Blogging for a Healthy Gulf

 

I intended to write this a while ago, but I've been ludicrously busy lately - and well, sometimes things just don't get done as intended. Mea culpa aside, I wanted to make sure our blog-reading supporters know that back in October, GRN was the official non-profit partner of the Voodoo Music Experience, one of the biggest, coolest music festivals, located right here in NOLA.

We did a few things with that opportunity: we launched a text messaging campaign (text the word 'coast' to the number 77007 to add your name to a petition to support restoring Louisiana's coast and communities - go ahead, do it); we organized a wetlands tour with the Lousiana Bayoukeeper to show Voodoo artists what was up with the coast; we tabled relentlessly and signed up well over 300 new GRN members (who could join at the special Voodoo rate of $20 and get a way cool, "Defend New Orleans: Defend the Coast" t-shirt for free); we got text campaign shout outs from artist announcers on the mainstage; we held a press conference announcing the Voodoo/GRN partnership with festival producers Rehage entertainment, cajun fiddler Amanda Shaw, filmmaker Walter Williams, and Jac Currie, principle of Defend New Orleans and our t-shirt collaborator. Of course, one of the coolest components of the three day event was meeting musicians who were down with the cause. Stanton Moore from Galactic, Big Sam from Big Sam's Funky Nation, Mark Mullins from Bonerama, Theresa Andersson, Amanda Shaw, Clint Maedegan from New Orleans Bingo Show (& Liquidrone), Marc Broussard (responsible for the single most effective text message shout out of the event), Ghost, Plain White Tees, Trombone Shorty, John Cleary, Groove sect, Amy Cook, Morning 40 Federation, Todd Voltz & Hands of Nero, Boots Riley, Dax Riggs, and my personal highlight, a couple of the guys from Wilco, who closed out the festival with an amazing performance which touched on about every album they've released.

Clint Maedgen's Complicated Life video: Featured prominently in the New Orleans Bingo Show at Voodoo - this is an amazing glimpse of life in NOLA - great, accessible song and vibe - watch it, you'll love it.

Head over to our flickr page to see all the great photos.

In addition to the artists I mentioned above, I'd be remiss if I didn't thank some key folks who made this successful event possible: Lisa Mirman from WTUL, Marc Ross from Rock the Earth, Walter Williams, Jez from Alternative, Jac from Defend New Orleans, Criss from Southern Screenprinting & Graphics, Emily Rosenblum from Tony Margherita Management, Jennifer Sacca from Rounder Records, Marcee from the Mitch Schneider Organization, Mike and Tracy from Bayoukeeper, Dave Roos, Gino, Marisa Morton, Casey, Casey, Anat, Alyssa, Amy and all the other great members of the GRN crew, Jeff & Karen from New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund, Alexis Giannopoulos from Highsteppin' Productions, Alex Smith from Smudge Ink Management,Charles Shaw from team shaw, Jen Pippitone & Emilio, Stephen Rehage and Mike Ciardi from Rehage Entertainment, Vydra from 106.7 FM, David, Scott, and Dimitri from WWOZ, and most importantly SIG!

Aaron Viles is the GRN's Campaign Directo

 

 

 

We are very proud of how our Step It Up 2007 event turned out. Attendance was great. We gave away all of our 200 red "Save New Orleans! Stop Global Warming" t-shirts. Our sponsors all had an opportunity to meet new members.

We served gumbo, BBQ, and Abita beer for our guests. We want to especially thank our friends, the excellent band "Country Fried" for playing our event. Check out their website (and buy their new album!) at http://www.countryfried.net.


The speakers, Aaron Viles with the GRN (maybe you get e-mails from him?), John Atkeisen of the Alliance for Affordable Energy, Kenye Smith from the New Orleans Mayors office, Councilwoman Shelly Midura, State Rep Candidate Deborah Langhoff, and of course Senator John Edwards were very impressive. Senator Edwards spoke about how to curb global warming pollution without hurting our environment or economy by cutting greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050, create more green collar jobs, NO NEW COAL, and added that nuclear is not an option.

Senator Edwards was a good sport and joined us for the first part of the second line to the Superdome led by Da Truth Brass Band. At the Superdome, world renowned Aerial Artist John Quigley led us to spell out NO NEW COAL (pic above), which we believe, is a pretty clear message. Head over to flickr to see all the great photos (thanks Jeffrey Dubinsky for the fantastic shots).

