Blogging for a Healthy Gulf

 

The August 5th flooding was rough on many New Orleanians - with floodwaters swamping homes, cars and businesses. Our thoughts go out to those who are still dealing with the aftermath. And more flooding could be on the way - stay safe.

This week, the City Council met to try to figure out what happened and what we do now. Several city officials have since stepped down or been fired. This is what we do now: demand accountability and innovation from our city’s current and future leaders.

This massive flood event is wake up call. The system is broken, it must be fixed. We have a system that is focused only on pumping...

 
A Victory for Clean Water in Saucier
Bobby shows the runoff flowing to Tuxachanie Creek on DeSoto N.F.

This summer, Gulf Restoration Network and our members Bobby Tubre and his grandfather, Don Williams, in Saucier reached an agreement with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) on a new treatment permit for Lakeview R/V Resort. To arrive at this agreement, it took three years of negotiations and advocacy in the form of correspondence with MDEQ, many individual phone calls, one conference call, two different private water quality testing labs, site visits by MDEQ staff, water samples examined by MDEQ labs, plus two sets of comment letters from GRN, correspondence with the Mississippi Department of Health, and a report by WLOX TV Action Reporter A.J. Giardina.


Our introduction to Mr. Tubre was in the summer of 2014 when he found me through contacts on the Coast and explained what was happening next door at the Lakeview R/V Resort – a campground with a lagoon and sprayfield sewage treatment...

 

Squat Lobsters on Black Coral. Image credit: NOAA's National Ocean Service

Black corals, contrary to their name, do not appear black but instead come in a range of colors including red, orange, white and green. The name comes from their skeleton, which is indeed black. Black corals belong to the order Antipatharia, a hexacoral, and occur all over the world at a variety of depths. Black corals differ from stony corals, another order of hexacoral, by having a flexible skeletons made of protein and chitin, a fibrous substance that makes up a majority of exoskeletons of arthropods and fungi cell walls. This compound allows them to move in the current, unlike stony skeletons with their rigid frames. The compound of black coral skeleton serves another function, as a record keeper. Their skeletons grow, similar to tree rings, cataloguing changes in their environments and allowing us to see how oceans of...

 
Hilcorp Energy pipeline leak in coastal Louisiana
Hilcorp Energy pipeline leak in coastal Louisiana.

This article is excerpted from the Summer 2017 issue of Gulf Currents, GRN's bi-annual printed newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here

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At a recent national gathering of environmental and conservation activists, it became very clear that my colleagues from the East, Mid-West, and West were extremely stressed and disheartened by the efforts of Congress and the White House to neutralize the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and roll back environmental laws. Comparatively, most of my colleagues from the South, although disturbed, were not too phased by what was going on. Why would there be this difference in outlook?

The answer lies, I believe, in the fact that Southern states, under the leadership of either party, are already loath to regulate business or industry, particularly if there is a promise of jobs....

 
Sperm whales in Gulf of Mexico

The press release below was issued today by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Center for Biological Diversity, Gulf Restoration Network and Sierra Club.

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WASHINGTON— The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has released a final environmental impact statement that concludes seismic surveys for oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of Mexico would cause significant harm to marine mammals. The long-awaited review comes in response to a court-ordered settlement of a lawsuit brought by environmental groups. Its release comes as President Trump seeks to expand offshore drilling in federal waters.

The analysis finds that as many as 31.9 million marine mammals in the Gulf of Mexico will be injured and harassed by oil and gas seismic surveys. This includes 80 percent of the Gulf’s endangered sperm whale population, estimated at 763 animals. Sperm whales will experience as many as 760,000 harassing exposures to airgun blasting over the next...

 
2017 Gulf Dead Zone
2017 Gulf Dead Zone Measurement. Courtesy LSU and LUMCON

Today, researchers from Louisiana State University (LSU) and the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON) announced that the 8,776 square mile (New Jersey-sized) Dead Zone is the largest Dead Zone on record. The Dead Zone is fueled by fertilizer pollution flowing down the Mississippi River from the American heartland, which causes massive algae blooms that use up oxygen sea life needs to survive. This historically large Dead Zone measurement comes on the heels of a new report, released by Mighty Earth, which identifies the companies responsible for much of the animal waste and fertilizer pollution that contribute to the Dead Zone.

