The GRN has had many significant victories in the past several years.
Below are just a few accomplished Gulf Restoration Network successes:
- The RESTORE Act, which directs 80% of BP’s Clean Water Act fines to Gulf recovery, is signed into law.
- Our outreach at Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival helps motivate over 2,000 people weigh in to support Gulf restoration.
- GRN and partners file suit to push the EPA to implement a clean-up plan and anti-pollution standards for the entire Mississippi River basin generating over 200 media stories to bring attention to the issue.
- The Louisiana State Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast embraces the multiple lines of defense strategy and passes the Louisiana legislature after incorporating many of our specific suggestions.
- The plans to build a dirty, unnecessary, and expensive coal-fired power plant and mine in Kemper Country, Mississippi are halted by the Mississippi Supreme Court.
- GRN’s public service announcement to commemorate the 2 year memorial of the BP disaster features a soundtrack by Portugal. The Man and appearances by well-known musicians such as Dr. John, Preservation Hall Jazz Band members, Fishbone, Stanton Moore of Galactic, as well as NFL linebacker Scott Fujita, and gets thousands of views on YouTube
- The Maurepas Wildlife Management Area is expanded by 145,000 acres using funds from the Coastal Forests Conservation Initiative (under the Coastal Impacts Assistance Program) that GRN helped shape.
- The denial of a permit for the highly destructive Yazoo Pumps project is affirmed by the courts. This victory is the culmination of over 15 years of work at GRN!
- The first phase of early restoration projects to mitigate damage from the BP disaster includes effective restoration projects, including 3 specifically recommended by GRN and our Gulf Future partners.
- Over the year, GRN’s work saves at least 232 acres of wetlands and 22,080 linear ft. of streams, including the Chickasawhay Creek.
- The Gulf Future Coalition releases Sunshine on the Gulf: The Case for Transparency in Restoration Project Selection and garners significant attention.
- Another successful partnership with Voodoo Experience music festival results in hundreds of concert goers experiencing our coastal lines of defense wetlands installation as well as a musicians’ tour of our coastal crisis with artists such as Ani Difranco, Blind Pilot and MyNameIsJohnMichael.
- The Richton Salt Domes project that would have greatly impacted the Pascagoula River is abandoned. This project would have withdrawn 50 million gallons of water per day from the river and created an estimated 90 oil and salt spills.
- Field monitoring of the BP oil disaster continues to provide GRN members and the public with an important on-the-ground perspective long after media attention has waned.
- GRN’s Summer Outreach office conducts one-on-one conversations with over 51,000 individuals and recruits nearly 3,000 dues-paying GRN members to support our efforts to respond to the BP disaster while collecting over 500 handwritten letters to Congress pushing for action on sending BP’s Clean Water Act fines to the Gulf and establishing a Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council.
- Released a report, The Chaos of Clean-Up, with EarthJustice, Florida Wildlife Federation, and Toxipedia, on the dangers of toxic dispersants after a lawsuit filed by GRN and our partners forces EPA to disclose chemical components of dispersants and exposes lack of rigorous testing in approval process for dispersants.
- The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force, created by President Obama in the immediate aftermath of the oil disaster, uses the Gulf Future Coaltion’s prioritization guidelines to help develop their restoration plan and commits to forming a citizens advisory committee after much public pressure by GRN and our partners.
- Proposal to dam streams to create unnecessary reservoirs that would have impacted the Pearl River is temporarily abandoned.
- GRN is a leader in organizing the Gulf Future Coalition, a group of over 50 civic, fishing, environmental, and faith organization, which releases Gulf Future: Action Plan for a Healthy Gulf.
- Peco Foods Chicken Processing is forced to reduce its pollution flow in order to help clean up the Pearl River.
- After several years of pursuing the lawsuit, GRN successfully holds Hancock County Development Corporation accountable for their violations of the Clean Water Act when they started an unpermitted development that threatened 700 acres of wetlands and caused flooding in neighboring properties.
- Executive Director, Cynthia Sarthou, receives five major awards: River Network’s River Hero Award, the Peter Benchley Hero of the Sea Award, the Institute for Conservation Leadership’s Organizational Leadership Award, the Brock Evans Endangered Species Award, and named a Coastal Hero by Coastal Living Magazine.
