Gulf Restoration Network

United for a Healthy Gulf

Blogging for a Healthy Gulf
Cathy Harrelson
Weeki Wachee is choked with slime
Wednesday, 03 July 2013 14:34

WeekiWacheeWeeki Wachee Spring and the Weeki Wachee River support a complex freshwater aquatic ecosystem that is vitally important as both a cultural and economic resource for Florida. Unfortunately, Florida’s iconic Mermaid Spring and its river to the Gulf are being choked by slimy algae. Take action now to protect Florida's rivers and streams.

High levels of nitrogen pollution are to blame for the explosion of algae blooms. As it stands now, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) does not require major sources of this pollution to reduce their spring-killing effluent . It is beyond time for a mandate to preserve and protect these critical resources for all Floridians and to reverse the degradation of our most iconic treasures.

The DEP is accepting public comments through Friday, July 5th, on a draft plan to restore the Spring and River (this plan, required under the Clean Water Act, is known as a Total Maximum Daily Load, or “TMDL”). As it is written, this plan is not adequate, as it does not require pollution reduction from surrounding polluters, or even set a protective goal. Please take action now to let DEP and the Governor know you expect them to do their jobs and protect Florida’s resources!

Read more: Weeki Wachee is choked with slime
Aaron Viles
Galveston, Gulf Shores, Destin
Wednesday, 03 July 2013 12:37

Gulf beaches are going to be hopping this weekend, and all summer long.

My daughter loves the beach, and it's a favorite family destination.  I still remember the beach break that BP's drilling disaster forced on us in the summer of 2010.  BP stole an opportunity to make precious memories on our Gulf beaches.

There's an irony that because of BP's disaster, we are now faced with a historic opportunity to make sure our Gulf beaches are environmentally healthy and sustainable for decades to come.

While we don't know yet how much money BP will be sending to the Gulf via the RESTORE Act, the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council is developing its comprehensive plan for Gulf Restoration.  The final day for public comment is Monday, July 8th, so please take a moment right now to send this clear message:

Ecosystem Restoration is Economic Recovery

We can't waste this opportunity on roads, parking lots, or convention centers.  If our plan prioritizes making the Gulf healthier, it will pay dividends for generations to come.  That way my daughter's children, and future generations can continue to love our Gulf coast beaches.  

Send your message before you head out to Grand Isle, Ship Island, Orange Beach, Greyton Beach (or where ever you are spending your July 4th holiday).

Aaron Viles is GRN's Deputy Director. You can follow him on twitter here.

P.S. Of course, we're focused on the possibility of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, and their eventual use of the fines and penalties flowing from the BP disaster, but there are other important considerations in how you spend your time at the beach.  NRDC's popular and useful, Testing the Waters report lets you know how your beach is doing on water pollution.  Check it out here.

Also this local news story shows that there are ongoing BP tarballs easily found at Gulf coast beaches.  Be safe out there folks.

Andrew Whitehurst
Developers Try Again for a Lake on the Pearl River in Jackson
Tuesday, 02 July 2013 15:08

Lefleurs swamp trail picture Oxbow lake along Pearl River in Lefleur's Bluff State Park, Jackson, Ms. Lake project would dredge this place.Jackson, Mississippi, businessman John McGowan has regrouped in the years since his Two Lakes project was deemed by the Corps of Engineers to be too expensive and unfeasible. He reduced the project’s scope to one lake and renamed his Two Lakes Foundation as the Pearl River Vision Foundation. The lake project is said to be for flood control and involves dredging, deepening and widening the Pearl River in Jackson to about 5 times its current width. One cross-channel weir, or low-head dam will impound the river surface at about 260 feet above sea level to create a 1,500 acre lake between Lakeland Drive (Hwy. 25) and the Interstate 20 Pearl River bridge near Richland, MS.

Proponents say this lake will reduce flood water levels in the urban reach of the river. Presumably this will happen through spreading out the flood water in a deeper, much wider channel. The Pearl’s most destructive floods were in 1979 and 1983.  Rather than accept a Corps of Engineer’s plan for levees, McGowan and other influential people have pressed for a flood control design that will also allow development of lakeshore real estate. They have resisted levees and promoted the lake idea since the Corps’ last levee plan in 1996.  The Foundation is partnering with the Rankin Hinds Pearl River Flood and Drainage Control District (Levee Board) in sponsoring the lake project. McGowan’s allies include current Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann who served previously on the Two Lakes Foundation board, and Levee Board member and real estate businessman Leland Speed who directed the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) under Governor Barbour

Lost in the push for flood control in Jackson is the fact that the Pearl River is in need of restoration.

Read more: Developers Try Again for a Lake on the Pearl River in Jackson
Guest Blogger
Ironton Celebrates Resilience (reposted from Delta Sierran)
Friday, 28 June 2013 16:41

By Devin Martin  (re-posted from the Delta Sierran)

 On Sunday, May 5, in the small town of Ironton, Plaquemines Parish, the St. Paul’s Missionary Baptist church held a celebratory service. Normally, this wouldn’t be news, at least not the kind of news that the Delta Sierran covers. But this was a special service—the first to be held since August 28, 2012, when Hurricane Isaac brought more than 5 feet of water into Ironton and the surrounding areas. 
Read more: Ironton Celebrates Resilience (reposted from Delta Sierran)
Guest Blogger
Fish Kill in Breton Sound
Tuesday, 25 June 2013 13:31

fishkill 2 smaller Redfish surrounded by pogie foam. Photo credit: Captain Dickson.My name is Captain Markham Dickson, and I run Salty Dog Charters out of Shell Beach Louisiana. We are a coastal fishing charter targeting speckled trout, redfish, flounder and other coastal species from Lake Borgne to Breton Sound and the surrounding areas. I am a full time fisherman and see a lot of what goes on out there on the water.