We want to sincerely thank our sponsors for this event including:

Gulf Restoration Network
Alliance For Affordable Energy
The Louisiana Bucket Brigade
Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN)
The Sierra Club
Global Green
National Peace Corps Association
Tulane Xavier Center for Bio-Environmental Research
Advocates for Environmental Human Rights
St Bernard Citizens for Environmental Quality
Sustainable Churches for South Louisiana








Casey DeMoss Roberts is the Special Projects Coordinator for the Gulf Restoration Network.

 

 

 

Last Friday, I participated with TulaneUniversity faculty and alumni in creating an outdoor reading corner at the SophieB.WrightSchool in New Orleans. The plan was to dig up the grass and replace it with sod and plant flower beds and mulch them. When I arrived on scene, the first thing I noticed was bag upon bag of CYPRESS MULCH! As someone working on the Save Our Cypress campaign and knowing the importance of cypress trees, I couldn’t support a project that was mulching a garden with the very trees I am fighting to protect. Tulane has made commitments to not use cypress mulch on campus, but apparently the decision had not filtered to all levels. The head of the project assured me that the intent had not been to buy cypress mulch; rather, they had asked for the best mulch the gardening shop had to offer. I decided to call the nursery and ask to exchange the cypress mulch for a sustainable alternative. The woman at the nursery was surprised that I wanted to exchange the cypress mulch for pine bark. She had been misinformed, and she was repeating the myth that cypress is better at repelling bugs than other mulches. I explained that the insect repellant properties of cypress only developed in old-growth trees and that the trees being used for cypress mulch were too young to have this property. And, in any case, cypress mulch drives the destruction of coastal wetlands forests and the habitat and flood protection they provide. She said I could bring back the cypress mulch.

My friend, Lindsay, and I loaded up my Subaru Outback with as many bags of mulch as it could fit, twenty-three in total, and headed off for the West Bank. A worker at the nursery helped us unload the cypress mulch and replace it with pine bark. While we unloaded the car, we talked to him about why we were returning it. Namely, cypress trees are one of our best natural defenses and prevent the fast-paced erosion of the wetlands. He knew about the issue and knows cypress mulch is no good. We asked him to pass along his knowledge to his employer. The bags of pine mulch were not only bulkier for the same quantity but they also cost half as much. After loading up the pine bark, we headed back to SophieB.WrightSchool. To debunk another myth, cypress mulch is not all that aromatic. My car has the pungent smell of pine bark-no trace of cypress to be found.

Although twenty-three bags isn’t much in the scheme of things, the people working on the reading corner now know more about the issue and why we felt it was important to return the mulch. To do your part; please join us on the November 17th International Day of Action to ask Wal-Mart, Lowe’s, and Home Depot to stop selling cypress mulch. Tell them why it’s important to you that these trees are not destroyed. Get a group of friends together, makes some signs, print out some fliers, and stand out in front of these stores-educate your fellow consumers on why they shouldn’t buy cypress mulch. When you get a chance to talk to the manager of the store, you can present him or her a cypress seedling to adopt - after all, its parents are ground up in their garden department and its tough being a young cypress these days (most of them don’t make it). It’s a fun way to educate customers, employees, and managers while putting pressure directly on Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Wal-Mart.

Amy Medtlie is an Outreach Associate for the Gulf Restoration Network.

 


Back in April 15 New Orleans environmental and social justice groups organized an event on the levees of the lower 9th ward to urge immediate action on climate change. It was a great event, with great music, food, speakers, and a great photo (which even showed up on the New York Times website). Unfortunately, we didn't get what we wanted, and Congress still hasn't passed legislation to avert the climate crisis.

So we're doing it again. This time, we're drawing attention to the continuing absence of climate leadership with the most quintessential of New Orleans festivities - a second line! We've invited every member of the Louisiana congressional delegation and every candidate for president - so far, Senator John Edwards alone will be shaking it to Da Truth Brass Band with us (Sen. Clinton and a number of the other presidential candidates will be attending other Step It Up events).

But we need you! This Saturday at 2pm, the first 200 people get a free "Save New Orleans - Stop Global Warming" t-shirt! Visit this website to RSVP and let us know you're in! There will also be speakers, food, beer, sustainable energy workshops (you can check out the Art Egg's solar panels!).

We know New Orleans is ground zero for climate change impacts, but not a single member of the Louisiana congressional delegation has agreed to attend our event (and that includes Gov-elect Bobby Jindal). What are they afraid of? Green jobs? A stable climate and all that means for the Gulf's sea level, hurricanes and our subsiding coast? Visit this site to send them another invite to our event.