- Field monitoring by GRN documents the impacts and response to the BP oil disaster providing an honest, independent assessment of the disaster with over 50 monitoring trips by boat and plane.
- Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force created by Obama Executive Order dedicates federal resources to developing a plan for Gulf restoration in the aftermath of the BP disaster.
- The White House releases a Restoration Roadmap for the Gulf with GRN guidance included.
- Through the advocacy of GRN and its partners, the National Oil Spill Commission’s final report includes a recommendation that a Gulf of Mexico Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council be established to hold the oil industry accountable.
- GRN, along with partners, stopped or reduced the impact of environmentally harmful projects, like “surfwashing” oiled sand, that were being proposed as “emergency actions” in response to the BP oil drilling disaster.
- Partnering with Reverb Outreach Villages, GRN volunteers represent the Gulf at 27 concerts in 22 cities.
- GRN’s Summer Outreach office quickly responds to the BP disaster and has over 44,000 conversations updating citizens on the latest with the BP oil disaster and how they can help. Over 2,100 people donated to the cause, and the Outreach Team collected 287 handwritten letters, organized 5 rallies and went door-to-door in all 5 Gulf states.
- GRN establishes a Washington, DC office and uses new staff to influence national dialogue on BP disaster response.
- GRN and partners organize Gulf Gathering: A Unified Response to the BP Oil Disaster that brings together 95 people from 46 organization to coordinate action and draft the Weeks Bay Principles for Gulf Recovery to outline community needs.
- GRN works with local organizations to establish the Nature Coast Coalition to help protect and restore Florida’s last wild coast.
- BP is pressured to increase transparency in their response including releasing video footage of the seafloor blowout and reducing travel restrictions in impacted areas.
- GRN is the first organization to do an aerial survey of the Deepwater Horizon blowout three days after the explosion and draws attention to the inadequate response by BP and the Coast Guard.
- A National Ocean Policy to better manage and conserve our oceans is created through Executive Order.
- GRN defeats a plan that would have destroyed 50 acres of wetlands along the MRGO and Intracoastal Waterway.
- GRN, working with Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, submits over 3,000 comments in favor of coastal lines of defense strategy for rebuilding southern Louisiana to the state legislature.
- Congress passes bill to expand Jean Lafitte National Preserve by 3,000 acres, including important cypress-tupelo swamp, and authorizes National Park Service to purchase another 5,857 acres in response to advocacy by GRN and our partners.
- Pascagoula River is listed on “Most Endangered Rivers” list bringing attention to the proposed Richton Salt Domes project that would withdraw 50 million gallons of water per day from the river and create an estimated 90 oil and salt spills.
- GRN has Summer Outreach offices in both New Orleans and Tampa who recruit a total of 5,483 new members while having over 100,000 conversations with citizens about the Gulf’s most pressing environmental issues.
- Due to public pressure applied by GRN, the Gulf of Mexico Alliance makes climate change a top issue in new plan and hires a Climate and Community Resiliency Advisor.
- Permit is denied for the giant Green Swamp Landfill that would have impacted water quality in Tampa and put a giant garbage dump on the edge of the Nature Coast.
- Louisiana state funding for wetland restoration survives an attempt by the legislature to divert the money to road projects.
- Due to GRN comments, pollution discharge permits were improved for 4 dischargers, including sewage treatment plants and paper mills, in Louisiana and Mississippi.
- GRN releases “Clean Up Your Act!: A Review of How the Clean Water Act is Incorporated into Gulf State Water Regulations.” Report calls attention to inadequate water policies throughout the Gulf States.
Victories of 2008
- Succeeded in securing an EPA veto of the Yazoo Backwater Pumps Project, a Corps of Engineers project that would have destroyed 200,000 acres of bottomland hardwood wetlands in Mississippi at a $220 million cost to taxpayers. This veto is only the 12th time that EPA has exercised its authority to stop environmentally destructive projects and the first time in 18 years. To learn more, click here.
