Blogging for a Healthy Gulf

 
Mississippi Water Resources Conference
2018 MWRC Presentations on Streamflow

The Mississippi Water Resources Conference happened in Jackson on April 3-4 and provided many presentations on an array of ground and surface water issues in the state. Rodney Knight from the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) Lower Mississippi-Gulf Water Science Center in Nashville moderated a great session. Usually at this reliably well-run conference, there are one or two presentations that focus on things in Mississippi that are on-point with my and GRN’s work. Rodney’s presentation was one of those. He presented about how the USGS and other research organizations are assessing streamflow to support bay and estuary restoration along the Gulf of Mexico.


Rodney told us first about a Phase I Gulf-wide project to assess where streamflows have been altered the most and the least, and to identify gaps in flow information. The USGS installs and monitors a vast network of stream gauges that transmit real-time information about river stage,...

 
Wetlands proposed to be filled by Yazoo Backwater Pumps project
Wetlands near Big Sunflower River proposed to be filled by failed Yazoo Backwater Pumps

The Yazoo Backwater Pumps project is a 77 year old Army Corps of Engineers’ (Corps) project that would have resulted in one of the world’s largest water pumping plants in one of the most sparsely populated regions of the country. The pumps would, at last estimate, cost taxpayers $220 million with at least $1 million in yearly upkeep.  

The project would destroy between 67,000-200,000 acres of wetlands in the river bottoms of the Lower Yazoo basin in the Mississippi Delta. Marketed as a flood control project, the Pumps were actually intended to create marginal farmland.  These wetlands now flood about every other year, and drying them out permanently would erase flood protection for residents along the Mississippi River and remove high quality stop-over habitat for the millions of ducks, geese, shorebirds and other migratory species that use them.

This is literally the project that just won’t die. We first...

 

The Florida Legislature has been on an anti-environment tack for most of the past 15 years, even as Floridians become increasingly concerned about issues such as growth, water shortages, and the health of the State’s waterways where so many of us fish and swim. Unfortunately, this year’s just-completed legislative session brought more of the same—with at least one glimmer of hope.

Florida’s natural landscape and waterways are so unique compared to those of the rest of the nation, that they are a defining element of life in the Sunshine State. As these places degrade, so too does the very quality of Florida that makes people want to live, visit, and do business here.

Despite the fact that Florida has lost more wetlands than any other state, legislators passed a bill--HB 7043—that allows the State’s Department of Environmental Protection to...

 
Houston flooding

In Houston, Hurricane Harvey’s floodwaters displaced tens of thousands of residents, flooded more than 70 toxic sites and led to the release of hundreds of thousands of gallons of pollutants. In the immediate aftermath of the storm, Gulf Restoration Network and partners flew over Houston and other impacted areas in Texas and Louisiana documenting some of these pollution events (pictures here and here).

As the floodwaters receded and people began to pick up the pieces, a new collaboration – the Coalition for Environment, Equity, and Resilience or CEER – was formed with a focus on raising awareness of the connection between pollution, place and the public’s health.

Gulf Restoration Network is proud to be a member of this coalition that “aims to drive community voices into the post-Hurricane Harvey decision-making process to promote equity and resilience by emphasizing land, water, air, waste, and housing policies that reduce...

 
oysters
Marsh edge with oysters

Mississippi’s elected leadership may be getting a better understanding about how river flow and oysters are related. It would seem that a coastal state such as ours would protect the rivers that feed fresh water to the coast. River flow helps keep moderate salinities in marshes and coastal bays- the nursery areas - that make it possible to have a seafood industry that harvests fish, shrimp, crabs and oysters. Oysters, unlike the other marine life, cannot move, and the water conditions where they grow either sustain them or harm them.


One executive agency of the state, the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, (MDMR) is trying to restore oyster production. In the west end of the Mississippi Sound, near the Hancock County marshes,  Rigolets and Lake Borgne, oyster growth and production depend on the right conditions - created by the Pearl River’s fresh water flow mixing with the Sound’s higher...

