GRN is proud to be partnering with What About Blue? An education and fundraising effort to support solutions for the world water crisis.Novice kayaker (not sure why we're so into paddlers) Kevin Lilly has committed to paddling the length of the Mississippi River to call attention to the lack of safe, fresh water around the globe , the need for water, wetlands and wildlife habitat nationally, and GRN's work on those same issues regionally. He's splitting the money that he raises evenly among those three causes, so you should certainly support his efforts. He's calling it a Latte for a Life - check it out below, asking for $5 a month for a year ($60). This program is simple and easyâ€¦ go to http://whataboutblue.ning.com/page/donate-1 and donate $5 per month for 1 year. Their goal is to get 100 people in 50 cities to give up one caffeine fix a month (5,000 people x $60/year = $300,000!). Sponsors are covering expedition expenses, so 100% of the monies raised online are used to support the three organizations.
You can follow his paddling efforts via his website, his twitter account, or occasional updates here on our blog.
He started up July 20th in the wilds of Minnesota, and will be wrapping up his trip Halloween weekend in New Orleans at the Voodoo Experience. We'll be partnering with him to welcome him to NOLA and make sure he enjoys one of NOLA's very best events.
Don't worry about Kevin being taken out by a barge in St. Louis, he's being supported by a couple of paddling pros, who have helped him train, and will be looking out for him on the water.
We're impressed that every single mile of the 2,500 mile journey is committed to a better Gulf, a better Mississippi River, and a better world. Good luck the Kevin and Team Blue. Please go help them out.
If menhaden are the most important fish in the sea, then why were over 400,000 of them spilled into the Gulf of Mexico last Tuesday?Nearly half a million menhaden, or pogies, as they are commonly known, were spilled into the Gulf near Long Beach and Pass Christian. The spill site resulted in an oil slick that was 2-3 miles long. The accident allegedly occurred when two menhaden fishing boats caught their nets on debris in the water.
The boats were owned by Omega Protein, the worldâ€™s largest producer of fish oils. Omega Protein has a processing plant in Moss Point, MS where they reduce the menhaden they catch into fish meal and fish oil. These byproducts are components of animal feed, make up and fertilizers.
This spill highlights a lot of what is wrong with the menhaden industry. Despite the fact that menhaden are the base of the Gulf food chain, they are heavily fished. The menhaden are caught using giant nets called purse seines. These nets can catch thousands of menhaden at once, but they may also be unintentionally catching other types of sea life, such as the threatened dusky shark. And as the Mississippi gulf coast saw last week, big catches can leave a big mess.
Click here for more information about the spill and visit our website for more information on menhaden and overfishing.
Stephanie Short is a legal intern at the Gulf Restoration Network working on fishery conservation.
Thank you to the Biloxi Sun Herald for the photograph.
Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana â€˘ Gulf Restoration Network â€˘ Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation
Since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the US Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) has spent the last 3 years and over $23 million taxpayer dollars on the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Study (also known as the "Category 5 plan"). Our organizations worked hard to convince Congress to direct the Corps to develop a plan for our coast and communities which would recognize that LEVEES ALONE ARE NOT ENOUGH to protect South Louisiana.
We have consistently urged Congress and the Corps to adopt the Louisiana Coastal Lines of Defense strategy, integrating structural protection such as levees and flood gates, with non-structural elements such as home-elevation and evacuation routes along with restored natural defenses such as barrier islands, marshes, natural ridges and cypress swamps. Ultimately, a comprehensive approach utilizing all of these components must be adopted by the Corps.
Unfortunately, despite Congressional directions, the Corps has failed to provide clear recommendations while missing their deadline by approximately 2 years. In addition, the LACPR study has failed to use the Louisiana Coastal Lines of Defense strategy to envision and plan for a coast where our natural systems are enhanced and help keep our communities safe.
The Corps is currently asking for public comments on the LACPR report, so now is our time to weigh in and ask for some key changes.
Please join the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, Gulf Restoration Network and Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation and urge the Corps to address these failures and others:
â€˘ The LACPR report supports the Coastal Lines of Defense strategy but falls short of applying it to the formulation process and alternatives evaluated. We ask the Corps to incorporate the Multiple Lines of Defense strategy into the analysis.
â€˘ The LACPR does not consider the full range of coastal restoration measures, such as using sediment from the Mississippi River, rebuilding barrier islands, restoring cypress swamps and natural ridges, etc.
