Blogging for a Healthy Gulf


The New York Times editorial staff put it best when they wrote “like an indestructible ghoul in a low-grade horror flick, the Yazoo Pumps are rising again from the bureaucratic crypt.”

First proposed in 1941, the Yazoo Pumps are nothing short of a reoccurring nightmare. This World War II era project would, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, drain 200,000 acres of wetlands. A former EPA Wetland official called the pumps the most environmentally destructive project he ever reviewed in his 24 years at the agency.

If constructed the Yazoo Pumps would be the world’s largest pumping system, and the $220 million cost would be borne solely by federal taxpayers. In the 1996 Water Resources Development Act, Senator Thad Cochran successfully inserted language to get rid of the requirement that the local government share in the cost.

The pumps would damage two wildlife refuges and parts of a national forest, squandering investments the public has already made by damaging existing public resources. The project will make more land available for agribusiness. With wetlands shifting into farmlands, fertilizer application will increase and natural filtering systems will be diminished. By destroying wetlands, which filter out nitrogen and phosphorus, the project would also increase pollution loads in the lower Mississippi, adding to the degradation of water health in the Gulf of Mexico.

These wetlands also support critical floodplain fisheries; serve as a haven for ducks and other migratory birds; improve water quality; and help reduce flood damages by acting as natural sponges that store and slowly release floodwaters.

Mississippi Senators Trent Lott and Thad Cochran are championing the project, citing the pumps as necessary for local economic development and flood protection. But their view of economic development is extremely narrow. The 200,000 acres of wetland that the project would destroy provide many benefits to the Mississippi economy in the way of wildlife habitat, flood water storage, water purification, and recreation. As the Environmental Protection Agency has pointed out, the money spent on this project could be put to better use locally by updating ailing sewage treatment plants, obtaining conservation easements, and promoting nature tourism in the region. The line needs to be drawn somewhere. Economic development does not and should not require environmental destruction.

The final Environmental Impact Statement was published last Friday, now is the time to kill this project once and for all. Please take action to stop the Yazoo Pumps Project. Let the Corps, EPA, and the Department of the Interior know you oppose the project.

Stephanie Powell is the Outreach Associate for the GRN's Healthy Waters Program


Tampa Day of Action went well. I went to two Wal-Marts and really got the attention of the store managers.

The first store (closest to my apt) I lucked out and got to speak to the store general manager and a regional manager that happened to be there. When I started telling them why I was there, they were like deer in head lights, which was pretty rad. They looked really nervous and didn't say much of anything. The managers denied knowing anything about anything for the most part and promised to bring it to their supervisors. I felt really professional dropping all the facts on them, they were hanging on every word.

Mike is a GRN Intern in Tampa. If you're a student in the Gulf interested in interning with the GRN, check out this website,



Vivian Todd, Magnolia Garden Club (Zone IX) and members of the Conservation Committee visit Lowe's in Beaumont, TX on November 17, 2007 during the CYPRESS CALL FOR ACTION DAY. Unfortunately, we found lots of bags of cypress mulch from Ruston, Louisiana. They were asking Lowe's to stop selling cypress mulch and to contact their corporate office to tell them of our visit.

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Outside the Lowe's store in Beaumont, TX. Vivian Todd, Leslie Wilson, Kelly Munro, Becki Stedman, and Ann Bryant are armed with cypress mulch information to share with the Lowe's manager. November 17, 2007 - CYPRESS DAY of ACTION

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Our next stop - Home Depot, Beaumont, TX. Ann Bryant, Magnolia GC Conservation Chairman and Leslie Wilson stand in front of dozens of bags of cypress mulch..................

Vivian Todd is with the Magnolia Garden Club, a member of the Garden Club of America, in Beaumont, TX.


I intended to write this a while ago, but I've been ludicrously busy lately - and well, sometimes things just don't get done as intended. Mea culpa aside, I wanted to make sure our blog-reading supporters know that back in October, GRN was the official non-profit partner of the Voodoo Music Experience, one of the biggest, coolest music festivals, located right here in NOLA.