 

In the first two months of 2018, four governments along the Lower Pearl River have written new resolutions against the project upstream in Jackson known as “One Lake.” This real estate dream is being pitched as riverfront development and flood control for the Jackson Metro area and is being pushed ahead of other less disruptive alternatives for the river. In 2013, at the beginning of the scoping period for the project’s required Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), the sponsoring Rankin-Hinds Pearl River Flood and Drainage Control District voted for the lake as their locally preferred alternative over levee improvements, channel modifications without a dam, or floodplain buyouts. The District didn’t wait until the studies were under way very long to tip their hand, which is slanted toward riverfront real estate development.


 The lake plan and the other alternatives have been undergoing Agency Technical Review (ATR) at the Army Corps of Engineers...

 

Example of sediment flowing into the Amite river from a mine pit

The rivers of Louisiana are intricately connected to our unique and valuable wetland forests. You may recognize some of these iconic southern riverine landscapes, such as cypress-tupelo dominated swamps.

 

Wetland forests provide effective shelter from floods and storms, a filter for safe clean water, and are an integral part of the Gulf’s cultural and natural heritage. Streams cooled by these non-coastal forests provide productive habitats for a variety of fish and wildlife species, including those that are not found anywhere else on the planet, like the inflated heelsplitter mussel and the broadstripe topminnow.

 

Decades of unregulated sand and gravel mining has degraded Louisiana's iconic rivers and the surrounding wetland forests. In the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, residential development has rapidly increased in these river basins. As a result, large swaths...

 

OneRiverNoLake.com sends opposition comments

The Washington Parish Council passed a resolution against more upstream damming on the Pearl River as a result of Jackson Mississippi’s proposed “One Lake” project. The resolution passed unanimously at the Council’s meeting on Monday night, January 22nd in Franklinton, La.


With this action, both Parish governments on the Louisiana side of the lower Pearl River oppose this lake project due to concerns about reduced river flow and degradation of river habitats, wetlands, and potential harm to industries and municipal sewage plants permitted to discharge to the Pearl River. The St. Tammany Parish Council passed a similar resolution opposing the project in 2013. The Mississippi Commission on Marine Resources passed its own resolution in 2013 - primarily to protect oyster production from more threats to fresh water flow caused by upstream damming on the Pearl River.


People up in Jackson may wonder why there is such a stir...

 

The on-again, off-again saga of drilling off the Florida coast is…on again. Well, apparently it was never really off. 

Just a few days after the Trump administration proposed opening nearly the entire U.S. coast to drilling, including the long off-limits eastern Gulf of Mexico off Florida, there came a hasty announcement from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.  After meeting briefly with Florida governor Rick Scott, Zinke announced that there would be no drilling off Florida. 

Huh? 

At first that seemed like good news, but it’s also true that major decisions such as where to allow drilling are hugely complex and take months and years to outline. The political theatre of Sec. Zinke’s announcement was replaced a few days later by a reality-check from the director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, who said that Zinke’s announcement is not official policy and that the five year leasing plan—including drilling off FL—is...

 

A coalition of Gulf Coast chefs and restaurant owners is calling on lawmakers to vote against a federal fisheries bill that the House is currently considering.

HR 200 (or “Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act”), is the reauthorization bill for the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA), the law passed in 1976 that governs federal fisheries. It was marked up by the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources in December, which means the bill will likely be brought to the House floor and voted on during the current legislative session. 

Prominent chefs have joined together to send a letter to Congress urging them to defeat what they see as a threat to a Gulf resource that has been slow to rebound since nearly collapsing in the 1980s. 

“HR 200 is a direct attack on successful and bipartisan...

Pages

Recent Posts

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
The comment period closed September 6th on the “One Lake” project’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement...
Written by Andrew Whitehurst
Tuesday, 09 October 2018

Latest Actions

SHARE THIS PAGE