Blogging for a Healthy Gulf

Thursday, August 21, 2014 - 3:33pm
RESTORE Council
RESTORE Council Meeting in August 2013.

Today, the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council (Council) released project submission guidelines for funding projects and proposals under the Council’s Comprehensive Plan. The Council, which was created under the RESTORE Act, is tasked with overseeing how potentially billions of dollars in Clean Water Act fines from the BP Disaster will be spent.

“For years, members of the Gulf Future Coalition have been pushing for public engagement and transparency in how the fines from the BP disaster are spent. We’re discouraged and quite frankly shocked to see an utter disregard for the demands of community members in these proposed project submission release guidelines,” said Jayeesha Dutta, Coordinator of the Gulf Future Coalition. “The people of the Gulf coast whose way of life and livelihoods have been most affected by the BP disaster must have a seat at the decision making table.”

In a...

Wednesday, August 20, 2014 - 11:46am
A black sponge laying amongst coral in the McGrail Bank region  of the Gulf of Mexico.
A black sponge laying amongst coral in the McGrail Bank region of the Gulf of Mexico. Photo: NURC/UNCW and NOAA/FGBNMS.

Beneath the Gulf’s sparkling waters, there lays a largely unseen world made up of hundreds of spectacular, unique ecosystems that are hotbeds of biodiversity. Recently a report by the Marine Conservation Institute, entitled “Gulf Gems: Treasured Places in Troubled Waters,” highlighted ten of the most spectacular of these ecological gems. The featured ecosystems include: 

  • Pulley Ridge, the deepest known photosynthetic coral reef off the continental U.S.—found 200 feet below the ocean surface — which is vibrantly colored and inhabited by more than 60 species of fish; 
  • Madison Swanson, Steamboat Lumps and The Edges off the Gulf coast of Florida, consisting of limestone cliffs and rocky outcrops that support arrow and hermit crabs, basket stars, sea fans and Oculina coral;
  • Viosca Knolls, a conglomeration of deep sea coral communities due south of Mobile and 1,640 feet beneath the ocean’s surface that support a range of diversity generally only seen in shallow
  • ...
Monday, August 18, 2014 - 3:58pm
unbackfilled oil canal, a scar on the landscape

Louisiana needs to address the problem of abandoned oilfield sites.  Individuals and organizations can submit formal comments to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to apply the law on abandonment of oilfield sites.

Oilfield sites have scarred Louisiana for generations, becoming worse in spite of DNR efforts. 

Although Louisiana law and regulations require companies to “plug-and-abandon” non-producing sites, regulations have included large loopholes. Coupled with weak enforcement, this has led to thousands of useless open canals. 

The Louisiana Legislative Auditor recently released a report condemning DNR’s oversight of these sites. This report has sparked a 'rulemaking'--DNR recognizes that it needs to close the loopholes that allow oil and gas companies to shirk their duties to the public trust. 

The Green Army has drafted extensive comments on the shortcomings of the existing rules and...

Tuesday, August 12, 2014 - 2:37pm

This articles is excerpted from Gulf Currents, GRN's quarterly newsletter. To read the rest of the Summer 2014 edition of Gulf Currents, click here.


A platform making its way down one of many channels in Terrebonne Parish, LA. Photo: Jonathan Henderson, GRN. Flight provided by Southwings.org.

Many coastal advocates are reeling after Governor Bobby Jindal and the Louisiana state legislature dealt a blow to a heroic effort to hold the oil industry accountable for the role they have played in destroying Louisiana’s coastal wetlands and increasing the vulnerability of New Orleans and other coastal communities to the impacts of powerful storms and floods.

Of course, this is not Gulf Restoration Network’s first time supporting accountability for the oil industry.

In 2007, GRN headed up a coalition effort – working with groups from Greenpeace to the Louisiana Shrimp...

Monday, August 11, 2014 - 3:02pm

Daniel McCool begins each chapter of River Republic: The Fall and Rise of America’s Rivers with a verse from the 19th century romantic poet William Cullen Bryant’s hymn to nature, “Green River.” If McCool’s book is his own hymn to America’s rivers, history and environmental policy are among his poetic devices.

McCool, who serves as the director of the Environmental and Sustainability Studies Program at the University of Utah, describes a movement that has emerged in the past twenty years among grassroots river organizations to challenge the status quo of water policy. 

