Blogging for a Healthy Gulf

Wednesday, May 27, 2015 - 10:09am
Santa Barbara Oil Spill
Photo courtesy of General Physics Laboratory

This piece was written by David Helvarg, the executive director of Blue Frontier, and was originally printed as an Op-Ed in the LA Times. Blue Frontier is an ocean and conservation policy group.

Memorial Day marks the beginning of high beach season, but there are miles of coastline near Santa Barbara that will be out of commission this weekend thanks to a pipeline oil spill.

This is how most offshore oil works: You drill miles off the coast, pump the oil onshore to be processed and pipe it along the coast. On Tuesday, an underground pipeline that runs between Gaviota and Refugio State Beach ruptured, and the oil followed gravity into a culvert and back out to sea.

More than 100,000 gallons of oil may have spilled, including an estimated 20,000 on the beach and in an oil slick in one of our nation's richest marine habitats....

Tuesday, May 26, 2015 - 8:49pm

How can Louisiana fund the integrity of its Oyster reefs? Public monies from polluters may provide a big boost, but it seems that the powers that be leave money from enforcement of coastal permits on the table. 

The Louisiana Legislative Auditor released a report on subsidies to oil and gas, and this time, it's the oysters on our public reefs that pay, as well as the farmers that work with these reefs. Shell is limited; time is running out for our reefs, but it seems that oil and gas can take all the time it needs to pay for its damages to the natural resources of Louisiana.

You can read the honest responses from the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries here (page 17) in the Auditors' report.

The Report Summary states as follows:

LDWF needs to improve its process for...

Friday, May 22, 2015 - 5:22pm
Mississippi Department of Marine Resources State of Our Coast Conference
George Ramseur at Mississippi's State of Our Coast Conference in Biloxi Ms.

On May 13th, the first annual State of our Coast Conference was hosted in Biloxi, Ms. by the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources. Speakers included Jamie Miller, the MDMR Director, Secretary of State, Delbert Hosemann, and State Tourism Director, Malcolm White. While the morning sessions focused on economics and tourism, the afternoon sessions branched out into coastal processes: land loss, marsh creation and the ongoing restoration of the state’s oyster growing areas to support the seafood industry. Marine Resources Department staff geologist, George Ramseur, explained that Mississippi coastal waters don’t have enough sediment to build marshes naturally. He showed a time series of photos of Hancock County marsh shorelines near the mouth of the Pearl River. Marsh shorelines have receded northward hundreds of feet in recent decades, eroded by waves, storms and rising sea level.

George described marsh creation projects using dredge spoil moved by barge to restoration sites...

Thursday, May 14, 2015 - 10:07am
Megan and Natasha enjoying Meltdown pops while selling posters at Clouet Gardens


Over the years, I've seen many friends and neighbors at the monthly Second Saturday Art Walk down the St Claude arts corridor. This year, I was happy to hear that, once again, GRN was partnering with the Wetlands Art Tour, an annual event happening alongside Second Saturdays. The Wetlands Art Tour was created by the artist, activist and host of "The Goodnight Show," John Calhoun, to use art as a means of increasing conversation about coastal erosion and wetlands restoration, inspiring engagement with the pressing environmental issues surrounding New Orleans.

Don't let the name fool you, the Wetlands Art Tour is not simply a series of art exhibits. The tour kicked off on Friday at the Ashe Cultural Arts Center with a panel and reception focused on the intersection of justice, health and environmental movements in the city. Saturday morning, a bike tour rode from Clouet Gardens in...

Friday, May 8, 2015 - 12:37pm
Last week (4 May 2015), the Department of Natural Resources Coastal Management office received notice that Shell Pipeline will not proceed with the Westward Ho Pipeline from St James Parish to Nederland, Texas, through the Atchafalaya Basin.  
The project would have affected 200 miles and destroyed over 700 acres of land, including at least 200 acres of invaluable Cypress Swamp in the Atchafalaya, and would have aggravated impaired flows to 81 sloughs, coulees, and bayous in Louisiana's River of Trees. 23 Louisiana Rivers would have been crossed and impacted, threaded with a metal burden and increased threat of routine crude spills and disasters that plague our corner of the planet.
Location of direct wetland impacts to the basin. 