 

Aaron Viles is the GRN's Campaign Director

 

As a native Southerner, when I think of the south I think of fried okra, collard greens, grits, vine ripe tomatoes, and HUMIDITY. I picture lush green trees and creeks and rivers to cool off in during hot, humid summers. When I think of Atlanta and many parts of North Georgia—I think of sprawl.

From the moment my parents moved us from North Florida to suburban Atlanta, I understood loud and clear Atlanta’s motto: Grow, Grow, as fast as you can. I watched Alpharetta (a suburb north of Atlanta) turn from cow pastures to strip malls at lightening speed. We griped about traffic and lack of mass transit. We griped about bad air days. I looked at huge swaths of forests turn to manicured grass and thirsty landscaping. I wondered, how long can it possibly last?

As Atlanta continued (and still continues) to burst at the seams spilling into Cumming, Dahlonega and splashing against the foothills and mountains of North Georgia. I still ask, how long can it possibly last?

With Georgia and much of the southeast in extreme drought conditions, there’s much talk about the Southeast water crisis. Unfortunately there’s one crisis not being discussed fully enough—a management crisis. Political leaders in the Atlanta area and across Georgia have watched on (and even shouted words and policies of encouragement) as rapid and unsustainable growth and development spread across North Georgia. Now Georgians and those downstream are facing the consequences. To make matters worse, while lawns across the state go brown, Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue has resorted to pointing fingers instead of taking real leadership.

This drought did not happen overnight and its severity could have been abated by early and effective action instead of last minute ditch efforts. Instead of using this devastating disaster as a learning lesson to help the state prepare for future the Governor has decided to blame the problem on the Army Corps of Engineers. The Endangered Species Act is not, as Governor Perdue has called it, “a tangle of silly and unnecessary bureaucracy.” It is a federal law and an important one. I, for one, am personally embarrassed (and horrified) by Sonny’s bullheadedness. What I do find silly and unnecessary is the “mussel vs man” argument Governor Perdue is desperately clinging to. We cannot allow the Army Corps of Engineers and endangered mussels to become Sonny’s scapegoat for his own failures.

Dr. Ron Carroll, an ecologist at the University of Georgia, stated it very well in an Op-Ed for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Our endangered species are sentinels, like the mine canaries, warning us of growing environmental degradation. Blaming the endangered fish and mussels for our water woes is as silly and misdirected as blaming the sick canary for shutting down the mine.”

If Atlantans, Georgians, and Southerners are prudent the “Great Drought of 2007” might help us build our communities in a healthier and more sustainable way. Atlanta’s population has boomed. The metro population has tripled in the past three decades going from 1.6 million to 4.2 million in 2000. The Atlanta Regional Commission estimates that between 2000 and 2030 the area will add another 2.7 million people. Yet no meaningful water plan was adopted.

It is time for Georgia and the entire South (Alabama and Florida, you’re included here) to take a close and scrutinizing look at available water supply and current development trends. Let’s not get caught with our pants…errr, reservoirs down again.

Stephanie is the Outreach Associate for the GRN's Healthy Waters Program.

 

I love oysters. I love them because when they come out fresh from the Gulf of Mexico its like a little bit of heaven has gone from the bounty of the sea to the tip of my tongue. Shellfish, finfish, and other things that people gather from the sea are important along the Gulf Coast of Florida. They are important to working families, they are important to the economy of Florida, and they are important because they are integral pieces of an ecosystem that has evolved over thousands of years. Sometimes when I’m feeling a little ornery I whisper to myself that folks want to make the regional water wars between Florida, Alabama, and Georgia about people versus shellfish I say bring it on I've had my own personal battle with a bivalve or two--prying them open and slurping them down. Oysters need a home too, and did I mention they taste like heaven.

Truth be told though it is about much, much more than that and to reduce it to people versus shellfish creates the illusion that people bear little or no responsibility for the mess we often find ourselves in. Neither Florida nor Alabama can truthfully claim much moral high ground when it comes to issues of water conservation and growth management, but nor should we see degraded natural resources, risks to public health, potential energy supply disruptions, or economic harm because Georgia decided the best way to handle a water and growth crisis was to hope that in rained.

Along the Gulf Coast the health, wildlife, and future of the Gulf of Mexico are part of who we are and a part of our future. It connects us to each other, and to the broader idea that we all essentially live downstream. In this case we literally live downstream from Georgia and the future and survival of the ApalachicolaRiver depends on our neighbors to the north having the grace and wisdom to live within their means.

