Gulf Restoration Network

United for a Healthy Gulf

Blogging for a Healthy Gulf
Briana Kerstein
Aveda Salons Walk for Water and GRN
Wednesday, 21 April 2010 11:27

This past Sunday, April 18th from Houston to New Orleans to Tallahassee to Orlando hundreds of Aveda salon staff, clients and their friends and families hit the streets, sidewalks and pathways for Aveda Walks for Water.  These walks raised awareness about the lack of access to clean water across the world and GRN's efforts to protect and preserve clean water in the Gulf of Mexico region.

Now in the fifth year of our Earth Month partnership with Aveda salons and their distributors, Neill Corporation, The Salon People and Aveda Services Southeast - over $1 million have been raised for GRN and our efforts to protect endangered species and clean water across the Gulf. 

Dan Favre
Save Our Cypress: Update from the Field
Wednesday, 21 April 2010 09:54

As we continue to celebrate the tens of thousands of acres of cypress forests saved in southern Louisiana, the Save Our Cypress Coalition continues to monitor the situation on the ground to ensure cypress are not being improperly harvested. And we keep asking, why are Lowe's, Home Depot, and Wal-Mart continuing to sell unsustainable cypress mulch at all?

Below is the field report from a recent trip I took.

On Friday, April 9th, Dean Wilson, the Atchafalaya Basinkeeper, and I went out to inspect a new mulch plant that Dean spotted on a monitoring flight in January. It's located west of Baton Rouge just a few miles north of I-10 in Port Allen, LA (google map link).

Read more: Save Our Cypress: Update from the Field
Raleigh Hoke
Mississippi Contemplates the High Cost of Coal
Wednesday, 21 April 2010 08:09

Garzweiler Right now, the Mississippi Public Service Commission (MPSC) is considering a proposal to build a massive, dirty, and expensive lignite coal power plant and mine in Kemper County, Mississippi. In fact, on May 1st the MPSC is scheduled to release its final decision on whether or not the benefits of this destructive project outweigh the costs.

Measuring cost can be a funny thing, though. Mississippi Power readily acknowledges that the Kemper facility will cost a minimum of $2.4 billion dollars – a burden which will fall on the shoulders of their ratepayers.  That’s a lot of money, but it doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface when it comes to the true costs of Kemper coal.  The costs of this project to human health, the economy, and the environment far outweigh any potential benefits. This proposed coal burning plant and mine will destroy or harm roughly 6,000 acres of wetlands, disturb over 40 miles of streams, release toxic chemicals like mercury into waterways, and leave nearby communities vulnerable to catastrophes akin to the recent coal ash spills in Tennessee.  

Thankfully, concerned citizens from across the state of Mississippi have been speaking out against this dirty, expensive and unnecessary project.  If you live in Mississippi, click here to tell your Commissioner to do the right thing, and say no to Kemper coal on May 1st.

Raleigh Hoke is Gulf Restoration's Network's Mississippi Organizer

Aaron Viles
A Superbowl champ wants you to watch our YouTube video
Saturday, 17 April 2010 20:57

Who Dats! Root for the Coast - watch Scott Fujita's YouTube videoLast week, GRN was honored to partner with former Saints linebacker Scott Fujita to issue a call to action for Louisiana's coastal wetlands crisis.  Scott and his wife Jaclyn pledged half of his Superbowl check to charity, with half going to Haiti, and half to Louisiana's coastal wetlands education.  GRN was thrilled to be one of the two coastal non-profits benefiting from their support.

Even better than the check was the attention Scott has directed to our coastal wetlands crisis. The press conference announcing his support drew every news camera in the city, and he spent a morning working with us and filmmaker Walter Williams (creator of the play doh character Mr. Bill, and wetlands advocate) filming a public service announcement, that we've just released.

If you've got one minute, nine seconds, please watch the video.  If you've got one minute, 29 seconds, please watch, rate, and share the video with your friends.  If we drive enough traffic to the video, it receives higher profile attention within YouTube and be seen by more people.

As Scott says in the video, "if you're a Who Dat, and rooted for the Saints, now we need you to root for our wetlands." Please watch and share the video today!