- Won a great victory in protecting our cypress forests. GRN and partners convinced Wal-Mart to no longer sell cypress mulch from Louisiana, and pressured Lowe's and Home Depot to commit to coastal Louisiana, ending the on-going devastation of cypress logging for mulch in southern Louisiana. GRN continues working to expand cypress protection throughout the Gulf. To learn more, click here.
- GRN joined with allies and partners to: file suit blocking expansion of phosphate strip mining in central and southwest FL—a major step forward in the fight to protect Charlotte Harbor and the Peace River; and convince the Manatee County Commission to deny a request from Mosaic Phosphate to mine wetlands. Phosphate strip mining poses a direct threat to Florida's rivers, estuaries, and wetlands and GRN will continue to move forward with efforts in 2009. To learn more, click here.
- GRN was one of the organizations that a coordinated a massive statewide campaign that led the successful effort in 2008 to convince Florida's Governor Charlie Crist to veto legislation that would have weakened protections for Florida's seagrass beds. Seagrass beds along the Gulf Coast of Florida are essential to our recreational and commercial fisheries, as well as providing essential habitat for coastal wildlife.
- Successfully ended the threat that fish-killing liquefied natural gas terminals posed for the Gulf with the abandonment of TORP's project off the Alabama coast, caused by the threat of a veto from Alabama's Governor Bob Riley.
- Marked a new chapter in GRN's citizen outreach with a successful canvass office, signing up over 4,000 new GRN members.
- Published Our Waters, Our Health: A Citizens Guide to Sewage, a manual designed to help communities confront sewage pollution and protect their communities. To learn more, click here.
- Collaborated with organizations throughout the Mississippi River Basin to petition the EPA to take action to reduce pollution causing the Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico. GRN also gathered thousands of signatures from citizens throughout the Gulf South, asking EPA to take action immediately.
- Helped convince the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission to impose the first-ever catch limit on the Gulf menhaden fishery, helping to bring sustainable management to the largest Gulf fishery.
Victories of 2007
- With the help of our conservation partners, persuaded the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to deny a permit for the proposed Magnolia Bay Resort and Marina in the Nature Coast of Florida – the last great undeveloped stretch of Florida’s coast. The development would have destroyed over a hundred acres of high quality wetlands and dredged a two-mile channel right through the middle of the Big Bend Seagrasses Aquatic Preserve. __
- Successful in our lawsuit against National Marine Fisheries Service over the rebuilding/management plan for red snapper. The court found that the rebuilding plan was not consistent with the law. In response, NOAA issued an Interim rule that cuts total allowable catch and imposes other management measures needed to end overfishing of this valuable species.
- Stopped a proposed development project in Mississippi that would have placed three dams on streams that flow into Black Creek, Mississippi’s only National Scenic Stream.
- After 3 years of opposition from GRN and the Gumbo Alliance for safe LNG, Shell announced on March 28, 2007, that they would finally suspend the development of the Gulf Landing liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal. The terminal would have processed 136 million gallons of Gulf seawater daily, destroying all life in that water. To read more, click here.
- Stopped Louisiana from removing clean water protections from all wetlands in the state.
- With the help of our conservation partners, obtained a final Congressional approval of permanent closure of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO)—the shipping channel that acted as a hurricane highway brining Hurricane Katrina’s storm surge waters into New Orleans. To read more, click here.
Victories of 2006
- Moved Congress to require that the Army Corps of Engineers develop a closure plan for the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO) -- the first step towards shutting down the destructive 'hurricane highway to New Orleans.'
- Released the report The School of Big Storms: The High Cost of Compromising our Natural Defenses and the Benefits of Protecting Them, a collaboration of the GRN and the Sierra Club. The report urges public officials, government agencies and citizens living along the Gulf Coast to learn from the lessons that past hurricanes have taught us. So we must protect our natural coastal environment and the people and communities that live here.
- Achieved Senate passage of the requirement for independent review of Army Corps of Engineers' projects.
- Coordinated the Save Our Cypress coalition to kick off the campaign to demand that Wal-Mart, Home Depot and Lowe's stop selling cypress mulch.