â€˘ Some of the LACPR's levee alternatives could significantly increase storm surge and rely almost exclusively on levees that would enclose almost 1/4 of Louisiana's remaining wetlands. Wetlands behind levees cannot provide protection or a buffer for the levee system and communities inside. The Corps should focus on leaving wetlands outside of the levee systems to act as storm surge buffers.
â€˘ Nonstructural solutions (elevating homes, flood-proofing, etc.) are downplayed, despite the fact that they can be implemented quickly and provide cost-effective, environmentally sound risk reduction.The Corps should consider non-structural solutions more seriously.
â€˘ Evacuation is a critical element in keeping our communities safe and saving lives, but is not included in any alternatives. The Corps should incorporate evacuation, and all of the lines of defense into their analysis.
â€˘ The inevitable interaction of levees, flood gates, barriers, weirs, and leaky levees with diversions is not addressed. Habitat goals for a sustainable coast should be proposed so that the natural function of the estuary is supported.
Thank you for helping us send the message that levees alone are not enough,
Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana
Gulf Restoration Network
Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation
P.S. Please share this call to action with your friends, family and colleagues who care about Louisiana's coast. The public comment period closes this Friday, July 24th so please send your message today!
As six Senate committees take up climate legislation, much work remains to be done to gain support for a strong climate bill. Climate champions in the Senate are plotting their next moves this month, in hopes of producing legislative text after the August recess. Committee chairs will be working with Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to craft sections of the bill that can win support from moderates without losing key progressive votes or legislative integrity, while opponents continues to employ traditional strategies to block progress and whip up public opposition to climate action. Strong grassroots pressure will be key for supporting strong policy proposed by climate champions, as well as for preventing serious weakening.
Climate legislation will remain in the Environment and Public Works Committee until Congress returns from its summer recess in September. Chairwoman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., has made it clear that she no longer intends to mark up the bill before the recess begins on August 7. This move gives negotiators and their aides an extra month to work on producing a strong, effective bill and will give Boxer more time to work on legislative text.
The delay was agreed to in a meeting between Boxer; Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.; and Carol M. Browner, the White House coordinator of energy and climate policy. Reid had originally declared a deadline of Sept. 18 for all committees to finish their work on the bill. That deadline is now Sept. 28.
Boxerâ€™s bill will be modeled on the American Clean Energy and Security Act that narrowly passed the House in June, which would cap greenhouse gas emissions that lead to global warming and create a system for buying and selling emissions permits. However, Boxer is facing an uphill battle.
Senate Committee Breakdown
Environment and Public Works (EPW): EPW is the primary committee of jurisdiction with respect to the climate bill, and contains a strong block of climate champions. Despite the shift in timing, a strong piece of legislation is still expected from EPW, although the potential outcome of having an EPW bill used to frame the work of other Committees loses some of its potency. Still, grassroots groups will now have more time to work with the Committee to produce a strong bill by September, and opponents will have less fodder to work with over the August recess. Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) has expressed particular interest in strengthening short term emissions reduction targets, and exploring the possibility of doing more to regulate new and old coal plants.
Sens. Max Baucus (D-MT) and Arlen Specter (D-PA) are key members to woo in the Chairwoman's plan to strengthen the 2020 emissions reduction target beyond ACES (potentially from 17% to 20%). Their votes are not essential to Committee passage, but having unified Democratic support for stronger targets would be valuable as the bill moves towards the floor. EPW held their first hearing on climate last week. Democratic members voiced strong support for climate action, while the most contentious issue from Republican senators appeared to be the important role nuclear could play in legislation. NRDC provided strong testimony in support of strengthening the bill's short term emissions reduction targets, efficiency mandates, regulation of existing and new coal plants, and offset and biomass integrity.
Energy Secretary Stephen Chu, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar also testified to the necessity of bold climate legislation this year. In contrast, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour continued to perpetuate a "do nothing" message for climate change, in addition to promoting oil, gas, and coal as core members of an environmental solution.
Finance Committee: Finance also held their first hearing on trade provisions last week. Trade is one of two key areas of jurisdiction for this committee (the other being allocations), and further hearings are expected before August. The key issue being debated by the Committee is whether to address trade and the environmental impact of imports / exports in domestic legislation, or leave it to an international treaty that will be discussed in Copenhagen in December and by the World Trade Organization. Sen. Grassley (R-IA) voiced concerns over the international sanctions that foreign countries could bring upon America if an energy bill to address trade through border measures or incentives were passed, while Foreign Relations Chairman Kerry (D-MA) articulated the potential for jobs to "leak" overseas if the environmental impact of domestic sectors were to be addressed without some international component. Chairman Baucus released a comment in support of Sen. Grassley. Sen. Kerry is working on trade provisions with Sen. Boxer different from both the ACES measures (a carbon tariff after 2025 on imports from countries without enforced climate legislation or emissions reductions commitments), and those included in Lieberman-Warner-Boxer.