While there is indeed a severe and prolonged natural or hydrological drought in the Southeastern U.S., there has been a much longer and more pronounced drought in political courage and leadership in Georgia (and Alabama and Florida for that matter) to limit growth and enact meaningful water conservation. Georgia is in this mess in part due to natural cycles, but mostly due to the explosive growth occurring in central and north Georgia and almost no limits on water use until late this summer/early fall.

Both Governor Crist of Florida and Governor Riley of Alabama have been pushing hard in the last frew days to oppose Georgia’s attempts to severely limit downstream flows and to undermine the Endangered Species Act. They have engaged in that fight because there are human and natural communities downstream that need that water just as metro Atlanta does. Again, this is not about people vs. mussels as Gov. Perdue would like the public to believe, this is about folks in three states and the natural systems they depend on. This drought has been coming on for a long time, and Georgia has been closing their eyes, saying yes to any and all growth, and hoping for rain for far too long.

I am sympathetic to the situation Georgia finds itself in, and understand the Gov. Perdue has to advocate for his state, but that does not mean Florida, Alabama, or federal agencies like the US Army Corps of Engineers or US Fish and Wildlife Service have to surrender their responsibility to the people and species they serve in Florida and Alabama. Real people in numerous communities in Florida, Alabama, and south Georgia for that matter need that water too. And, if the Endangered Species Act has any value, teeth, or purpose it has to be a strong law in all occasions.

There can be some comprise that recognizes the situation that Georgia is in, but if I never paid my water bill and let a hundred people move into my home…. once my water was cut off should I be able, based simply on my lack of planning and new found need, to come to your house to steal your water? Florida and Alabama Georgia should find ways to help their neighbor, but is asking for a free pass at their expense.

Joe Murphy is the Florida Program Coordinator for the GRN.

 

The conclusion of a recent National Research Council report is that the Mighty Mississippi is an "orphan." To those of us who live in the Gulf and know of the impact a polluted Mississippi River has in creating the Dead Zone, this finding is no surprise. The EPA has neglected its duty to set limits for nitrogen and phosphorus pollution, the two primary causes of the Dead Zone. The United States Department of Agriculture has not done enough to target farm conservation money to places where it would help reduce farm runoff into the River. The federal Dead Zone Task Force, charged with finding solutions to the 7,000 square mile lifeless area in the Gulf, hasn't done much of anything.

As you might guess, there are a number of powerful interests who would like to see things remain lifeless at the federal agencies, much like the lifelessness found in the Dead Zone. In particular, agribusiness interests are currently clamoring to see that the Dead Zone Task Force does not set any meaningful goals to reduce the Dead Zone because they are afraid they might actually be held accountable to such a goal! Unfortunately, it is the Gulf of Mexico and the citizens who rely upon its abundant natural resources that are paying the price.

Jeff Grimes is Assistant Director of Water Resources for the GRN

 

Corps Resurrecting Destructive World War II Era Project

Posted on October 17, 2007 | Filed Under River Renewal, Government Affairs, Flood Protection

Joyce Wu, Program Associate
Natural Flood Protection

Sixty-six years of opposition have not been enough for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to give up on a flood control project that won’t actually protect homes. Over the objections of the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Corps is continuing to push for the Yazoo Pumps—a proposal to build the world’s largest hydraulic pumping plant that will drain 200,000 acres of what the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service called some of the richest resources in the country. The real purpose of the project is not to protect people from flooding, but to open up thousands of acres of rich (and sparsely populated) floodplain land to more intensive farming.

Local stakeholders and federal agencies have fought against this project because it violates the Clean Water Act, violates federal policy, is not economically justified, and impacts wetlands that have already been set aside for federal protection. Furthermore, the whopping $211 million price-tag is a 100% federal cost; the Corps wants taxpayers to shoulder the entire financial burden.

The Yazoo pumps will squander federal tax dollars.

Some 80% of the project’s alleged benefits are from increased agricultural production, mostly from more federal subsidies. If this project is authorized, the federal government will spend $211 million tax dollars to increase agricultural production in the Mississippi Delta, where farmers received $15.3 billion in subsidies from 1996 to 2001 and where the federal government is already actively setting aside sensitive croplands to decrease production.

Furthermore, the pumps will not appreciably save local homeowners from flood disasters. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, residential flooding is very limited in the project area. From 1979 to 2002, the National Flood Insurance Program paid out just $1.664 million in flood loss claims. At that rate, it would take more than 3,054 years to recoup the construction investment in the Yazoo Pumps.