- Convened a strategy meeting with groups in Florida to oppose the Magnolia Bay Resort and Marina to make our collective impact strong enough to stop the Magnolia Bay monstrosity.
- Connected our new member group, Environmental Alliance of North Florida, with our friends at Southwings in order to do a flyover of the area to properly document the threats from the proposed development.
- Convinced Louisiana Governor Blanco to veto an open-loop LNG terminal proposed by Freeport McMoRan, causing the company to immediately switch the project to a fish-safe alternative.
- Forced ConocoPhillips to withdraw an application for an open-loop terminal proposed 11 miles off Alabama's coast in the face of ongoing opposition from Alabama Governor Riley.
- Watch-dogged the withdrawal of ConocoPhillips' application for a second open-loop terminal proposedfor 50 miles off Galveston, Texas.
- Released a short film featuring Mr. Bill of Saturday Night Live to educate and entertain the public about the issue of LNG in the Gulf. The film has been downloaded over 3,000 times.
- Organized a 'boat parade' around Shell's Houston headquarters with 14 boats of all sizes circling Shell's building with "Stop the LNG Shell Games" banners flying.
- Sent GRN campaign director, Aaron Viles, and Mike Lane, owner of the sportsman website RodNReel.com to the Hague, Netherlands to attend the Shell Annual General Meeting of Shareholders and communicate concerns about their terminal.
- Released a scientific peer-review of Shell's Gulf Landing fisheries impacts underscoring ongoing concerns.
- Won protections for Turkey Creek in coastal Mississippi through our work with the Turkey Creek Community Initiatives. The effort lead to stronger protections for Turkey Creek, making it safe for recreating year round.
- Forced the Army Corps of Engineers to revise their proposal that would have made it easier to develop wetlands in coastal Mississippi.
- Succeeded in getting the Army of Corps of Engineers to visit properties on the North Shore of Lake Ponchartrain in Louisiana where developers failed to properly mitigate for previous wetland destruction. The Corps is now working to ensure that developers take actions to mitigate this destruction.
- Worked with Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality to improve their electronic system for notifying the public of watershed cleanup plans, known as "TMDLs".
- Pushed a developer to redesign a proposed project that would have destroyed 30 acres of wetlands in Ouchita Parish, Louisiana. Due to our comments, these 30 acres, including 18 acres of cypress forest, were not harmed.
- Presented our solutions on threats to fisheries in teh Gulf at the "Southeast Bycatch Workshop Review" hosted by the National Marine Fisheries Service(NMFS) in response to GRN advocacy.
- Held sustainable fisheries workshops in Mobile, New Orleans, Houston, Galveston and Corpus Christi to educate and activate members and supporters about Gulf fish issues.
- Worked with our newly educated and activated supporters to inundate the NMFS and their boss at the Department of Commerce with comments demanding an immediate end to the overexploitation of the Gulf's red snapper. The NMFS responded to legal and public pressure generated by the GRN and published a draft interim rule to stop red snapper overexploitation.
- Worked with our e-activists to urge Congress to strengthen the primary law that manages Gulf fish, the Magnuson Stevens Act. Congress eventually passed a new national ocean fisheries law which updates and strengthens key provisions for improving fisheries management.
Victories of 2005
- In response to concern over the failure of Congress and the Bush administration to move forward on promises to rebuild the coast after Hurricane's Katrina and Rita, the GRN launched a campaign to flood Congress and the Administration with emails urging the President to make a real commitment to Louisiana's coast and communities. We developed an action alert asking that recipients take a moment to remind the President of his pledge by sending emails to him and members of Congress. This one action alert generated over 40,000 emails to the administration.
- The GRN, working with local citizens, in Mississippi , were able to catch glaring problems with watershed cleanup plan, aka TMDLs, developed by the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ). For example, we provided technical assistance on a TMDL for a lake in coastal Mississippi. The MDEQ based the TMDL on a 25-year-old study, made assumptions about the lack of contaminants without any data, and was essentially going to write off the lake off because of lack of funding. As a result of petitions by the GRN and local citizens, the MDEQ made substantial improvements to the TMDL and even sought funding for a special toxics study needed to effectively address the pollution impacting the lake.
