Blogging for a Healthy Gulf

 
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...

 

OneRiverNoLake.com sends opposition comments

The Washington Parish Council passed a resolution against more upstream damming on the Pearl River as a result of Jackson Mississippi’s proposed “One Lake” project. The resolution passed unanimously at the Council’s meeting on Monday night, January 22nd in Franklinton, La.


With this action, both Parish governments on the Louisiana side of the lower Pearl River oppose this lake project due to concerns about reduced river flow and degradation of river habitats, wetlands, and potential harm to industries and municipal sewage plants permitted to discharge to the Pearl River. The St. Tammany Parish Council passed a similar resolution opposing the project in 2013. The Mississippi Commission on Marine Resources passed its own resolution in 2013 - primarily to protect oyster production from more threats to fresh water flow caused by upstream damming on the Pearl River.


People up in Jackson may wonder why there is such a stir...

 

The on-again, off-again saga of drilling off the Florida coast is…on again. Well, apparently it was never really off. 

Just a few days after the Trump administration proposed opening nearly the entire U.S. coast to drilling, including the long off-limits eastern Gulf of Mexico off Florida, there came a hasty announcement from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.  After meeting briefly with Florida governor Rick Scott, Zinke announced that there would be no drilling off Florida. 

Huh? 

At first that seemed like good news, but it’s also true that major decisions such as where to allow drilling are hugely complex and take months and years to outline. The political theatre of Sec. Zinke’s announcement was replaced a few days later by a reality-check from the director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, who said that Zinke’s announcement is not official policy and that the five year leasing plan—including drilling off FL—is...

 

A coalition of Gulf Coast chefs and restaurant owners is calling on lawmakers to vote against a federal fisheries bill that the House is currently considering.

HR 200 (or “Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act”), is the reauthorization bill for the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA), the law passed in 1976 that governs federal fisheries. It was marked up by the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources in December, which means the bill will likely be brought to the House floor and voted on during the current legislative session. 

Prominent chefs have joined together to send a letter to Congress urging them to defeat what they see as a threat to a Gulf resource that has been slow to rebound since nearly collapsing in the 1980s. 

“HR 200 is a direct attack on successful and bipartisan...

 
No to more drilling and spill

Last week, the Trump administration released a plan to open up nearly all U.S. water to oil and gas drilling. This news came on the heels of an announcement that Trump is rolling back protections, such as portions of the “well-control rule,” which were enacted to fix the problems that led to the BP drilling disaster.

Opening new areas to drilling while rolling back vital protections may make big oil happy, but it’s bad news for our coastal communities, the environment, and offshore workers. Take action to protect our coasts and people.

8 years ago, we experienced the largest oil drilling disaster in United States history. 11 offshore workers lost their lives, hundreds of millions of gallons of oil were spilled by BP, millions of animals were killed and people from all walks of life felt the economic fallout. We are still living with the consequences of that disaster....

 

Image credit: CPRA

Every year, the state of Louisiana releases a new Annual Coastal Plan the Louisiana Coastal Master Plan – the state’s 50 year, $50+ billion dollar plan to restore the coast and protect communities. The overall Master Plan is a big picture strategic document, which the state updates every 5 years. The Annual Coastal Plan gets into more of the nitty-gritty details of what money will be spent on what projects over the next 3 years and where that money will be coming from.

The state released the draft version of the annual plan in mid-December and will be taking public comments on the plan until February 12th. There are three public hearings about the plan next week (scroll down for the details). According to the draft plan, the state is projected to:

  • ...
 

Last week the U.S. House Committee on wetlandsNatural Resources met to mark up the bills reauthorizing the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the federal law that manages our nation’s fisheries. “Marking up” is the process in which members of the committee debate, amend, and rewrite proposed legislation before it goes to the House floor to be debated and voted upon. 

One little noticed amendment that the Committee passed was introduced by Representative Garret Graves of Louisiana. That amendment would exempt certain activities in Louisiana from the requirements of mitigating impacts to fisheries. 

During the hearing, Graves explained that he introduced the amendment because National Marine Fisheries Services is designating lands that have been eroded and are now water as Essential Fish Habitat, thus requiring mitigation for impacts to the fisheries for coastal wetland restoration activities. 

Rep. Jared...

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