Blogging for a Healthy Gulf

 

Woody goldenrod blooms along the dunes at Deer Lake State Park in the Florida panhandle. The area is part of the Coastal Barrier Resources System.

 

The House of Representatives actually got something right. In an age of growing frustration at political divisions that create legislative gridlock, the House did something that most citizens say they want more of: They passed a bipartisan bill. Even better—it’s one that’s good for our environment and the Gulf of Mexico.

In this case, H.R. 5787--the Strengthening Coastal Communities Act-- passed by a landslide vote of 375 – 1. The bill helps to protect coastal areas along the Gulf of Mexico and beyond, using modern mapping techniques to correct and expand the boundaries of the Coastal Barrier Resources System (CBRS). The CBRS consists of hundreds of undeveloped coastal areas along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts where federal taxpayer funds may not be used to subsidize development due to the risky and environmentally-sensitive nature of those areas.

The program has...

 

Senior Policy Director Matt Rota recently penned an op-ed for The Advocate about the red tide off the coast of Florida. Read about how the crisis in Florida is connected to the Dead Zone in Louisiana and the federal government's failure to do anything about it

 

Families enjoy a fall day at the beach on Santa Rosa Island at Pensacola Beach, FL.

 

Imagine showing up for a day at the beach and being told that you’re on private property and have to leave. That’s what’s happening on Gulf beaches in the Florida panhandle, where the public’s ability to simply dip their toes into the waters of the Gulf is at risk.

The flashpoint in all of this is along a little 26 mile stretch of panhandle coast in Walton County just east of Destin. As the beaches got busier in recent years, Gulf front property owners began to put out ropes and no trespassing signs to keep people off the beaches behind their homes.

Some of these beach areas are indeed privately owned, but the public has never been restricted from freely using them until very recently. That fact has allowed other communities in Florida to establish what is called customary...

 

This article was originally published by the Marine Fish Conservation Network

Know Your Fisher dinnerAs a fisheries organizer, there’s one question I get at almost every public event I’m a part of: “What is one thing that I can do to help fish and fishermen?”

It’s a tough question to answer and one that I’m sure I will hear a lot during this October, which happens to be National Seafood Month.

It’s hard not because I’d have to choose from at least a million things that we can and should be doing to help fishing communities. It’s difficult because I know what people are really asking is “What is something that’s relatively easy for me to do?”

Making good choices at restaurants and markets is not always...

 

Our cleanup crew and friends pause for a photo after tackling another mangled yard in Panama City, FL.

As the sun is still rising into a warm fall day, I pile into a large pickup with four folks I met only five minutes before, prepared for a 12 hour day of hurricane relief work. Onboard is an architect, interior designer, audio-visual installer, and a nonprofit consultant. As the chatter begins, I’m pretty sure I’m the quietest of the bunch.

We head east from Walton County, Florida, and into areas affected by Hurricane Michael. We’re packed to the brim with supplies--chainsaws, tools, ice cold beverages, food, and everything from pet food to formula to leave behind with those in need.

First we head to Chipley, 50 miles north of the coast and a rural area forgotten by many in the focus on waterfront areas. We help an older man clear...

 

As with all who are following the devastation from Hurricane Michael, I’m shocked and saddened by the destruction. Michael hit an area of the coast that I know and love, and it will be a long time before it is whole again.

My first step after the storm was to contact as many friends and professional colleagues as possible to check on their well-being, which has been hard to do with electricity and cell service out in most of the area. Next I completed daily monitoring of miles of aerial photography looking for any environmental issues caused by the storm. That includes pollution from industrial facilities, as well as the coastal resilience issues of beaches and wetlands that provide natural buffering from storms. That work continues.

With authorities asking those who do not live in the area to stay...

 
Green sea turtle hatchling
Green sea turtle hatchling entering the surf at Padre Island National Seashore. Photo credit: NPS

Many Americans have never heard of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), despite the fact that it has enriched their lives for 50 years. The LWCF has been the main legislative vehicle for protection of public lands and waters, funding literally thousands of projects across the country. The Gulf Coast provides a vivid example of the benefits that the LWCF has delivered for America since its passage by Congress in 1964.