- The GRN was also successful workign in coalition with our Louisiana members to ensure that the Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) Feasiblity Study, to address Louisiana's coastal wetlands crisis included active public involvement and a well-demonstrated set of objectives and principles. Additionally, we obtained an important commitment from the State of Louisiana and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to coordinate wetland restoration, permitting, and civil works projects in southern Louisiana.
- The GRN published a report detailing fisheries bycatch problems in the Gulf. The Every Fish Counts report highlighted deficiencies in fisheries management on bycatch matters, explained the impact of reef fish gear types, and detailed opportunities for the public to take action. The report was well received by the press and was distributed by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council to all of its members.
- The GRN, working with its Gulf fisheries partners, responded promptly by filing suit in federal court to challenge the issuance by the National Marine Fisheries Service of a legally inadequate management plan for red snapper. The law suite ultimately led to the publication of an interim rule that addressed conservation concerns.
Open-Loop Liquefied Natural Gas Facilities:
- The GRN built a diverse coalition of recreational and commercial fishing organizations and community groups opposed to the use of open-loop vaporization system at offshore liquefied natural gas facilities. We established the "Gumbo Alliance for Safe LNG", through our work on Shell Oil's Gulf Landing terminal offshore of Louisiana, and the "Gulf Fisheries Alliance" through our work on the ConocoPhillips Compass Port LNG facility offshore Mobile, Alabama. Working with these partners we obtained letters to the Maritime Administration from Governors Barbour (MS), Blanco (LA), and Riley (AL) indicating that they would veto any open-loop terminal in the Gulf.
Victories of 1999 - 2004
- In 2004, we updated the GRN's Guide to Protecting Wetlands in the Gulf of Mexico. The Guide has received significant attention from both the media and the public interest community. Throughout 2003 and 2004, the Guide was provided to citizens and served as the basis for numerous wetland trainings.
- In the Fall of 2000, the GRN and its partners successfully mounted a public education and outreach campaign resulting in the submission of hundreds of comments in opposition to the Corps’ proposed Yazoo Pumps Project – opposition unprecedented in the 20 year history of the project.
- In January 2000, the City of Jackson, Alabama withdrew its proposal to construct a port facility along the TombigbeeRiver. The port was the main justification for the Corps’ planned construction of a canal that would have destroyed 189 acres of wetlands. GRN staff commented on both the draft and final environmental impact statements for the Spur CanalDestruction by Design Report. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Alabama activists have credited the GRN’s efforts as a significant contributor to the city’s decision to withdraw this project proposal.
Improving Water Quality:
- During the comment periods for both the 2002 and 2004 Section 303(d) Lists of Impaired Waters in Lousiana and Mississippi, the GRN successfully led an effort to get polluted waters the clean-up that they deserve. As a result of our work with other concerned citizens and groups, Louisiana revised its list to include approximately 90 of the waters we targeted. Mississippi also listened to our requests and agreed not to delist 7 waters of concern.
- In the fall of 2001, GRN staff initiated a citizen water quality-monitoring program, conducting outreach to community and GRN member groups in Louisiana and providing them with monitoring equipment and training. We also completed a report card on the citizen water monitoring programs of the Gulf States to put public pressure on the state of Louisiana to implement a statewide citizen water-monitoring program.
Protecting Sustainable Fisheries:
- In 2003-2004, the GRN took a leadership role on a federal review panel for the Essential Fish Habitat Environmental Impact Statement, which will analyze the impacts of environmentally destructive actions on essential habitat for Gulf fish species.
- In the Spring of 2001, the GRN, in conjunction with our member groups, won establishment of the Dry Tortugas Ecological Reserve in the Florida Keys.
- In the Summer of 2001, the GRN, in conjunction with our member groups successfully stopped implementation of faulty fishery management regulations proposed by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council to implement key habitat protection, bycatch reduction and sustainable catch level provisions of the Sustainable Fisheries Act of 1996.
- In 1999, the GRN, in conjunction with our member groups, won establishment of two marine protected areas to help protect declining numbers of male gag groupers in the Gulf of Mexico.