Blogging for a Healthy Gulf

 

Our cleanup crew and friends pause for a photo after tackling another mangled yard in Panama City, FL.

As the sun is still rising into a warm fall day, I pile into a large pickup with four folks I met only five minutes before, prepared for a 12 hour day of hurricane relief work. Onboard is an architect, interior designer, audio-visual installer, and a nonprofit consultant. As the chatter begins, I’m pretty sure I’m the quietest of the bunch.

We head east from Walton County, Florida, and into areas affected by Hurricane Michael. We’re packed to the brim with supplies--chainsaws, tools, ice cold beverages, food, and everything from pet food to formula to leave behind with those in need.

First we head to Chipley, 50 miles north of the coast and a rural area forgotten by many in the focus on waterfront areas. We help an older man clear...

 

As with all who are following the devastation from Hurricane Michael, I’m shocked and saddened by the destruction. Michael hit an area of the coast that I know and love, and it will be a long time before it is whole again.

My first step after the storm was to contact as many friends and professional colleagues as possible to check on their well-being, which has been hard to do with electricity and cell service out in most of the area. Next I completed daily monitoring of miles of aerial photography looking for any environmental issues caused by the storm. That includes pollution from industrial facilities, as well as the coastal resilience issues of beaches and wetlands that provide natural buffering from storms. That work continues.

With authorities asking those who do not live in the area to stay...

 
Green sea turtle hatchling
Green sea turtle hatchling entering the surf at Padre Island National Seashore. Photo credit: NPS

Many Americans have never heard of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), despite the fact that it has enriched their lives for 50 years. The LWCF has been the main legislative vehicle for protection of public lands and waters, funding literally thousands of projects across the country. The Gulf Coast provides a vivid example of the benefits that the LWCF has delivered for America since its passage by Congress in 1964.

The network of National Wildlife Refuges across Gulf Coast states that have been created and/or improved by the LWCF is impressive: six in Alabama, fifteen in Florida, twelve in Louisiana, three in Mississippi, and nine in Texas. These include some critically important coastal refuges: Grand Bay in Alabama and Mississippi, St. Johns and St. Marks in Florida, Bayou Sauvage in Louisiana, and Aransas in Texas.

The LWCF also helped create the jewels of the National Seashore system located...

 
Lower Pearl from the Air
Lower Pearl River from GRN. Photo by Billy Duggar, On Wings of Care Billy Duggar

The comment period closed September 6th on the “One Lake” project’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement. GRN and Tulane Environmental Law Clinic prepared comments that could anchor legal action against the Rankin Hinds Drainage District, but many other organizations and state agencies did a great job in writing thorough comments and GRN reserved the right to refer to any of them. All of the state agencies in Louisiana concerned with coastal resources prepared comment letters that State Senator Sharon Hewitt coordinated into a consolidated document.  St. Tammany Parish’s planning and development chief engineer, Dr. deEtte Smythe, performed an exhaustive analysis of the original USGS flow data on the Pearl from Jackson to Lake Borgne. The National Wildlife Federation’s senior environmental lawyer, Melissa Samet, produced a 56 page legal comment letter that spanned all the federal law issues involved in this damming and dredging project. A joint comment letter with 56 businesses...

 
Slick from Taylor Energy leak in 2013
Slick from Taylor Energy leak in Sept. 2013

Last month, the federal government filed new reports suggesting that the Taylor Energy oil leak, which has been spewing oil into the Gulf for 14 years, is far larger than previously reported, and could be growing.

According to the filings, Taylor Energy is leaking between 10,000 to 30,000 gallons of oil daily. This represents a huge increase from previous government estimates. The Coast Guard previously estimated 16,000 gallons leaked in all of 2015 - so this new estimate is an over 2,200% increase!

We don’t know if oil has been leaking at that rate for the last 14 years, but if it has been leaking 10,000 gallons a day since 2004 - that represents 51,100,000 gallons of oil dumped into the Gulf. That would make Taylor Energy one of the top 10 largest offshore oil spills ever!

Check out this excerpt (written by GRN’s Scott Eustis) from our...