We did a few things with that opportunity: we launched a text messaging campaign (text the word 'coast' to the number 77007 to add your name to a petition to support restoring Louisiana's coast and communities - go ahead, do it); we organized a wetlands tour with the Lousiana Bayoukeeper to show Voodoo artists what was up with the coast; we tabled relentlessly and signed up well over 300 new GRN members (who could join at the special Voodoo rate of $20 and get a way cool, "Defend New Orleans: Defend the Coast" t-shirt for free); we got text campaign shout outs from artist announcers on the mainstage; we held a press conference announcing the Voodoo/GRN partnership with festival producers Rehage entertainment, cajun fiddler Amanda Shaw, filmmaker Walter Williams, and Jac Currie, principle of Defend New Orleans and our t-shirt collaborator. Of course, one of the coolest components of the three day event was meeting musicians who were down with the cause. Stanton Moore from Galactic, Big Sam from Big Sam's Funky Nation, Mark Mullins from Bonerama, Theresa Andersson, Amanda Shaw, Clint Maedegan from New Orleans Bingo Show (& Liquidrone), Marc Broussard (responsible for the single most effective text message shout out of the event), Ghost, Plain White Tees, Trombone Shorty, John Cleary, Groove sect, Amy Cook, Morning 40 Federation, Todd Voltz & Hands of Nero, Boots Riley, Dax Riggs, and my personal highlight, a couple of the guys from Wilco, who closed out the festival with an amazing performance which touched on about every album they've released.

Clint Maedgen's Complicated Life video: Featured prominently in the New Orleans Bingo Show at Voodoo - this is an amazing glimpse of life in NOLA - great, accessible song and vibe - watch it, you'll love it.

Head over to our flickr page to see all the great photos.

In addition to the artists I mentioned above, I'd be remiss if I didn't thank some key folks who made this successful event possible: Lisa Mirman from WTUL, Marc Ross from Rock the Earth, Walter Williams, Jez from Alternative, Jac from Defend New Orleans, Criss from Southern Screenprinting & Graphics, Emily Rosenblum from Tony Margherita Management, Jennifer Sacca from Rounder Records, Marcee from the Mitch Schneider Organization, Mike and Tracy from Bayoukeeper, Dave Roos, Gino, Marisa Morton, Casey, Casey, Anat, Alyssa, Amy and all the other great members of the GRN crew, Jeff & Karen from New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund, Alexis Giannopoulos from Highsteppin' Productions, Alex Smith from Smudge Ink Management,Charles Shaw from team shaw, Jen Pippitone & Emilio, Stephen Rehage and Mike Ciardi from Rehage Entertainment, Vydra from 106.7 FM, David, Scott, and Dimitri from WWOZ, and most importantly SIG!

Aaron Viles is the GRN's Campaign Directo




We are very proud of how our Step It Up 2007 event turned out. Attendance was great. We gave away all of our 200 red "Save New Orleans! Stop Global Warming" t-shirts. Our sponsors all had an opportunity to meet new members.

We served gumbo, BBQ, and Abita beer for our guests. We want to especially thank our friends, the excellent band "Country Fried" for playing our event. Check out their website (and buy their new album!) at

The speakers, Aaron Viles with the GRN (maybe you get e-mails from him?), John Atkeisen of the Alliance for Affordable Energy, Kenye Smith from the New Orleans Mayors office, Councilwoman Shelly Midura, State Rep Candidate Deborah Langhoff, and of course Senator John Edwards were very impressive. Senator Edwards spoke about how to curb global warming pollution without hurting our environment or economy by cutting greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050, create more green collar jobs, NO NEW COAL, and added that nuclear is not an option.

Senator Edwards was a good sport and joined us for the first part of the second line to the Superdome led by Da Truth Brass Band. At the Superdome, world renowned Aerial Artist John Quigley led us to spell out NO NEW COAL (pic above), which we believe, is a pretty clear message. Head over to flickr to see all the great photos (thanks Jeffrey Dubinsky for the fantastic shots).

We want to sincerely thank our sponsors for this event including:

Gulf Restoration Network
Alliance For Affordable Energy
The Louisiana Bucket Brigade
Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN)
The Sierra Club
Global Green
National Peace Corps Association
Tulane Xavier Center for Bio-Environmental Research
Advocates for Environmental Human Rights
St Bernard Citizens for Environmental Quality
Sustainable Churches for South Louisiana

Casey DeMoss Roberts is the Special Projects Coordinator for the Gulf Restoration Network.




