Blogging for a Healthy Gulf

 

Seagrasses in Florida's waterways provide incredible ecological benefits to coastal ecosystems.

 

Gazing out at its usually calm waters, one would never know that Pensacola Bay is missing 90% of its seagrass—the Bay’s single most important aquatic habitat. That’s why it’s vitally important that we protect the remaining seagrass. A recent Federal decision to rebuff plans to dredge some of the remaining seagrass for a deeper boat channel for a residential subdivision shows that with citizen pressure, sound science, and proper enforcement of the law—the regulatory system can work.

Santa Rosa Sound is a shallow waterway that runs along the south side of the Bay along the north shore of Santa Rosa Island. Because of the shallow water and proximity to Pensacola pass and its flushing action, the Sound has better water quality that supports most of the area’s remaining seagrass. Throughout the rest of the Bay system decades of industrial, wastewater, and...

 
One River No Lake Coalition Smith Robertson Meeting
Standing Room at Smith Robertson Atrium Room

A Community Engagement Meeting on the flood control project for the Pearl River (One Lake and its sister alternatives) happened this past Tuesday night, April 24th in Jackson. The One River-No Lake Coalition held the meeting at the attractive Atrium room of the Smith Robertson Museum downtown two blocks west of the State Capitol. I was the presenter of a powerpoint talk on the issues and questions that the Coalition wanted to highlight.


The final slide contained this question: Why should Congress fund a project to add a dam and new lake to the Pearl River when flood control options exist that don’t further fragment the river, don’t remove as many acres of protected habitat and are less objectionable to downstream interests?


The issues and questions I raised in the presentation were not new. I have been writing blogs and one-pagers about them and using them as talking...

 

On April 19th, Gulf Restoration Network released a new report - “Oil and Gas in the Gulf of Mexico” - that reviews ongoing damages from offshore oil and gas development, announces a new tool to document GRN’s monitoring efforts, and highlights some of the most significant pollution events in 2017. The report also shares recommendations on how to protect our communities from the impacts of offshore oil and gas development.

This release comes as Gulf Coast residents look back on the legacy of the BP drilling disaster, which occured 8 years ago this week. Scientist are continuing to study the long-term impacts of BP’s oil and dispersants - including documenting damage to deep sea corals and new research on the toxic impacts of dispersants on clean up workers.

There is also a newfound concern that the Gulf will be at greater risk of major...

 
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...

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Recent Posts

Gazing out at its usually calm waters, one would never know that Pensacola Bay is...
Written by Christian Wagley
Tuesday, 05 June 2018
A Community Engagement Meeting on the flood control project for the Pearl River (One Lake...
Written by Andrew Whitehurst
Thursday, 26 April 2018
On April 19th, Gulf Restoration Network released a new report - “ Oil and Gas...
Written by Raleigh Hoke
Thursday, 19 April 2018
The Mississippi Water Resources Conference happened in Jackson on April 3-4 and provided many presentations...
Written by Andrew Whitehurst
Friday, 06 April 2018
The Yazoo Backwater Pumps project is a 77 year old Army Corps of Engineers’ (Corps)...
Written by Cyn Sarthou
Wednesday, 28 March 2018
The Florida Legislature has been on an anti-environment tack for most of the past 15...
Written by Christian Wagley
Wednesday, 28 March 2018
In Houston, Hurricane Harvey’s floodwaters displaced tens of thousands of residents, flooded more than 70...
Written by Raleigh Hoke
Friday, 23 March 2018

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