We're excited to announce that we're over 115 home or community screenings of the powerful documentary, "Paradise Faded: The Fight for Louisiana" on or around the Katrinaversary, Saturday, August 29th. From Puerto Rico to Portland, our activists, bolstered by support from Sierra Club groups, Tulane and LSU alumni clubs and others (perhaps recruited by REM, Galactic or Marc Broussard) have stepped up to host events commemorating the devastating hurricane season of 2005.
We've got a couple of events mixing Jared Arsenalt's film with music, one in Columbus Ohio (featuring music by Long Tall Deb and the Drifter Kings) and GRN's own Flood Washington Fest at One Eyed Jacks in the French Quarter, and featuring Anders Osborne playing with Galactic's Stanton Moore, Rebirth founding member Kirk Joseph, and Leon "Kid Chocolate" Brown.
Of course, every event will be able to boast some NOLA music, as thanks to Basin Street Records, we were able to include a BSR Festival Sampler in every screening kit - hosts will be able to treat their guests to some great mood music before and after the screening with tracks from Kermit Ruffins, Jeremy Davenport, Henry Butler, Theresa Andersson and lots of other great artists.
No matter what other bells and whistles hosts have added though, the film is really all folks need for an effective evening of action for our coastal crisis. Check out the trailer if you don't believe me.
We hope you can make it out to an event near you. Head to this page to search for a public event in your neck of the woods. Nothing close by? You're always welcome at One Eyed Jacks!!
Thanks to everyone who worked on and participated in the GRN Florida Summer Outreach Campaign! While folks are still knocking on doors in Louisiana, the Tampa canvass office wound down last week. Our intrepid canvassers pounded the pavement from Tampa to Sarasota to Tallahassee to launch GRNâ€™s â€śDefend Floridaâ€™s Gulf Coastâ€ť campaign and build the GRN member base in Florida. With over 25,000 face-to-face conversations, the outreach efforts raised visibility and name recognition for GRN and helped further our priority campaigns in Florida.
Canvassers and new members helped build the public call for Governor Crist to use his position to ensure that environmental laws are being enforced by the state, to support legislation safeguarding healthy and flowing waters, and to oppose oil drilling off Floridaâ€™s coast. Over 170 handwritten action letters and a meeting with the Governorâ€™s staff brought our message of a healthy Gulf directly to Mr. Crist.
The Mississippi Chapter of the Sierra Club opposes the highway departmentâ€™s proposed alternative C four-laning of highway 15 on several grounds.
Though a four-lane evacuation route out of Biloxi is inevitable, we cannot support a new â€śreal estate roadâ€ť cutting across the massive flood plain at the Harrison-Jackson County line. The massive disruption and damage to wetlands will require expensive and extensive bridge building unnecessary with the hwy 15 (alternative A) route. Wetland destruction and disruption will be significantly less if highway 15 is widened in its present location.
As folks may know, GRN has been involved with working to improve the Morganza-to-the-Gulf levee system since 2001, urging for levee alignments which will allow for as much intact coastal marsh area in front of the levee toe as possible. Despite our efforts, momentum has developed around an alignment that would significantly impact estuarine marsh, and the associated marine wildlife habitat, and natural storm protection those areas offer.
In designing the levee though, efforts have been made to protect salt/fresh water exchange between sides of the levee, via so called, "leaky levees." Despite significantconcerns about the effectiveness of this design, the inclusion of the 'environmental structures' showed that those unwilling to support different alignments were willing to put some energy and resources into efforts to sustain the coast, not simply wall it off.
Well the folks at LUMCON have finished their annual measurement of the Dead Zone that forms in the Gulf each year. On the surface, it looks like good news: it is much smaller than was predicted (see my previous blog on these predictions).
However, according to the researchers, while the areal size of the Dead Zone was smaller, the Zone was thick and very close to the shore, causing crabs, eels, and brown shrimp to swim to the surface to try to escape the â€śsevere condition in the waters below.â€ť GRN has been working for years to raise awareness about the Dead Zone in order to spur action. As of yet, we have not seen much, after the size of this yearâ€™s Dead Zone was released, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch asked me about what the Feds are doing:
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