Blogging for a Healthy Gulf

 
No to more drilling and spill

Last week, the Trump administration released a plan to open up nearly all U.S. water to oil and gas drilling. This news came on the heels of an announcement that Trump is rolling back protections, such as portions of the “well-control rule,” which were enacted to fix the problems that led to the BP drilling disaster.

Opening new areas to drilling while rolling back vital protections may make big oil happy, but it’s bad news for our coastal communities, the environment, and offshore workers. Take action to protect our coasts and people.

8 years ago, we experienced the largest oil drilling disaster in United States history. 11 offshore workers lost their lives, hundreds of millions of gallons of oil were spilled by BP, millions of animals were killed and people from all walks of life felt the economic fallout. We are still living with the consequences of that disaster....

 

Image credit: CPRA

Every year, the state of Louisiana releases a new Annual Coastal Plan the Louisiana Coastal Master Plan – the state’s 50 year, $50+ billion dollar plan to restore the coast and protect communities. The overall Master Plan is a big picture strategic document, which the state updates every 5 years. The Annual Coastal Plan gets into more of the nitty-gritty details of what money will be spent on what projects over the next 3 years and where that money will be coming from.

The state released the draft version of the annual plan in mid-December and will be taking public comments on the plan until February 12th. There are three public hearings about the plan next week (scroll down for the details). According to the draft plan, the state is projected to:

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Last week the U.S. House Committee on wetlandsNatural Resources met to mark up the bills reauthorizing the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the federal law that manages our nation’s fisheries. “Marking up” is the process in which members of the committee debate, amend, and rewrite proposed legislation before it goes to the House floor to be debated and voted upon. 

One little noticed amendment that the Committee passed was introduced by Representative Garret Graves of Louisiana. That amendment would exempt certain activities in Louisiana from the requirements of mitigating impacts to fisheries. 

During the hearing, Graves explained that he introduced the amendment because National Marine Fisheries Services is designating lands that have been eroded and are now water as Essential Fish Habitat, thus requiring mitigation for impacts to the fisheries for coastal wetland restoration activities. 

Rep. Jared...

 
Lousiana Legislative Pearl River Task Force
L to R. Abby Braman, Andrew, La. Rep. Malinda White at Capitol

State Representative Malinda White of Bogalusa invited Gulf Restoration Network and The Pearl Riverkeeper to make a presentation at the Louisiana State Capitol about our concerns over the One Lake project on the Pearl River. The Pearl River Task Force is a joint legislative committee run by the Louisiana Senate Committee on Natural Resources. Senator Sharon Hewitt presided over the committee.  


On December 13th the committee heard first from the Vicksburg Corps District on the decommissioning of the Pearl River Navigation Canal and sills downstream of Bogalusa La. The Corps is requiring a transfer fee of between $300,000 and $400,000 from the state or local governmental recipient before it turns over the keys. This bit of news was frustrating. Also, the Corps presenters offered no path forward for working together on the canal project handoff.

Glen Constant of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service talked about some progress...

 
NRDA Meeting Mobile November 30 2017
Commenters address NRDA Trustees after Open House and Presentations

In Mobile, Alabama the trustees from the Natural Resources Damage Assessment (NRDA Trustees) held a public meeting on Thursday November 30th so that the six working groups (Trustee Implementation Groups or TIGs) spending this source of BP penalty money could report on the past year’s activities and flag important goals for 2018. Each Gulf state from Florida to Texas has its own TIG and there are two that apply to the Gulf in general: the Region wide (Gulf wide) TIG and the Open Ocean TIG.


The meeting was ambitious and sought to present a year’s worth of information on restoration projects in all five Gulf states and the cross-boundary efforts. Each of the six trustee groups provided a powerpoint with summary statistics about the types of projects funded: restoring water quality, replenishing and protecting living coastal and marine resources, restoring and conserving habitats, and providing and enhancing recreational opportunities....

 
Greening Black Friday
photo by: John B. Henderson

Black Friday is coming up and as you begin preparing for the biggest shopping day of the year, take a look at these tips on how to stay green while you shop!

Make a list, check it twice

Before you shop, think about what you really need. It's always good to have a plan. When you know what you want before heading to the stores on Friday, you’ll be in a better place to say no to the things you don’t really need. Remember, just because something is on sale doesn’t mean you should buy it.

Buy Green

If you’re looking for something specific, do research ahead of time to find the most eco-friendly version of the product that you’re looking for. In the market for some new Christmas lights? Get energy efficient ones! Do a little digging on the internet and find companies that create products with the environment...

 

GRN arranged a swamp tour on November 16th for members of the Louisiana and coastal Mississippi print and television media at Dr. Wagner’s Honey Island Swamp Tours in Slidell, Louisiana. Our reason was simple: To shine critical light on the “One Lake” plan to create another lake and dam on the Pearl River in the name of flood control. We wanted to show that it is destructive, regressive and will impact the lower Pearl River in ways that other flood control options don’t.
Our host was Captain Paul Trahan, owner of Dr. Wagner’s Tours, who narrated an afternoon trip on the West Pearl River for our invited guests.  We invited people from the upper and lower reaches of the Pearl River to come, take a ride and talk about both the hopeful things happening recently on the Pearl, and about the threat from more damming upstream in Jackson.


With...

 
Restoration Summit 2017
Round Table Discussions at Restoration Summit

 

Mississippi’s second annual Restoration Summit convened on Tuesday Nov. 14th so the state could announce a new group of  ecological and economic restoration projects for 2018, funded by the BP oil spill settlement and penalties. The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality is the lead agency managing the allocation of the funds and had the responsibility Tuesday night of explaining the projects to the public and asking people to comment and help identify restoration needs.


At the end of nearly two hours of presentations, a facilitated round-table style discussion was held so that people in the audience could comment about strengths and weaknesses of the restoration plans they heard, and help identify places on maps that still needed attention. People at my round table tried to help answer MDEQ’s questions about restoration using maps to identify water quality trouble spots.


Some of the main points of emphasis during...

 

Oil in the water of the Gulf of Mexico

The House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing this month to discuss the fate of the Accessing Strategic Resources Offshore Act (ASTRO Act). If passed, the act will amend the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSL) which impedes the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) from being leased out to oil & gas companies near specific states along the coasts of America. In short, this is an oil & gas industry dream and an environmentalist’s nightmare.

Passing the ASTRO Act means opening up these protected areas of the OCS to leasing for offshore drilling. If that happens, coastal communities that rely on the oceans and Gulf for their livelihoods are opened up to the inevitable issues that arise from oil drilling and spilling.  But that’s not all the Act does. Here are some of the worst parts of the Act:

Takes the power from the President.

The Astro Act seeks...

 
Florida Pollution Sign
Photo by: Christian Wagley

And the hurricanes just kept coming…In finishing my first full month on the job as GRN’s coastal organizer for Florida and Alabama, here came another one as Hurricane Nate churned toward the northern Gulf Coast. 

Fortunately, Nate was only a Category 1 storm when it came ashore on the Mississippi coast, but it still managed to do some damage. Here in the Florida Panhandle, despite avoiding a direct hit, there was still some coastal flooding, and even another sewage spill that sent about 100,000 gallons of partially-treated effluent into Santa Rosa Sound at Pensacola Beach.

These sewage spills seem to be a regular consequence of tropical weather here in Florida, pointing-out one of many vulnerabilities in our system that places the environment and public health at-risk. Every time the wind blows...

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