Blogging for a Healthy Gulf

 
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...

 
Gulf coral
NOAA image 2009

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council met the first week of October in Biloxi, MS, to consider Coral Amendment 9, which is focused on protecting 15 Habitat Areas of Particular Concern for sensitive deep sea corals and protecting them under existing federal law.  

While we were pleased to see the Council move forward on this amendment protecting coral habitat, we were disappointed to see the Council eliminate key portions of Coral Amendment 9. The Council voted with almost no opposition to entirely eliminate all fishing regulations on two of the 15 areas in the Gulf of Mexico previously designated by scientists on the advisory committee as priority areas for protection. For two other sites, the council also voted to allow bottom long-lining and bottom trawling, two fishing practices with well documented risks to fish and their habitats.

Deep sea corals live in waters that sunlight does not reach...

 

Flood control alternatives, including the “One Lake” project for the Pearl River in Jackson, have been out of the spotlight, under technical review by the Army Corps of Engineers for nearly four years since scoping meetings were held in the fall of 2013. When the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and engineering studies are published late in 2017 or early 2018, it will signal the last practical chance for public comment/input until the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works makes a decision.


The Rankin-Hinds Pearl River Flood and Drainage Control District (the District) offered four flood control alternatives in 2013 during project scoping: levees and floodwalls, non-structural measures, channel improvements, and a lake development. Among these alternatives, only the lake development has its own public relations campaign thanks to John McGowan’s non-profit Pearl River Vision Foundation which has consistently promoted dredging and damming the Pearl River to create...

 
Santa Rosa Shore
Photo by: Christian Wagley

Santa Rosa Island is a gem along Florida’s Panhandle coast, with 52 miles of white sand beaches stretching from Destin to Pensacola and buffering the mainland from storms while providing habitat for a great diversity of life. Despite its value to both nature and people, a bill working its way through Congress would reduce protections for some of the Island’s natural areas and facilitate the dredging of a channel across it.

The Federal Government granted much of the Island to Escambia County back in 1947, with the stipulation that lands not be sold or conveyed to private owners and that they be used in the public interest. And so residents of Pensacola Beach and Navarre Beach lease rather than own their land. County governments in recent years began to tax residents on the value of their improvements...

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Recent Posts

State Representative Malinda White of Bogalusa invited Gulf Restoration Network and The Pearl Riverkeeper to...
Written by Andrew Whitehurst
Thursday, 14 December 2017
In Mobile, Alabama the trustees from the Natural Resources Damage Assessment (NRDA Trustees) held a...
Written by Andrew Whitehurst
Tuesday, 05 December 2017
Black Friday is coming up and as you begin preparing for the biggest shopping day...
Written by Marley Vebares
Wednesday, 22 November 2017
GRN arranged a swamp tour on November 16th for members of the Louisiana and coastal...
Written by Andrew Whitehurst
Tuesday, 21 November 2017
Mississippi’s second annual Restoration Summit convened on Tuesday Nov. 14th so the state could announce...
Written by Andrew Whitehurst
Wednesday, 15 November 2017
The House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing this month to discuss the fate of...
Written by Marley Vebares
Tuesday, 31 October 2017
And the hurricanes just kept coming… In finishing my first full month on the job...
Written by Christian Wagley
Tuesday, 24 October 2017

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