Aaron Viles is GRN's Campaign Director
Jonathan Henderson
The Louisiana “Storm”
Tuesday, 13 April 2010 17:10

1Sky Louisiana came out in true New Orleans fashion last Thursday, April 8th at the office of U.S. Representative Anh “Joseph” Cao. Participants in “The Storm” campaign donned lavish Second-Line umbrellas decorated with the number 350 and depictions of polar bears. The environmental/folk music duo, Sassafrass, comprised of members Joe Billups and Karen Harvill, brought their guitars and sang songs about climate change, dirty coal, and clean air. If you haven’t heard these highly motivated and inspiring musicians from the Gulf Coast, then it’s worth checking out their MySpace page at and listening to their music.  They have several songs specifically about global warming and played in Copenhagen last December aboard GreenPeace’s ship the “Rainbow Warrior” during the international climate negotiations, and recently in DC for members of Congress. The_Storm_in_the_2nd

While the atmosphere was festive, (as is usually the case when a diverse group of folks get together in New Orleans!), the message delivered to Rep. Cao’s office could not have more serious implications for Louisiana and the entire Gulf Coast region. Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District is extremely vulnerable to more powerful storms and rising sea-levels. Match that with poorly designed levees and coastal wetlands destruction by oil and gas companies and it becomes clear that this part of the Gulf needs urgent action at the federal level to address climate change. Louisiana also so happens to be one of the most polluted States in the Union in terms of both air and water. As such, it is that much more important that the EPA be protected from any attempts in Congress to strip it of its power to regulate carbon emissions or any other pollutants for that matter.

Read more: The Louisiana “Storm”
Jonathan Henderson
Healthy Drinking Water on "Tapped"
Monday, 12 April 2010 15:46

Our work at the Gulf Restoration Network is made possible in part because of the support we receive from Aveda and their network of salons, spas, Institutes and stores. Salons like Paris Parker in New Orleans help to raise money for us while helping to spread the word to their clientele about the issues we work on--issues like healthy  water, healthy wetlands, and healthy oceans. A big part of what we do here at the GRN is uniting and empowering people to protect and restore our natural resources.  Increasing public awareness about the issues we work on is something that we strive to achieve and we have found that film and documentaries can be very effective communication tools.  The GRN recently had the privilege of attending (with our sponsors at Aveda) the New Orleans premier of the documentary “Tapped”, a powerful, thought provoking expose on the myriad of problems associated with the mega business of selling bottled water to consumers for hugely inflated prices, often at the peril of local drinking water supplies, human health and the health of our oceans.

Starting on World Water Day and ending on Earth Day, April 22, producer Sarah Olson and director Stephanie Soechtig have been driving across the country urging Americans to Get Off the Bottle! Their tour will have landed them in some thirty cities upon completion where they are collecting pledges for people to reduce their bottled water use and trade their empty bottles of water for a Klean Kanteen! Tapped_Still_Handoff

Organized by Aveda Corp. and Paris Parker staff, the New Orleans premier was held at the Republic in the Warehouse District on an absolutely beautiful Saturday evening. Parked out front of the venue was a huge orange truck with a see through container filled with thousands of plastic water bottles that had been collected at stops along the tour. The setting certainly had the feel of a premier event, complete with velvet ropes, flashing cameras, and fashionably dressed attendees. The event itself was fantastic and the film did a great job at explaining the crisis and putting a human and ecological face on the impacts this industry is having on mankind and our environment. The soundtrack was pretty cool too!

In the words of Director Soechtig “the idea to make Tapped all began with the discovery of a plastic stew, twice the size of Texas located between San Francisco and Hawaii.” This stew of plastic particles can be found in high concentrations throughout our oceans (and the Gulf of Mexico). These particles are infiltrating marine life in ways that have never been seen before and threaten our fisheries and marine ecosystems.

Read more: Healthy Drinking Water on "Tapped"
Aaron Viles
Whether in Cleveland or NOLA, Scott Fujita is a Saint for the Gulf Coast
Monday, 12 April 2010 10:11

Last Friday GRN was excited to partner with former Saint Scott Fujita, filmmaker Walter Williams, musician Amanda Shaw and the America's WETLAND Foundation to help spread the word about Louisiana's coastal crisis.  As you may have seen, Scott and his wife Jaclyn decided to donate half of his Superbowl check to charity, with half going to recovery efforts in Haiti, and half to coastal restoration.  Beyond the $12,500 donation to GRN's work, we were really excited to work with Scott to help draw attention to the issue, and working with AWF we quickly put together a fantastic event.  We've seen an immediate impact, with Scott's former teammate, Kawika Mitchell and his wife Billie donating $10,000 to GRN as well!