The project itself is also fundamentally flawed. An independent analysis commissioned by the EPA revealed that the Corps’ calculations inflated the project’s economic benefits by a stunning $144 million.

The Yazoo pumps will destroy the local environment.

The Yazoo Backwater Area is a haven for migratory birds, floodplain fisheries and wildlife. The project area is also nationally renowned for excellent deer, waterfowl, and other game hunting. In fact, the region became famous in 1902 for being the original home of the ‘Teddy Bear.’ While hunting in the Yazoo Backwater Area, President Theodore Roosevelt refusal to shoot a bear that had been tied to a tree spawned the iconic children’s toy.

The Yazoo pumps project will damage or harm 200,000 acres of ecologically significant wetlands, much of which are national park land, mitigation for earlier federal projects, or voluntary restoration projects. The Yazoo pumps will also change the hydrology of 925,000 acres of the Mississippi delta—almost the entire historic delta floodplain for the Mississippi River.

The Yazoo pumps do not have local, national, or federal support.

The Yazoo pumps have met with local and national opposition for 65 years. The Clarion Ledger, the largest newspaper in the state of Mississippi, the New York Times, and papers and magazines from Oregon to New England have repeatedly and consistently editorialized against the project.

Moreover, both the EPA and USFWS have stated that the project should not proceed because of its colossal environmental toll, and because the project violates federal law as well as federal wetlands policy. According to the EPA, the pumps’ wetlands impacts will be 25 times greater than the combined impacts of all other projects it had vetoed because of Clean Water Act Section 404 (c) violations. This final EIS does not improve on the Draft EIS, which received the EPA’s lowest rating—EU-3, Environmentally Unsatisfactory – Inadequate.

In its Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act report, published as recently as 2006, the USFWS called the Yazoo Pumps “ecologically unsound” and “totally contrary to the Service’s goal for a balance between economic and environmental sustainability in the [Yazoo Backwater Area].”

The irony of theYazoo pumps project is that it proposes destroying natural flood protection systems in the name of flood control. Wetlands act as natural sponges, storing and slowly releasing floodwaters after peak flood flows have passed. A single acre of wetland, saturated to a depth of one foot, will retain 330,000 gallons of water—enough to flood thirteen average-sized homes thigh-deep. Coastal wetlands also reduce the size and velocity of storm surge during storms and hurricanes. The dramatic loss of these resources in the Yazoo Backwater area will have lasting and unpredictable consequences. For more information, see the USFWS fact sheet on the Yazoo pumps www.fws.gov/southeast/pubs/facts/yazooback.pdf or see our fact sheets on theYazoo pumps.

 

There is a saying in the nutritional world: “Eat to live, don’t live to eat”. I am a native of Louisiana so this statement makes zero sense to me. Food is a huge part of our culture, from acquiring food through fishing to competitive cook-offs and guarding family recipes. Even though I am someone who lives to eat, I still worry about the environmental impact of my choices.

There are many good reasons to avoid cows, chickens, and pigs. The environmental impact of mass producing meat is far-reaching and the process is gross. It is also questionable on moral grounds; people are starving in the world. The calories in the grain used to feed farm animals could feed many more people than the meat does.

Furthermore, eating beef contributes to global warming. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization reported in 2006 that livestock is responsible for approximately 18% of global warming pollution. We have all heard the jokes but would it surprise you to know that most of the methane gas from cows is from their belches? Also contributing to the climate problem is the destruction of carbon sinks, e.g. forests, which are required for grazing.

But what about Fish? Eating fish is good for you, omega 3’s, healthy protein, and all that. But it has its drawbacks, of course. Carnivorous fish farming requires large amounts of wild fish for feed. Other farmed fish can have much higher levels of contamination than wild caught fish because of the contaminants that are added during the processing of the fish food. Many animals get caught up in fishing nets and must be tossed out, known as bycatch. It is estimated that 25% of the commercial seafood harvest is wasted bycatch.

Making the right choices can be tricky. Luckily, I recently visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium and noticed little pocket-sized cards that read “Seafood WATCH”. Since seafood was already on my mind, I picked one up and was delighted to find a gem’s worth of information to help me diet more sustainably.

The Aquarium’s guide recommends that you ask 3 questions when eating out or shopping:

1. Where is the seafood from?

2. Is it farmed or wild-caught?

3. How was it caught?

Choose seafood caught more locally to you. The US has better regulations on bycatch, habitat protection, and farming practices. Furthermore, the more local the seafood was caught the fresher it is likely to be. You are also doing your part to limit global warming by buying local and cutting transportation time for your food.

