Hurricane Ike, the 3rd most costly hurricane on record devastated the upper Texas coast on September 13, 2008. It was a category 2 hurricane with a category 4 storm surge, 112 people were killed and 26 are still missing. Approximately 3500 houses were destroyed on the Bolivar Peninsula. The massive storm surge flooded the inland town of Bridge City near the Louisiana border, flooding over 3000 more houses. The City of Galveston suffered about $3 Billion in damage. Of the 58,000 residents, 38,000 evacuated before landfall. Approximately 75-80% of the houses in the city were damaged either by wind or water. About 1100 houses were damaged beyond repair and 60 houses on the west end of the island were completely destroyed. About 30% of the population are not yet back in their houses.
As the people returned to their empty lots or flooded coastal houses, first on the minds of many people was to "rebuild better and stronger so that this might never happen again." This is the common response to a natural disaster. Build better? Build stronger? We already have construction and insurance requirements that can withstand hurricane-force winds. We have all seen photos of houses that survived storms.
But storm surge and flooding from torrential rains are another issue completely. The latest idea - the "Ike Dike" - a 17 foot high, 60 mile wall, a"fortification" to hold back the Gulf of Mexico. Stretching from High Island (the highest coastal land between Mexico and Florida) to the east and San Luis Pass (the last "natural" pass in Texas) to the west. This fortification would require two "flood-gates" on either end on the Intra-Coastal Waterway, one large flood gate at San Luis Pass, and HUGE flood-gates at the entrance to the the Houston ship channel at the east end of Galveston island.
The economic argument seems sound. Hurricane Ike did about $24 Billion in damage and this 60 mile fortification costs only $ 2 to $4 Billion. If you exclude the cost of purchasing over 40 miles of beachfront property, which will certainly be huge. It also ignores the damage to the environment. Galveston Bay is a prolific marine life nursery. The associated wetlands naturally filter contaminants in run-off and provide natural protection from storm surge.
This "Ike Dike Fortification" is in the very early stages of planning. Such a massive engineering project would surely take years of study and design before we get to the decades-long construction phase. Four Billion dollars is obviously a â€ślow ballâ€ť number. What about the unintended consequences? What will be the damage to the fisheries, oyster beds and shrimp as the water-flow is changed? What about hurricane rainfall, where will the water go?
These are just a few questions that must be answered. There will be more in future blogs.
The Rice Design Alliance held the second public meeting on August 19 at the Museum of Fine Arts Brown Theater. The panelists were: James Blackburn, Attorney, Blackburn & Carter: adjunct Professor, Environmental Sciences and Engineering Deptartment, Rice University William Merrell, Professor, Marine Sciences, Texas A&M University at Galveston
William Kiene, Assoc. Science Coordinator, NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries, Southeast, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Region
Dr. Merrell designed the Ike Dike, Dr. Kiene designed a much smaller scale levee system that wraps around Galveston Island and encloses only the area now protected by the Galveston Seawall.
Jim Blackburn proposed a number of alternative solutions that included limited fortification construction, protection of the wetlands, and preservation of the natural system of bays, estuaries, and wetlands. He also advocated conversion of the many now-developed areas to natural parkland and buffer zones to protect the region.
Ellis Pickett is the Texas Campaign Organizer for the Gulf Restoration Network. For more information, please contact
I write this letter to you as a Florida resident of over 40 years, and as a lover of the Gulf of Mexico. While I respect your position as a United States Senator and believe you promote policies which you believe to be in the national interest, I am writing to urge to stop attempts to weaken or dismantle protections that prevent offshore oil and gas drilling off the Gulf Coast of Florida.
United States Senator Bill Nelson of Florida has it right. He has been a consistent champion of Floridaâ€™s coastlines and a staunch opponent of drilling off the Gulf Coast of Florida. I respectfully ask that you follow his lead on this issue as he knows his state and its needs much like I would urge him to support coastal restoration in Louisiana as you know the needs of your state.
Offshore drilling is wrong for Florida in numerous ways. By any criteria used to measure its potential negative impact to our coastlines it fails to pass the test of acceptable risk or any provide any benefit that would outweigh the tremendous dangers posed to the economic engines that drive Florida.
Our economy in Florida is grounded in clean healthy coastlines that are the backbone of our 65 billion dollar a year tourist economy. In the absence of a state income tax revenue generated by tourism represents a large section of our state budget. Everything from recreational fishing to wildlife viewing produce billions in economic activity. Attendance at regional beaches and coastal parks is in the millions each year. Clean beaches, turquoise waters, and coastal recreation are essential to Floridaâ€™s economic future and these resources and their use employ almost a million Floridians.
States make choices as to how to use and manage their coastlines. Florida has historically made the decision to manage and protect our coastlines to maximize coastal development, coastal tourism, and recreational use of coastal resources. Additionally Florida has conserved and placed in public ownership large sections of the Gulf Coast of Florida, particularly in the Nature Coast, and protected coastal marshes, seagrass beds, and estuaries. As you well know these resources are critical to healthy commercial and recreational fisheries.
The routine pollution from offshore oil and gas drilling, the associated coastal infrastructure, and the potential damage to both economic and environmental resources makes drilling unacceptable off the coast of Florida.
Additionally the critical and growing training needs of the United States military off the Gulf Coast of Florida are at risk if drilling and its related infrastructure is allowed to occur off the coast of Florida. Florida is a proud leader in terms of the number of military facilities and bases in our state. As other regions have been lost to the military in terms of training areas and opportunities Florida has stepped up and major and critical training occurs off both of Floridaâ€™s coasts. The safety of those being trained, and those who will eventually rely on them when they are sent into harmâ€™s way is not negotiable. Drilling poses a direct threat to this training, training that is essential to national security.
Lastly, this issue has been debated and discussed by Congress and addressed and solved. As you know in 2006 Congress passed compromise legislation, under the leadership of Senator Nelson, and United States Senator Mel Martinez of Florida, that both opened up new areas of Lease Area 181 to expanded exploration, drilling, and leasing in return for protections ranging off the coast of Florida from 125 to 230 miles. This legislation represented a compromise between Democrats and Republicans, the military, oil drilling proponents, and conservation and coastal tourism organizations. This legislation still has over a decade until it expires.
I respectfully ask that you allow this legislation to run its course, and defer to Senator Nelson in terms of what is best for Florida, our coastlines, and our future.
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!