A few weeks ago I was motoring across Breton Sound and came across a horrible sight...thousands of big mature redfish lying dead on the surface. They went on for miles and miles. I took pictures and video, which I will include here. The fish were stacked up in a current or rip line. They lay surrounded by 'pogie foam' which is an oily brown foam that is a byproduct of pogy ships harvesting. The miles of dead redfish were also a byproduct of the pogy harvest.

Read more: Fish Kill in Breton Sound
Guest Blogger
Down the "Big River"
Monday, 24 June 2013 16:44

Andy borberly pic 6.20.13 On Thursday, June 20th several GRN members gathered at The Bridge Lounge to hear writer and adventure-seeker Andy Borbely speak about his 2005 canoeing expedition down the Mississippi River with friend Justin Hoest. An idea that was spontaneously thought up while listening to Johnny Cash’s “Big River” during a road trip gained traction when Hoest sent an email out of the blue to Borbely with the subject line reading: “Mississippi 2005?” and the entire body of the email was a famous Mark Twain quotation: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” After another year or so of planning and saving money, their adventure was planned and neither one looked back.

Read more: Down the "Big River"
Michelle Erenberg
Communities weigh in on Restoration Draft Plan
Monday, 24 June 2013 11:01

Community members discuss the Council's Draft Plan in BiloxiLast week we wrapped up a series of community meetings that were held in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama and co-hosted with several other organizations as part of Gulf Future. Members of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council were invited to share a meal with community members and listen to their discussion about how Gulf restoration should move forward to protect both the natural resources and the people who live and work on the coast.

These meetings complimented the public hearings, by reaching into diverse communities and facilitating small group discussions about the priorities and objectives in the Council’s Draft Plan. The turnout to these meetings was great (not to mention the food!) and the Council representatives and state government officials got to hear the value of Advisory Committees and see clearly  now with their own eyes the interest in their work from smaller coastal communities.

Read more: Communities weigh in on Restoration Draft Plan
Andrew Whitehurst
Industry Over Environment at MDEQ Permit Board
Sunday, 23 June 2013 13:31

Opposing an environmental permit at the MDEQ Permit Board is a steep uphill battle, especially for people who live where there is no zoning. The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality and the Legislature have made the permit process easy for the applicant and hard for opponents. Folks who travel to Jackson to oppose permits usually don’t know this. They believe that when they address the Permit Board, it will seriously evaluate their objections to living next to chicken houses, industrial plants, dirt car race tracks, etc. Due to the way the Board must operate, it cannot do anything but grant permits. In GRN’s recent comments to MDEQ on the new codification of its administrative regulations, we emphasized three glaring problems with the way the MDEQ Permit Board operates:

1)    The people in the seats voting on the Permit Board often lack the authority to vote “no", or lack the political will to vote in a way that will frustrate job creation, the Legislature and Governor.

2)    In the absence of any local zoning rules, the Permit Board’s vote on the DEQ regulatory matters contains, by default, local zoning issues mixed with DEQ regulatory issues. Many times each year a Board member says to a permit opponent: “Sorry, but we are not a zoning board.”

3)    The vote is always a slam-dunk in favor of the permit applicant. Those opposing permits need to know that they must have an attorney to represent them, and be prepared to lose twice at the Permit Board before they can appeal the issue outside of the agency process to Chancery Court.  DEQ staff should plainly explain this to permit opponents, early in this onerous process.

Read more: Industry Over Environment at MDEQ Permit Board
Aaron Viles
Gulf history is being written...
Thursday, 20 June 2013 10:16

restore draft plan commentsThe deadline for sending in your comments and suggestions on the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council’s draft Comprehensive Plan is fast approaching. This Plan will play a key role in determining how billions of dollars in BP fines will be spent. Although the Plan is on the right track, there is still a lot of work to do and this is a critical moment to make your voice heard. Can you send in your comments right now?

The Council’s efforts represent our best chance to jump-start coastal restoration and make the Gulf, our communities and our coastal-dependent economies more resilient in the face of rising seas and stronger storms. Unfortunately, some leaders seem more interested in squandering BP dollars on environmentally harmful economic development schemes, such as proposing BP restoration dollars build a conference center and hotel on important wildlife habitat in Alabama’s Gulf State Park. Tell the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council that every dollar it approves must fund improving the health of the Gulf.

Read more: Gulf history is being written...
Matt Rota
2013 Dead Zone Could Rival Largest Ever Measured
Wednesday, 19 June 2013 09:45

It looks like we are going to have a whopper of a Dead Zone in the Gulf this year...approximately the size of New Jersey, barring any hurricanes that make their way into the Gulf around the end of July when the folks at the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON) take the annual measurement.

This prediction comes out as Mississippi River states and the Feds continue to drag their feet to take agressive action to stop the Dead Zone-causing pollution that flows from industrial agriculture (See me in yesterday's Huff Post Live talking about the impact of industrial animal agriculture), chemical facilities, and sewage treatment plants.  

Read more: 2013 Dead Zone Could Rival Largest Ever Measured
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