Last Friday, I participated with TulaneUniversity faculty and alumni in creating an outdoor reading corner at the SophieB.WrightSchool in New Orleans. The plan was to dig up the grass and replace it with sod and plant flower beds and mulch them. When I arrived on scene, the first thing I noticed was bag upon bag of CYPRESS MULCH! As someone working on the Save Our Cypress campaign and knowing the importance of cypress trees, I couldn’t support a project that was mulching a garden with the very trees I am fighting to protect. Tulane has made commitments to not use cypress mulch on campus, but apparently the decision had not filtered to all levels. The head of the project assured me that the intent had not been to buy cypress mulch; rather, they had asked for the best mulch the gardening shop had to offer. I decided to call the nursery and ask to exchange the cypress mulch for a sustainable alternative. The woman at the nursery was surprised that I wanted to exchange the cypress mulch for pine bark. She had been misinformed, and she was repeating the myth that cypress is better at repelling bugs than other mulches. I explained that the insect repellant properties of cypress only developed in old-growth trees and that the trees being used for cypress mulch were too young to have this property. And, in any case, cypress mulch drives the destruction of coastal wetlands forests and the habitat and flood protection they provide. She said I could bring back the cypress mulch.

My friend, Lindsay, and I loaded up my Subaru Outback with as many bags of mulch as it could fit, twenty-three in total, and headed off for the West Bank. A worker at the nursery helped us unload the cypress mulch and replace it with pine bark. While we unloaded the car, we talked to him about why we were returning it. Namely, cypress trees are one of our best natural defenses and prevent the fast-paced erosion of the wetlands. He knew about the issue and knows cypress mulch is no good. We asked him to pass along his knowledge to his employer. The bags of pine mulch were not only bulkier for the same quantity but they also cost half as much. After loading up the pine bark, we headed back to SophieB.WrightSchool. To debunk another myth, cypress mulch is not all that aromatic. My car has the pungent smell of pine bark-no trace of cypress to be found.

Although twenty-three bags isn’t much in the scheme of things, the people working on the reading corner now know more about the issue and why we felt it was important to return the mulch. To do your part; please join us on the November 17th International Day of Action to ask Wal-Mart, Lowe’s, and Home Depot to stop selling cypress mulch. Tell them why it’s important to you that these trees are not destroyed. Get a group of friends together, makes some signs, print out some fliers, and stand out in front of these stores-educate your fellow consumers on why they shouldn’t buy cypress mulch. When you get a chance to talk to the manager of the store, you can present him or her a cypress seedling to adopt - after all, its parents are ground up in their garden department and its tough being a young cypress these days (most of them don’t make it). It’s a fun way to educate customers, employees, and managers while putting pressure directly on Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Wal-Mart.

Amy Medtlie is an Outreach Associate for the Gulf Restoration Network.


Back in April 15 New Orleans environmental and social justice groups organized an event on the levees of the lower 9th ward to urge immediate action on climate change. It was a great event, with great music, food, speakers, and a great photo (which even showed up on the New York Times website). Unfortunately, we didn't get what we wanted, and Congress still hasn't passed legislation to avert the climate crisis.

So we're doing it again. This time, we're drawing attention to the continuing absence of climate leadership with the most quintessential of New Orleans festivities - a second line! We've invited every member of the Louisiana congressional delegation and every candidate for president - so far, Senator John Edwards alone will be shaking it to Da Truth Brass Band with us (Sen. Clinton and a number of the other presidential candidates will be attending other Step It Up events).

But we need you! This Saturday at 2pm, the first 200 people get a free "Save New Orleans - Stop Global Warming" t-shirt! Visit this website to RSVP and let us know you're in! There will also be speakers, food, beer, sustainable energy workshops (you can check out the Art Egg's solar panels!).

We know New Orleans is ground zero for climate change impacts, but not a single member of the Louisiana congressional delegation has agreed to attend our event (and that includes Gov-elect Bobby Jindal). What are they afraid of? Green jobs? A stable climate and all that means for the Gulf's sea level, hurricanes and our subsiding coast? Visit this site to send them another invite to our event.


Aaron Viles is the GRN's Campaign Director


As a native Southerner, when I think of the south I think of fried okra, collard greens, grits, vine ripe tomatoes, and HUMIDITY. I picture lush green trees and creeks and rivers to cool off in during hot, humid summers. When I think of Atlanta and many parts of North Georgia—I think of sprawl.

From the moment my parents moved us from North Florida to suburban Atlanta, I understood loud and clear Atlanta’s motto: Grow, Grow, as fast as you can. I watched Alpharetta (a suburb north of Atlanta) turn from cow pastures to strip malls at lightening speed. We griped about traffic and lack of mass transit. We griped about bad air days. I looked at huge swaths of forests turn to manicured grass and thirsty landscaping. I wondered, how long can it possibly last?