”This massive Dead Zone shows that current efforts from States and the...

 

Lophelia, a species of stony coral, is the most common structure-forming deep sea coral in the Gulf of Mexico. Lophelia can live, continuously growing, for over 1,000 years and stretch up to 100 feet above the seafloor. Individual polyps are thought to live approximately 20 years, with new, young polyps growing on older parts of the structure, both living and dead. 

When alive Lophelia is often bright white but can also appear pink or yellow, depending on the color of the mostly-translucent polyp. Regardless of the color when alive, Lophelia appears brown after it has died (left, with a goosefish). Dead specimens are valuable in the deep sea community as they form hard substrate for other organisms to live in and for other species of coral to grow...

 

On July 27th, Abby Braman of Madison, Mississippi became the state’s first Pearl Riverkeeper.  The Waterkeeper Alliance gave her official approval on her application made earlier in the summer. Abby came to Mississippi from Virginia and began looking for water activities for herself and her children. She was appalled at the amount of litter and floatable trash clogging the Pearl River and its tributaries.

In a short couple of months, she began #Take2Miss as an anti-litter web based campaign for the Pearl and has organized a September 23rd cleanup that will take in as many of the 490 miles of the Pearl River as there are volunteer section captains. The Pearl River Clean Sweep is being organized from Nanih Waiya where the river begins as a confluence of lowland drains near the sacred mounds of the Mississippi Band of Choctaws, all the way to the river’s end in...

 
Stony colony
Large colony of the deep-water coral at 492 feet. Image: "Deep-water Coral Colony" (CC BY 2.0) by NOAA's National Ocean Service

Stony corals, also known as Scleractinians or hard corals, are in the hexacoral family and build hard skeletons out of calcium carbonate. They are the primary reef building corals. Stony corals have tentacles in multiples of six and can host diverse species of fish and invertebrates. Two species of stony coral commonly found in the Gulf are Lophelia pertusa and Madrepora oculata (zigzag coral), with Lophelia being found much more commonly than Madrepora.
 
While most species of stony coral grow on hard substrate and are solitary, some species such as Lophelia can form giant, branching structures. This is not the most common type of coral found in the deep ocean though, and the 2016 Report to Congress produced by NOAA reported that “stony corals were not especially abundant or diverse. A solitary, small cup coral was the most often...

 
Louisiana Wetlands WOTUS Clean Water Rule

The Trump Administration plans to issue a new proposed rule to review and revise the definition of “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) this week. This is no surprise given that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has been one of the loudest critics of the Obama era Clean Water Rule. The Clean Water Rule sought to clarify the definition of "Waters of the United States." President Trump signed an executive order in February directing the EPA to re-codify the definition of WOTUS. This may not sound very important but if we want to protect our water resources, this is “YUUUUGE.”

The definition of “Waters of the United States” has changed and grown since the inception of the Clean Water Act in 1972. Various court cases and Presidential Administrations have attempted to clear the murkiness surrounding WOTUS. Why does all this matter? Section 404 the Clean Water Act, requires permits...

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Recent Posts

The August 5th flooding was rough on many New Orleanians - with floodwaters swamping homes,...
Written by Harry Lowenburg
Tuesday, 15 August 2017
This summer, Gulf Restoration Network and our members Bobby Tubre and his grandfather, Don Williams,...
Written by Andrew Whitehurst
Tuesday, 15 August 2017
Black corals, contrary to their name, do not appear black but instead come in a...
Written by Hannah Leis
Friday, 11 August 2017
This article is excerpted from the Summer 2017 issue of Gulf Currents, GRN's bi-annual printed...
Written by Cyn Sarthou
Wednesday, 09 August 2017
The press release below was issued today by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Center...
Written by Cyn Sarthou
Friday, 04 August 2017
Today, researchers from Louisiana State University (LSU) and the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON) announced...
Written by Matt Rota
Wednesday, 02 August 2017
Lophelia, a species of stony coral , is the most common structure-forming deep sea coral...
Written by Hannah Leis
Wednesday, 02 August 2017

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