Wild caught fish are generally better than farmed as farming fish can be harmful to the local environment and the contamination in the fish tends to be higher. If you choose farmed fish, omnivorous fish (tilapia) are better than carnivorous fish and seafood (tuna, and salmon).

Dredging, gillnetting, and trawling are bad because they damage important habitat and increase the risk of bycatch. Harpooning, trolling, and hook and lining are environmentally responsible ways to fish. Check the Seafood Watch website for a specific list of “Best Choices” and “Good Alternatives” in the “Southeast Seafood Guide 2007”.

To help get you started on a sustainable seafood diet here is my family’s rabidly guarded seafood gumbo recipe. Enjoy!

The Roux: Equal parts peanut oil and flour (1 cup each), flat edged wooden spatula, cast iron skillet. Add oil and keep heat at slightly higher than medium heat. Sprinkle flour in slowly while stirring continuously. Be sure to scrape the bottom so the flour does not burn. Get the roux a very dark chocolate brown but not black! This can take up to 45 minutes. When the roux is the darkest possible add the green onions (1 cup chopped into ½ inch pieces), remove from heat, and stir vigorously adding a little green bell pepper (1/2 cup) and celery (1/4 cup) and as much yellow onion as will fit in your skillet. Roux will sizzle and it smells really good. Meanwhile, have a pot of water or fish stock at medium heat (a gallon) standing by. When the sizzling stops add roux and veggies to water and stir until dissolved. Add the rest of your vegetables (1/2 cup bells, yellow onion (2 cups), celery (1 cup). Add cayenne pepper, gumbo file, garlic, thyme, rosemary, oregano, and salt to taste. If this is your first time, use a pinch of each. You can always add more later if you want more spice. Bring to a boil. Turn down heat to a simmer and leave for about 45 minutes. Cook the rice. When the soup tastes right, bring back to a boil. Add the shrimp (1 lbLouisiana caught) wait 2-3 minutes. Add 1 lb cleaned Louisiana crawfish tails wait 2-3 minutes. Add 1 lb sustainable tilapia white fish wait 2-3 minutes. Add lastly add 1 lb gulf coast oysters cook and cook another 2 minutes. Make sure your seafood is properly cooked! Take off heat. Put a little bit of rice in a bowl and spoon out some gumbo on top. cleaned and peeled wild


 

Casey Roberts is the GRN's Special Projects Coordinator

 

I had a lawyer friend once who lived by the motto “sue early, sue often.” I’m not sure if that is what I want on my tombstone, but I admired the dedication. Usually in the course of human events it is better to resolve something without litigation and the courts. With that said sometimes something is so egregious that its time to head on down to the courthouse and seek some justice.

It is hard to figure out the Army Corps in Florida these days. Are they the champions of Everglades restoration? Or are they the “Dredge and Fill” Corp? The Corps has promised changes and a new way in Florida, but from where I sit the permit approvals to destroy wetlands still flow out of the Corp office in Jacksonville like money flows to a corrupt politician.

On Monday Oct. 1st, 2007 the Sierra Club, Clean Water Action and Gulf Restoration Network filed a federal lawsuit in Washington, D.C. against the Army Corp and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for violations of federal environmental laws by issuing a section 404 permit to the developers on the Cypress Creek Town Center project (Case No. 07-CV-01756). We are suing to require that impacts to the endangered species, wetlands and our waters be avoided and minimized. We are suing because federal agencies, both the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, fundamentally failed the people of Tampa Bay, and the wetlands and wildlife of Tampa Bay. We are suing because nature only made one Cypress Creek and it is a beautiful place.

When we filed suit Denise Layne of the Sierra Club noted that “350 acres of concrete on a 550 acre site containing huge wetlands, creek and recharge areas is a crying shame. The ecosystem on this property has been the home to all kinds of threatened and endangered species which need the wetlands and a healthy creek system to survive. And, speaking of water…the land clearing has already polluted the creek, an Outstanding Florida Water. We have no faith in this permit protecting this exquisite piece of property as required by federal laws.”

GRN was drawn to this case because of the impact this project will have and has had on threatened and endangered species, and the wetlands systems they depend on. The Army Corps of Engineers has fundamentally failed to protect threatened and endangered species, failed to protect wetlands and Cypress Creek, and failed to protect water quality for regional residents. Citizens in the Tampa Bay region expect and deserve better from the government agencies charged with protecting our environment. We’re in court and working on the ground to make sure that this happens.

Joe Murphy is the Florida Program Coordinator for GRN.

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