 
Diversity Equity and Inclusion
Diversity Equity and Inclusion at GRN

Gulf Restoration Network has begun a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) initiative that will inform all aspects of our work. From outreach, recruitment and hiring, to our programs, campaign work and everyday office operations. It is an organizational goal to embrace differences in race, gender, ethnicity, class, ability, religion & sexual orientation, work with communities and allies in a way that values people of all experiences, and to serve marginalized and oppressed communities facing environmental injustices.


GRN completed an Equity self-assessment with the help of Daria Torres, a consultant with the Walls Torres Group LLC, who leads organizations in the implementation of their Equity Maturity Model (EqMM) to diagnose current performance, identify gaps and chart a path for a group seeking the goal of equity. Twelve dimensions are used to measure how an organization incorporates equity into its daily work and overall mission. The progress in attaining these dimensions...

 

Some Florida panhandle waterways continue to receive direct discharges of pollution, long after the Clean Water Act called for an end to the practice.

1985 seems like a long time ago. For those who care about clean water—which is pretty much everybody—1985 was a landmark year in the quest to restore our nation’s waterways. That was the year that the Clean Water Act set as a goal for eliminating all direct discharges to our rivers, lakes, bays, and oceans. 33 years later we are still trying to get there.

All of this came up recently as we worked with dozens of concerned citizens and elected officials to get the Navarre Beach Wastewater Plant to stop discharging its wastewater into Santa Rosa Sound. The plant is located on Santa Rosa Island about 25 miles east of Pensacola, and is one of the few remaining facilities in the area that discharges directly into surface waters.

Santa Rosa Sound...

 

The Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA)’s “Coastal Connections on the Water” event in on September 12 in Buras, LA, was illuminating in more ways than one. 

For someone like me who has a 101-level knowledge of sediment diversions, I came away with more engineering knowledge than I started with and a firmer belief that large-scale projects that more closely mimic nature--like the Mid-Barataria diversion--can work. If we are going to combat the catastrophic land loss we created with our levee systems and extractive industries, we’re going to need every tool in the toolbox.  

But if part of CPRA’s and co-hosts the Restore the Mississippi Delta Coalition’s purpose of the event was to seem more engaged with the citizens of Plaquemines Parish, as their event flyer indicated, I fear the presentation and...

 

This article originally appeared on the blog of Marine Fish Conservation Network. It was reprinted with permission.  

What does fisheries policy have to do with an indigenous nation’s campaign for federal recognition, a women-led grassroots organization’s fight to keep their bodies free from a dangerous isotope called tritium, the battle over water privatization taking place in Nigeria (and globally), and Puerto Rico’s struggle to rebuild after Hurricane Maria?

Everything, as it turns out.

Or at least that was one of my big takeaways from this year’s Bayou Rising, a gathering in Dulac, LA, jointly hosted by the United Houma Nation and the Gulf Coast Center for Law and Policy. The three-day workshop/conference brought together organizers from all over the South and the world to meet each other, fish together, eat together, sweat together (imagine a gym in south Louisiana in late July with no air conditioning), and...

 

[[GUEST BLOG]] You can see more of Julie Dermansky's in-depth stories and photos on this crisis as well as other environmental issues at DeSmog Blog: https://www.desmogblog.com/user/julie-dermansky

By Julie Dermansky • Thursday, August 16, 2018 - 15:57

“Covering stuff up doesn’t make it go away,” said Lilly Womble, an 18-year-old on vacation on Florida’s Sanibel Island. The island is world renowned for its sea shells but that day we were watching employees from the Sanibel Moorings Resort pull a sheet over a dead loggerhead sea turtle on the beach behind the hotel. One of the men covering the turtle said that people had seen it long enough, and he didn’t want it to scare kids.

“I think it is better if kids see what we are doing to the planet,” Womble told me. “Maybe seeing the dead turtle will make them pay attention to the environment.”...

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Recent Posts

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
Last month, the federal government filed new reports suggesting that the Taylor Energy oil leak,...
Written by Raleigh Hoke
Thursday, 04 October 2018
Gulf Restoration Network has begun a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) initiative that will inform...
Written by Andrew Whitehurst
Wednesday, 26 September 2018
1985 seems like a long time ago. For those who care about clean water—which is...
Written by Christian Wagley
Monday, 24 September 2018

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