McCool’s writing is fluid and illustrative, incorporating poetry and music at times, which makes it a particularly enjoyable read. His personal narratives also supplement the secondary research of the book, reminding us what we each have at stake in protecting our rivers. 

McCool evokes a hopeful tone for the future of America’s scenic rivers by chronicling this “new...

Monday, August 4, 2014 - 12:00am

New Orleans, LA—Today scientists from the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium released their annual measurement of the Gulf Dead Zone, which measured 5,008 square miles, almost as large as the state of Connecticut.. LUMCON has been measuring the Dead Zone since 1985, and this year’s Dead Zone is three times larger than the Dead Zone Task Force’s 2015 goal. 

“While it is known that Louisiana is not one of the top contributors of Dead Zone-causing pollution, that is where the biggest impacts are felt,” said Matt Rota, Senior Policy Director for the Gulf Restoration Network. “Despite this impact, Louisiana is simply not doing enough to make upriver polluters stop polluting the Gulf.”

In February of this year, the Louisiana Attorney General, along with several other Attorneys General filed a “friend-of-the-court” brief, opposing a dead zone pollution clean-up plan for Chesapeake Bay, despite support from states that would be impacted by the...

Sunday, August 3, 2014 - 12:00am

Sunday, I went out with Public Laboratory's Mat Lippincott to map a marsh restoration built by Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation.  

And it's great to see these plants take off!  Plants that are more protected have been growing more vigorously at this beachfront at the Lake. It normally takes plants up to two years to grow into clumps this large, but here we've seen clumps at a mere three months. 

This video was taken by wideangle lens camera on a pole, to give it a 30 foot perspective that you can't normally see. Check it out!

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Scott Eustis is GRN's Coastal Wetland Specialists....

Wednesday, July 23, 2014 - 1:43pm
Sunrise over Steinhatchee River. Photo courtesy of Suwannee River Water Management District.

In the U.S., we’ve seen year after year of record high temperatures, droughts in Texas, massive storms and surges, shifting plant zones and loss of species diversity. As the state with the most shoreline at risk, the climate change threats to Florida from sea level rise are legion. Many of our “leaders” continue to deny that the threat is real, the threat is global, and it will impact all of us.

Studies have documented risks to shorelines, coastal mangrove migration at the expense of tidal freshwater forests, impacts on economically important species like oysters and finfish, and flood insurance rate hikes. Increasing tidal flooding and decreasing relative elevation are strongly correlated with a decline in forest species richness. As mean high tides lines rise, many of our coastal communities face water inundation and ultimately, property abandonment. In spite of these risks, many communities fail to restrict...

Wednesday, July 23, 2014 - 10:22am
Haynesville Shale North Louisiana Frack Pads, GRN flight 2014.

While some speculate that the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale (TMS) may provide a future oil "boom" in southwest Mississippi counties, the reality is, the boom is no longer hypothetical and it will not just affect southwest Mississippi. Various signs indicate that the TMS has indeed been opened to major commercial production. To date, there are at least eight major corporations drilling or planning to drill the TMS, hundreds of millions of dollars in investments coming into these corporations, and plans to house and feed the influx of people employed by the oil boom.

Millions of gallons of water are currently being pumped from rivers and ponds for fracking. Stream withdrawals threaten water quantity in the public waterways of southwest Mississippi and downstream in Louisiana’s East Feliciana, St. Helena and Tangipahoa Parishes. Despite the gears steadily turning, and multiple wells being drilled, the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality has yet to implement...

Thursday, July 17, 2014 - 11:40am
Florida Panther at Big Cypress National Preserve. Photo credit: National Park Service/Ralph Arwood.

As we Floridians continue to guard our coastlines against offshore drilling, Texas oil companies are quietly moving to drill for oil in our backyards using a technique known as “acid fracking”. Acid fracking involves injecting massive quantities of fresh water, toxic chemicals and even salt water into the limestone below Florida’s aquifer – dissolving it to free up dirty fossil fuels.  Thirty percent of these injection fluids are not returned to the surface and these chemical could impact our groundwater, and the Gulf.

In Collier County, east of Naples, residents banded together to fight against the proposed Golden Gate acid fracking project in their community. Great news! In a surprise move, the Dan A. Hughes oil company withdrew its permit to drill an exploratory well adjacent to the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, and announced late Tuesday that it would cease drilling activity in Florida, including its well near...

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