dead, with most occurring in a few hard-hit Caribbean islands. The Florida Keys took the brunt of the Florida impact, and estimates are that 25% of the houses there were destroyed, with another 65% suffering major damage.

Though I am located in the Florida panhandle, with the arrival of Irma we are looking to the impact areas in South Florida to make sure...

 

 

 

Chef Ryan Prewitt of Peche set a new standard for seafood in New Orleans winning two James Beard Awards in 2014: Best Chef: South and Best New Restaurant in America. On a busy Saturday night, you can find Chef Ryan whizzing around the kitchen making sure every detail is handled. From filleting giant tuna collar and whole redfish to making sure every shrimp that leaves the kitchen is prepared to perfection, Chef Ryan’s respect for seafood is apparent in every dish. His passion for sustainability doesn’t stop at the dinner table. He dives deep into the world of local, sustainably sourced seafood by working with GRN to protect Gulf Fish Forever. 

Last November, Chef Prewitt traveled to D.C. with GRN to talk with congresspeople about the short-sighted Red Snapper Management Authority Act. This legislation would have ignored the best available science for rebuilding red snapper populations...

 

Restoration along the Pearl River is on many people’s minds these days, on several fronts. My recent opinion letter in The Advocate makes the case that the desire for lake development in Jackson, Mississippi will work against ongoing and needed river restoration. One of the best recent pieces of news for the river is the Pearl Clean Sweep: a volunteer cleanup led by the new Pearl Riverkeeper over the Pearl’s full 390 miles on September 23rd.


In 2016 the pathway was opened for the State of Louisiana to take over the Pearl River Navigation Canal and remove sills. The 2016 Congressional Water Resources Development Act (WRDA 2016) made this possible with the canal’s de-authorization by the Corps of Engineers.


In 2016 one of the early NRDA BP settlement funded projects began rebuilding marsh and oyster reef at Heron Bay, just east of the Pearl River’s...

 
Greetings from Christian and Dustin
Greetings from Christian and Dustin

In the last couple of months, Gulf Restoration Network has been sad to say goodbye to some members of our team, and happy to welcome new folks.

In August, Jordan Macha, GRN’s Gulf Policy Analyst ended her time with the GRN. Jordan was lead on all things post-BP restoration. Although we will miss her, we congratulate her on becoming Executive Director of Bayou City Waterkeeper and look forward to working with her in that capacity! With the recent devastation of Hurricane Harvey, her work as a Waterkeeper in the Houston area is more important than ever.

We were also saddened by the departure in June of Shona Clarkson, GRN’s Communications Director. However, we are excited to welcome Dustin Renaud as our new Communications Director. Dustin was born and raised in...

 

 

This blog series has covered a variety of corals that live in the Gulf of Mexico. These corals are an amazing natural resource for the Gulf, but they are also under threat. Right now, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council is considering extending new protections to 15 deepwater coral sites in the Gulf. An additional eight areas were identified as unique or important sites, but were not given any fishing regulations which would protect the corals - the logic being a lack of regulations due to a lack of current fishing efforts.

Many of the images used in this blog series have come from expeditions in the Gulf that is exploring these sites. More images of deep sea corals may be coming soon as there is currently an expedition off the Florida coast - live footage can be found...

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Recent Posts

1985 seems like a long time ago. For those who care about clean water—which is...
Written by Christian Wagley
Monday, 24 September 2018
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14 Sep 2018 | 12:29pm

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