Agriculture Committee: Like the House, Senate "Ag" committee members are planning to stake a major claim in an energy bill. Members have committed to including all provisions from the deal struck with House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN), and will seek further farm and ethanol friendly provisions. Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) will lead the charge, with key support coming from Sens. Conrad (D-N.D.), Lincoln (D-AR) and Stabenow (D-MI). These Senators could provide key votes if sufficient compromise is made, but lawmakers will have to be cautious of the impacts changes could have on the agricultural landscape (especially in the context of biomass and biofuels).
Foreign Relations Committee: Foreign Relations also held their first hearing last week on trade provisions (in the context of lessons learned from the European carbon trading scheme). Concerns were similar to those voiced in the Finance hearing, and will likely be explored further once the details of the Boxer-Kerry trade provision are made clear.
The GRN will continue to provide you with updates as climate legislation makes its way through the Senate. We are also currently working to engage as many folks as possible in the coming weeks and months because grassroots pressure will be key. Please be on the lookout for action alerts and important events. If you would like to volunteer, need more information, please donâ€™t hesitate to give us a call or email.
Jonathan Henderson is the 1Sky organizer for the Gulf Restoration Network. For more information, email
Have you spoken with one of GRNâ€™s canvassers yet?
For the second summer in a row, GRN is engaging the public through an outreach-focused canvass campaign. Canvassing is an important way to build our membership, but it means more than simply signing up concerned GulfCoast residents. Every home and every conversation is an opportunity to have a dialogue about the health of the Gulf of Mexico, our regionâ€™s most precious natural resource.
GRNâ€™s canvassers work hard for the Coast in the mid-summer heat because they are dedicated getting the public involved with GRNâ€™s campaigns on a personal level. Members who interact with canvassers have the chance to exchange ideas and share their passion for the regionâ€™s waters and wetlands. A united, informed, and involved public is the Gulfâ€™s best ally as we work to protect our coastline and rivers.
At the canvass offices, we are filled with energy and optimism because each day introduces us to more citizens who care deeply about the GRNâ€™s campaigns. Walking every evening in GulfCoast humidity requires determination, but the result is an extraordinary grassroots movement that fosters awareness and concern for the issues facing the Gulf region.
Each community introduces canvassers to remarkable people and experiences. I have canvassed politicians, tugboat operators, engineers, teachers, commercial fishermen, and retired folks, all of whom have expressed great interest in the work of the GRN. Each neighborhood has a unique way of interacting with canvassers, and we appreciate the support of the public.
When you answer the door to a GRN canvasser, be sure to ask how you can help protect the Coast- and feel free to offer your canvasser a glass of water.
Sara Warren is a canvasser and an intern with the Healthy Waters campaign
Do you believe it's almost been fouryears since Hurricane Katrina, then Rita rocked the Gulf Coast?
We've seen the federal government respond to those twin disasters, and there have been moments of courage, and useful programs that address the needs of struggling communities, but largely, the response has been inadequate. From FEMA to the Corps of Engineers, agencies have often presented more problems than solutions. You may have been with GRN for much of that history, urging action from the Corps, from Congress, and from President Bush and now President Obama.
Unfortunately, we have still seen very little progress on building land to restore our coast and protect our communities. It's time to remind the nation, Congress and the Corps of Engineers that we need to restore our wetlands now. There is no better time than August 29th. But we need your help again. Can you host a screening of the documentary, Paradise Faded: The Fight for Louisiana?
Beautifully shot along our coast, Paradise Faded features interviews with the scientists, politicians and coastal residents who know what's at stake for South Louisiana and the nation if we fail to address our coastal wetlands crisis. It also has great New Orleans and Louisiana music helping underscore our unique culture. It's a powerful reminder of the storms, the role of our coast in protecting our communities, and the need for action now. Visit this website to sign up to host a screening: http://action.healthygulf.org/...event_KEY=526
We will provide a complimentary copy of the DVD if you agree to host a screening on or around August 29th, the 4th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. We'll also be hosting conference calls with myself and the director Jared Arsement, as well as providing information to make your screening a success. The purpose of these screenings is to raise awareness about the drastic wetlands loss plaguing Louisiana's coast, as well as to help recruit new supporters like yourself, who can help join our fight to save the Gulf Coast. GRN can't do this work alone, we need your help.
