Blogging for a Healthy Gulf

 

Florida's beaches are monitored by County Health Departments and posted if bacterial contamination is found.

When the toilet flushes, we never expect to see it again. And we all know what I mean by “it.” Yet raw sewage is bubbling up in the streets from failing infrastructure in many Florida communities, putting public health and the environment at risk.

Raw sewage can contain various disease-causing organisms, including viruses, bacteria, and parasites—many of which can cause serious illness and even death in humans. When raw sewage reaches waterways it contaminates shellfish, adds nutrients to waterways that already have too many nutrients, and puts swimmers and others enjoying the water at-risk of illness.

Across the Florida panhandle coast where I do much of my work, failing sewage infrastructure is causing huge problems for people and the environment. We’re identifying the worst of these polluting systems and working...

 

Brown water loaded with nutrients descends on the waters around Sanibel Island, FL.

A message from Florida-Alabama coastal organizer Christian Wagley:

In order to realize a healthy and restored Gulf, GRN relies on thousands of people and organizational partners in communities all along the Gulf coast. Our friends in Southwest Florida are experiencing another epic tragedy as massive flows of freshwater are being diverted down the Caloosahatchee River to the coast to keep inland farms and communities dry. These massive flows cause major impacts as salinities drop and the growth of algae explodes, causing a cascade of negative impacts to waterways. Rae Ann Wessel of Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation brings us an update from the field, in The Caloosahatchee Conundrum.

The Caloosahatchee Conundrum

Record setting rainfall the last 2 weeks of May, 2018 flooded the entire Greater Everglades region....

 

Oiled baby endangered Kemp's Ridley Turtle

Lawsuit Challenges Trump Administration for Failing to Protect Gulf of Mexico Wildlife from Offshore Drilling

Agencies have failed to hold legal consultation on offshore drilling after Deepwater Horizon disaster

 

TAMPA, Fla.– Earthjustice, on behalf of three conservation groups, sued the Trump administration today for failing to complete a legally required consultation about offshore drilling’s harms to threatened and endangered species in the Gulf of Mexico.

 

The National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are required under the Endangered Species Act to complete a consultation with the Bureau...

 

Aeriel shot of the Pearl River by Bonny Schumaker

Jackson, Miss. – On June 20, 2018, a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) study for a dam on the Pearl River in Jackson was released by the sponsoring Rankin Hinds Pearl River Flood and Drainage Control District and the non-profit Pearl River Vision Foundation. This public-private partnership has used the Foundation to lobby Congress and the Mississippi Legislature for the lake and to raise funds for the writing and review of the draft EIS. While a similar proposal was rejected by the United States Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) several years ago, the sponsors voted in 2013 to select the proposed “One Lake” as the locally preferred plan well before environmental studies were started. While this plan purports to be a response to flooding in the Jackson area, it is questionable as to its effectiveness and environmental impact. Other alternatives to flood control exist that don’t require a new 1500...

 

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...

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