Thanks to the...
Tuesday, April 28, 2015 - 6:25pm

Earlier this month a barge collided with a oil tank ship carrying Bakken Crude Oil in the Mississippi River near Convent, LA.  The oil tank ship Bravo was unloading the crude oil at an oil terminal at the time of the collision and it is estimated 420 gallons of crude oil spilled into the river. Our own Jonathan Henderson and Scott Eustis took the trip to Convent to see the environmental impacts of the spill first-hand. Scott wrote a blog entry describing the scene he and Jonathan witnessed close to where the Bravo was moored.   

This isn't the first time Bakken crude oil has spilled into the Mississippi River in Louisiana due to ship collisions. According to a report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), on February 22, 2014, 750-800 barrels of Bakken crude oil was released into the river due to a boat-barge collision,...

Friday, April 24, 2015 - 2:01pm
School of Bluefin Tuna
School of bluefin. Photo credit: NOAA.

Sometimes in this work, it is necessary to keep the faith. For three years I have worked on a “win/win” campaign to protect bluefin tuna and 80 other species that are the unintended catch of Gulf of Mexico longline fishing. We have been determined since the beginning to work with fishermen to find a solution that did not destroy their livelihoods and that also protected marine life.

In 2010, the BP drilling disaster polluted much of the western Atlantic bluefin tuna’s only known breeding ground during the peak of spawning season. Tens of millions of gallons of oil were released within a matter of months and record amounts of toxic dispersants were used to break down the oil. Because of the impacts that the BP disaster had on bluefin, GRN advocated for better legal protections for bluefin and the use of BP disaster restoration funding to pay to help transition...

Tuesday, April 21, 2015 - 3:02pm

If you listened to too many Louisiana politicians, you might think that the Gulf of Mexico is only good for Deepwater extraction and harboring the largest mainline of oil import into the United States. If you were satisfied with macro-scale oceanography, you could be forgiven for thinking that the Loop Current was all you needed to know about the waters of the Gulf. but think again. Luckily, Woods Hole has published a video explaining some of the mesoscale currents of the western Gulf, only recently documented by RAFOS drifters:

Hidden Currents in the Gulf from Woods Hole Oceanographic Inst. on Vimeo.

Hidden Currents in the Gulf from Woods Hole Oceanographic Inst. on Vimeo....

Monday, April 20, 2015 - 12:00am

Today, across the Gulf, residents are marking 5 years since the beginning of the BP drilling disaster. 5 years later, the oil is still here and so are we. 5 years later, we’ve made progress but there is a long road to restoration still ahead.

As we observe this milestone, Gulf Restoration Network and our partners are releasing a new report – Sunshine on the Gulf II – that takes a look at how the restoration process is moving forward in the wake of the disaster.  In the report, we demand accountability and public engagement from the RESTORE Council, which is tasked with disbursing billions of dollars in eventual Clean Water Act fines from the BP disaster. We need your help to make sure that the RESTORE Council lets the sun shine on Gulf restoration – please take action now....

Thursday, April 16, 2015 - 3:58pm
Birds on grand isle beach

Five years since the beginning of the BP drilling disaster, BP’s oil is still in the Gulf and still impacting the region’s people and environment. Despite some offshore drilling reforms, the Gulf continues to suffer from the impacts of the oil and gas industry and is vulnerable to future major drilling disasters. Restoration efforts have begun, but too little has been done to make sure the communities most impacted by this disaster have a place at the table.

BP’s Impacts: Recent studies have raised serious questions about the long-term health of the Gulf of Mexico in the wake of the BP drilling disaster. Sick and dead dolphins continue to wash up in the BP impact zone. A February 2015 study suggests a link between a three year pattern in dolphin deaths and the BP disaster. Other recent studies have found a 10 million gallon “bath mat” of oil...