In order to save the Louisiana's wetlands, we must raise awareness about the rapidly diminishing coastline - a coastline disappearing due to a national need for dependable shipping on the Mississippi River and oil and gas from Louisiana's coast and the Gulf of Mexico. With 1/3rd of the nation's wild-caught seafood and oil and natural gas coming from or through Louisiana's wetlands, this is truly a national issue. All of America is affected.
We urge you to act now, and join the fight to save our wetlands. The Army Corps. Of Engineers recognizes the problem, however the solution that they propose is to build bigger levees, largely ignoring the natural storm protection restoring our coast will provide. Again, we greatly appreciate your support, and look forward to working with you to ensure that the Katrina Anniversary Home Screenings are a huge success. Thanks!
Floridaâ€™s economy, imperiled and fragile as it is, is directly dependent on tourism. Floridaâ€™s tourism industry relies heavily on the idea that Florida has clean beaches and lots of recreational fish to catch. Sunsets, charter boats, beach bars, and white sand blending with turquoise waters are the life blood of the Florida Dream. Floridaâ€™s economy, particularly since the development industry is in shambles, has never been more dependent on the nationâ€™s and worldâ€™s tourists coming to spend money and support local businesses. Offshore oil and gas drilling, and the infrastructure to move and process product, is a direct threat to Floridaâ€™s economy, as well as the coastal environments that define Florida.
As the Senate ponders Americaâ€™s energy future Senators from land locked or oil owned states like to propose sweeping changes that would open more of the eastern Gulf of Mexico and Floridaâ€™s coastlines to offshore oil and gas drilling. It makes great rhetoric, and â€śdrill baby drillâ€ť still fires up the base for certain politicians who grasp at any straw to find an issue that moves the base in their direction. What makes for a quick sound bite on the campaign trail is often disastrous public policy. Offshore drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico would be disastrous public policy, and it is a risk Florida canâ€™t afford.
The worst part of the call for drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico is that it ignores that fact that as recently as 2006 Congress acted to address this issue and enacted a compromise that should end debate on the subject. Democrats and Republicans, the oil industry and conservationists, and then President and Governor Bush all supported a 2006 compromise the opened more of Lease Area 181 to leasing and drilling in return for a moratorium against drilling 125 miles of the Florida Panhandle, and 250 miles of the Tampa Bay region that is in place for at least the next decade. This subject has been addressed, and Congress acted.
Floridaâ€™s environment, economy, and military training infrastructure all would be threatened by drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. As our country moves towards energy policy that stresses renewables, alternatives, and efficiency in an effort both to address climate change and be less dependent on fossil fuels it would be a monumental step backwards to open up more of the Gulf of Mexico to offshore drilling. The Gulf and its natural resources and coastal communities have suffered enough from oil and gas drilling. Letâ€™s quit digging the hole deeper and find real solutions.
The pelagic brown algae, Sargassum natans, is a regular visitor to the shores of the Texas Gulf coast. The floating seaweed is a habitat to numerous species of vertebrates and invertebrates, several of which are exclusive to the Sargassum. Many sports fisherman in the Gulf look for the â€śweed linesâ€ť, as more often than not, dorado, triple-tail, and other game fish are associated with the seaweed.
Eventually the floating mats of seaweed make it to the coast. Here is where the controversy begins, especially in Texas. Much of the economy of coastal Texas depends on tourism, with visitors to the beach a primary draw. The beach is also the playground of locals as well. The naturalists among them will take kids and grandkids out to the water, between the shoreline and the first sandbar, pickle buckets in tow, drop a clump of Sargassum into the bucket, and spend the time discovering the numerous life forms hiding in the seaweed. Other tourists, and some locals, have different expectations of what the beach should be like. They see the seaweed as a nuisance, same as the litter and trash that washes up from the Gulf. This line of thinking has many supporters who feel it is their job to make sure that the tourists are not inconvenienced by something like seaweed.