The network of National Wildlife Refuges across Gulf Coast states that have been created and/or improved by the LWCF is impressive: six in Alabama, fifteen in Florida, twelve in Louisiana, three in Mississippi, and nine in Texas. These include some critically important coastal refuges: Grand Bay in Alabama and Mississippi, St. Johns and St. Marks in Florida, Bayou Sauvage in Louisiana, and Aransas in Texas.

The LWCF also helped create the jewels of the National Seashore system located...

 
Lower Pearl from the Air
Lower Pearl River from GRN. Photo by Billy Duggar, On Wings of Care Billy Duggar

The comment period closed September 6th on the “One Lake” project’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement. GRN and Tulane Environmental Law Clinic prepared comments that could anchor legal action against the Rankin Hinds Drainage District, but many other organizations and state agencies did a great job in writing thorough comments and GRN reserved the right to refer to any of them. All of the state agencies in Louisiana concerned with coastal resources prepared comment letters that State Senator Sharon Hewitt coordinated into a consolidated document.  St. Tammany Parish’s planning and development chief engineer, Dr. deEtte Smythe, performed an exhaustive analysis of the original USGS flow data on the Pearl from Jackson to Lake Borgne. The National Wildlife Federation’s senior environmental lawyer, Melissa Samet, produced a 56 page legal comment letter that spanned all the federal law issues involved in this damming and dredging project. A joint comment letter with 56 businesses...

 
Slick from Taylor Energy leak in 2013
Slick from Taylor Energy leak in Sept. 2013

Last month, the federal government filed new reports suggesting that the Taylor Energy oil leak, which has been spewing oil into the Gulf for 14 years, is far larger than previously reported, and could be growing.

According to the filings, Taylor Energy is leaking between 10,000 to 30,000 gallons of oil daily. This represents a huge increase from previous government estimates. The Coast Guard previously estimated 16,000 gallons leaked in all of 2015 - so this new estimate is an over 2,200% increase!

We don’t know if oil has been leaking at that rate for the last 14 years, but if it has been leaking 10,000 gallons a day since 2004 - that represents 51,100,000 gallons of oil dumped into the Gulf. That would make Taylor Energy one of the top 10 largest offshore oil spills ever!

Check out this excerpt (written by GRN’s Scott Eustis) from our...

 
Diversity Equity and Inclusion
Diversity Equity and Inclusion at GRN

Gulf Restoration Network has begun a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) initiative that will inform all aspects of our work. From outreach, recruitment and hiring, to our programs, campaign work and everyday office operations. It is an organizational goal to embrace differences in race, gender, ethnicity, class, ability, religion & sexual orientation, work with communities and allies in a way that values people of all experiences, and to serve marginalized and oppressed communities facing environmental injustices.


GRN completed an Equity self-assessment with the help of Daria Torres, a consultant with the Walls Torres Group LLC, who leads organizations in the implementation of their Equity Maturity Model (EqMM) to diagnose current performance, identify gaps and chart a path for a group seeking the goal of equity. Twelve dimensions are used to measure how an organization incorporates equity into its daily work and overall mission. The progress in attaining these dimensions...

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Recent Posts

The House of Representatives actually got something right. In an age of growing frustration at...
Written by Christian Wagley
Friday, 07 December 2018
Senior Policy Director Matt Rota recently penned an op-ed for The Advocate about the red...
Written by Kendall Dix
Tuesday, 30 October 2018
Imagine showing up for a day at the beach and being told that you’re on...
Written by Christian Wagley
Monday, 29 October 2018
This article was originally published by the Marine Fish Conservation Network . As a fisheries...
Written by Kendall Dix
Monday, 29 October 2018
As the sun is still rising into a warm fall day, I pile into a...
Written by Christian Wagley
Tuesday, 23 October 2018
As with all who are following the devastation from Hurricane Michael, I’m shocked and saddened...
Written by Christian Wagley
Wednesday, 17 October 2018
Many Americans have never heard of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), despite the...
Written by Raleigh Hoke
Friday, 12 October 2018

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