Frequent collaborator Walter Williams put aside many pressing personal projects and jumped into directing and filming a public service announcement for us.  You can see the YouTube video below.

The event generated plenty of media coverage, and most of the television stations even got the story right!  Big thanks go out to Amanda Shaw, whose work in the IMAX film Hurricane on the Bayou helped inspire Scott and Jacyln to get involved, and the producers of the film, who sent copies over for the press event. Also, the event couldn't have happened without the support of the Intercontinental Hotel, which provided multiple conference spaces for all our varied needs.

Joe Murphy
Is Florida's future the same as Louisiana's legacy?
Thursday, 08 April 2010 09:43
Nancy Reagan once referred to the oil rigs off the coast of California as looking like Christmas trees during the darkened night.  I like Christmas trees as much as the next American, but I prefer the Gulf Coast of Florida to stay dark, inspiring, and mysterious in the evening.  The open and majestic horizon, bathed in the glow of a Florida sunset, gradually transitions to the dark night and one can get a sense of the awe and wonder those who came before us felt before we lit up the night sky.  It is a link we have to previous generations, and a link we need to keep with future generations.

I propose that when we set public policy in Florida from this point forward we use a simple test:  Are we ensuring that our grandchildren will know the Florida our grandparents did?  If we cannot meet that standard, our public policy is flawed and unsustainable.  My grandparents knew a Florida coast free of oil rigs.  My grandchildren should as well.

One of my first memories is learning to fish and crab with my Grandpa in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.  My parents taught me to swim in the warm, salty waters of the Gulf.  I remember the sunshine, the sandy beach, and the pure joy of that day.  That is my children’s birthright as Floridians.  It is their  natural heritage.  

Recently the Obama Administration announced their intention to open vast new areas of the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the south to mid Atlantic Ocean to oil and gas development.  This is a profound and unacceptable step in the wrong direction.  Our national energy future is too valuable to simply consign to the outdated and ineffective policies of the past.  A bold, new energy future which we should demand and expect from the Obama Administration, has to be forward looking and at a minimum not be based in deepening the hole of climate change by expanding oil and gas drilling.
Read more: Is Florida's future the same as Louisiana's legacy?
Aaron Viles
USA TODAY: Environment is Key for Ex-Saint
Tuesday, 30 March 2010 09:07

Scott Fujita comes after Kurt Warner in the Cardinals-Saints divisional gameThis great story just came out in USA Today, announcing our exciting collaboration with NFL linebacker Scott Fujita, a key part of the 2009 Championship Saints team, now on his way to Cleveland.  We're thrilled to be working with Scott and his wife Jacyln, and appreciate their generosity and appreciation of the fact that Louisiana's coastal wetlands crisis is just as important in Cleveland as it is in New Orleans.  Defend the nation's energy, seafood, shipping and culture. Defend Louisiana's wetlands.

Aaron Viles is GRN's Campaign Director

Matt Rota
New Report Calls for Limits to Agriculture Pollution
Monday, 29 March 2010 13:36

As our loyal readers know, nitrogen and phosphorous pollution flowing from agricultural fields in the Mississippi River Basin is a major contributor to the Gulf's annual Dead Zone.  We (as a member of the Mississippi River Collaborative), along with the Environmetal Law and Policy Center, just released a report on how we could better address some of these sources.  Check out the press release:


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                             

March 29, 2010

Contact: Peter Gray, ELPC 312-795-3715
              Susan Heathcote, Iowa Environmental Council 515-244-1194 ext 205
              Matt Rota, Gulf Restoration Network  504-377-7840

New Report Calls on States to Regulate Water Pollution from Agriculture
“Cultivating Clean Water” Examines Existing Rules, Recommends Improvements

Today, the Environmental Law and Policy Center and the Mississippi River Collaborative are releasing “Cultivating Clean Water,” a new report that examines the effectiveness of state-based regulatory programs to control agricultural water pollution and recommends policies that will result in cleaner water.