Municipal and county beach maintenance managers, being political entities, often rely on the various Tourist and Visitors Bureaus, Chambers of Commerce, and tradition, to shape their beach management plans. In most locals on the Texas coast, heavy machinery are used on a daily basis to scrape away all signs of seaweed on the beach. This practice does make the beach resemble somewhere else, maybe like beaches where seaweed is not an issue, making it look â€śresort-likeâ€ť. The problems as a result of these practices are several. First, sand is removed along with the seaweed by the heavy machinery. This may lead to beach erosion on beaches that are already seeing erosion rates of 3â€™ to 10â€™ per year, depending on location. Second, where will the seaweed-sand load be placed once it is removed? Third, suppose that the beach is scraped at 7 AM, the beach is crowded with people by 10 AM, and the beach scrapers canâ€™t get to the beach for a second (or third) pass. The seaweed continues to wash in all day and night. Fourth, many species of shorebirds are found to be exploiting the washed up seaweed, as each clump contains food - shrimp, crabs, nudibranchs, etc., and many beach visitors want to see this type of interaction.
The Sargassum Symposium of 2008 and 2009 were conceived and designed to explore these and many other practical issues of beach management and maintenance. Visit the website for video and Power Point presentations made during these 2 symposia.
One important thing learned at these symposia was that Sargassum on the beach is but a part of the big picture of beach management, especially as the topic of beach erosion is brought to bear, ie no beach - no beach goers. More to the point, subsequent Symposia will focus on all aspects of beach management in Texas, especially education. Education of not only the beach going public, but of the decision makers, hoteliers, visitors bureaus, chambers of commerce, business community, and the beach managers, will be the focus.
John S. Adams is a member of Team Sargassum, with Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi's Division of Nearshore Research
Over the past week or so, GRN has been maligned by advocates of the Morganza to the Gulf hurricane risk reduction system, as opposing the project and therefore, not supporting the future of the Houma/Thibodaux area. In order to set the record straight, our Executive Director, Cyn Sarthou submitted this opinion piece to the Houma Courier. Quoting from it:
For the record, GRN has never opposed the Morganza system nor were we responsible for any U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or congressional delay in moving forward with the project. As a matter of fact, we advocated the passage of the Water Resources Development Act, which included the Morganza authorization.
Generally, GRN believes it makes a lot of sense to put levees between your community and all the natural systems which help slow down storm surge (barrier islands, natural ridges, coastal marshes, cypress swamps). This means your levees are a lot more likely to withstand the killer storms, and the wetlands are a lot more likely to continue to provide wildlife habitat and other benefits. NOLA's experiences with Katrina bear this out. Admittedly, it's hard to do, especially in an area like South Louisiana, where we've got wetlands all over the place, and communities all over the place. But unless we want to kill the goose that laid the golden egg, we've got to work hard to get it right.
As the Category 5 plan (LACPR) progresses, it's more and more critical we get this right, as some levee alignments in the Corps draft report would put as much as 1/3 of Louisiana's remaining Mississippi River Delta estuary wetlands on the wrong side of big walls.
A couple of LSU researchers have weighed in on the ability of the Mississippi River to sustain our coastal wetlands, and the math isn't good. Due to increased sea level rise, decreased sediment in the river, and our ever-subsiding coast, the Mississippi River estuarine wetlands aren't long for this earth. 2100 or so. By that time, Louisiana's coast will lose another 4-5,000 square miles, an area about the size of Connecticut.
Of course this report doesn't look at the beneficial use of dredged material, or pipeline sediment delivery, but my gut is that there's not enough dredge spoil in the Corps entire navigation maintenance operation to make up the difference. This fantastic Times-Picayune article reports that Louisiana officials put the number of dredged tons available for use for marsh building at 60 million tons per year, while the LSU researchers put the historic amount of sediment in the river at 400-500 million tons, with the current river holding about 200 million tons. Seems like we haven't gotten to where we need to be, even capturing everything in the river, and everything the Corps dredges.
What this report very graphically shows is that the coast of tomorrow is not the coast of yesterday. That's been said a number of times, by a number of experts, but this is the first time it's really been shoved in our faces.
We've got to get serious about picking critical areas and sustaining them with sediment delivery backed up with sediment diversions from the river. The authors say something similar when questioned by the Times-Picayune in this article, pointing to a couple important, big river diversions - possibly at Caernarvon and Bayou Lafourche.
The dirty secret of coastal restoration is that everyone in Louisiana knows it's important and supports it, yet when asked what needs to be done, very few people (state and local politicians, engineers, biologists, fishermen, etc.) will say remotely similar things. Understandably, everyone wants the coast that they know. Unfortunately, this report shows that's impossible. It also makes it clear that if we don't quickly make some important decisions, we won't be left with any coast at all.