This report provides a snapshot of what is currently a fragmented and poorly-implemented system of state-based regulation of agricultural pollution.  But the story is not one of failure, rather it is a story of unrealized potential.  

Manure, fertilizer and other agricultural pollutants are a significant source of pollution affecting a huge number of lakes and streams across the country, endangering drinking water supplies, threatening wildlife and contributing to the massive Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico. The 1987 amendments to the federal Clean Water Act directed states to develop programs to control “non-point” sources of pollution such as agricultural runoff.  

“However current approaches are not delivering measurable improvements in water quality,” said Chris Jones of the Des Moines Water Works.  “We continue to see elevated nitrate levels in the Raccoon and Des Moines Rivers that provide our source water, and some problems appear to be getting worse. These include the frequency and duration of harmful algae and cyanobacteria blooms, and ammonia loads delivered during the spring runoff.”  

Voluntary agricultural conservation programs can play an important role in reducing water pollution if they are better targeted and fully funded. “It is clear that voluntary programs alone will not get the job done and funding for voluntary programs continues to fall under the budget knife. We hope this report starts a serious conversation about regulatory approaches that work for agriculture and clean water,” said Craig Cox of the Environmental Working Group.

The report focuses on management practices to control nitrogen and phosphorus pollution because these two pollutants are cited by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as two of the most significant pollutants impairing US rivers and lakes. According to a 2006 EPA report on wadeable streams, high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution were found in nearly one-third of all streams studied.

Cultivating Clean Water” provides an overview of existing state programs and gives a template for creating effective regulations that work well for farmers and the environment.  

Part 1 of the report examines seven existing state regulatory programs that address agricultural nonpoint source pollution.  These programs involve the state-wide implementation of a pollution management plan and/or best management practices that minimize farm pollution of surface water and groundwater.

Part 2 of the report focuses on five common-sense agricultural management practices that are required by several states: 1) vegetative buffers between crop land and water bodies 2) setbacks for applying manure and fertilizer near waterways 3) restrictions on applying manure in winter 4) keeping livestock out of water bodies and  5) restrictions on applying fertilizer in fall.

Wisconsin dairy farmer Jim Goodman thinks these recommendations make sense. "Properly matching animal numbers to pasture and crop acres, avoidance of winter manure spreading, maintaining natural vegetative buffers and using common sense can protect both surface and ground water," said Goodman. "At the same time it will keep our nutrients where we need them as opposed to sending them down the Mississippi to further burden the Gulf Dead Zone."

“Too many of our rivers and lakes are polluted and agricultural pollution is a big part of the problem,” said Jerry Peckumn, an Iowa corn and soybean farmer. “I enjoy canoeing, swimming, and fishing in the Raccoon River near my farm but it is often polluted with soil, algae blooms and bacteria.  All farmers can implement simple practices to improve water quality like setting aside land along rivers and streams for native perennial plants that provide a buffer from fertilizer and pesticides getting into the river, stabilizes the soil in stream banks, and provides habitat for wildlife.”

The report finds that a number of states have adopted regulations to control agricultural pollution.  However, progress is tempered by a number of common problems that undermine the effectiveness of the regulations.  All states in the study fall short on enforcement and monitoring, largely as a result of limited funding and staff resources and political resistance to regulation of agriculture.  

“This report represents the kind of regional approach that we will need to implement if we are to address the root cause of water quality impairment,” said Whitney Broussard of The University of Louisiana at Lafayette. “A watershed problem, like the Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico, requires a watershed approach, and watersheds pay no attention to political lines.  It will be imperative that local, state, and federal entities coordinate their efforts and complement the other's actions to reduce nutrient enrichment and improve water quality.”

“Each state needs to take responsibility for developing programs that will really work to help farmers control agricultural pollution,” said Jessica Dexter, Staff Attorney for the Environmental Law & Policy Center.  “This includes reasonable regulations that everyone is expected to follow. We hope this report helps states begin that process without delay.”

Click here to download the full “Cultivating Clean Water” report


The Environmental law & Policy Center is the Midwest’s leading environmental legal advocacy and eco-business innovation organization

The Mississippi River Collaborative is a partnership of environmental organizations and legal centers from states bordering the Mississippi River as well as regional and national groups working on issues affecting the Mississippi River and its tributaries.

Matt is Water Resources Program Director for GRN

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