As Atlanta continued (and still continues) to burst at the seams spilling into Cumming, Dahlonega and splashing against the foothills and mountains of North Georgia. I still ask, how long can it possibly last?

With Georgia and much of the southeast in extreme drought conditions, there’s much talk about the Southeast water crisis. Unfortunately there’s one crisis not being discussed fully enough—a management crisis. Political leaders in the Atlanta area and across Georgia have watched on (and even shouted words and policies of encouragement) as rapid and unsustainable growth and development spread across North Georgia. Now Georgians and those downstream are facing the consequences. To make matters worse, while lawns across the state go brown, Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue has resorted to pointing fingers instead of taking real leadership.

This drought did not happen overnight and its severity could have been abated by early and effective action instead of last minute ditch efforts. Instead of using this devastating disaster as a learning lesson to help the state prepare for future the Governor has decided to blame the problem on the Army Corps of Engineers. The Endangered Species Act is not, as Governor Perdue has called it, “a tangle of silly and unnecessary bureaucracy.” It is a federal law and an important one. I, for one, am personally embarrassed (and horrified) by Sonny’s bullheadedness. What I do find silly and unnecessary is the “mussel vs man” argument Governor Perdue is desperately clinging to. We cannot allow the Army Corps of Engineers and endangered mussels to become Sonny’s scapegoat for his own failures.

Dr. Ron Carroll, an ecologist at the University of Georgia, stated it very well in an Op-Ed for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Our endangered species are sentinels, like the mine canaries, warning us of growing environmental degradation. Blaming the endangered fish and mussels for our water woes is as silly and misdirected as blaming the sick canary for shutting down the mine.”

If Atlantans, Georgians, and Southerners are prudent the “Great Drought of 2007” might help us build our communities in a healthier and more sustainable way. Atlanta’s population has boomed. The metro population has tripled in the past three decades going from 1.6 million to 4.2 million in 2000. The Atlanta Regional Commission estimates that between 2000 and 2030 the area will add another 2.7 million people. Yet no meaningful water plan was adopted.

It is time for Georgia and the entire South (Alabama and Florida, you’re included here) to take a close and scrutinizing look at available water supply and current development trends. Let’s not get caught with our pants…errr, reservoirs down again.

Stephanie is the Outreach Associate for the GRN's Healthy Waters Program.


I love oysters. I love them because when they come out fresh from the Gulf of Mexico its like a little bit of heaven has gone from the bounty of the sea to the tip of my tongue. Shellfish, finfish, and other things that people gather from the sea are important along the Gulf Coast of Florida. They are important to working families, they are important to the economy of Florida, and they are important because they are integral pieces of an ecosystem that has evolved over thousands of years. Sometimes when I’m feeling a little ornery I whisper to myself that folks want to make the regional water wars between Florida, Alabama, and Georgia about people versus shellfish I say bring it on I've had my own personal battle with a bivalve or two--prying them open and slurping them down. Oysters need a home too, and did I mention they taste like heaven.

Truth be told though it is about much, much more than that and to reduce it to people versus shellfish creates the illusion that people bear little or no responsibility for the mess we often find ourselves in. Neither Florida nor Alabama can truthfully claim much moral high ground when it comes to issues of water conservation and growth management, but nor should we see degraded natural resources, risks to public health, potential energy supply disruptions, or economic harm because Georgia decided the best way to handle a water and growth crisis was to hope that in rained.

Along the Gulf Coast the health, wildlife, and future of the Gulf of Mexico are part of who we are and a part of our future. It connects us to each other, and to the broader idea that we all essentially live downstream. In this case we literally live downstream from Georgia and the future and survival of the ApalachicolaRiver depends on our neighbors to the north having the grace and wisdom to live within their means.

While there is indeed a severe and prolonged natural or hydrological drought in the Southeastern U.S., there has been a much longer and more pronounced drought in political courage and leadership in Georgia (and Alabama and Florida for that matter) to limit growth and enact meaningful water conservation. Georgia is in this mess in part due to natural cycles, but mostly due to the explosive growth occurring in central and north Georgia and almost no limits on water use until late this summer/early fall.

Both Governor Crist of Florida and Governor Riley of Alabama have been pushing hard in the last frew days to oppose Georgia’s attempts to severely limit downstream flows and to undermine the Endangered Species Act. They have engaged in that fight because there are human and natural communities downstream that need that water just as metro Atlanta does. Again, this is not about people vs. mussels as Gov. Perdue would like the public to believe, this is about folks in three states and the natural systems they depend on. This drought has been coming on for a long time, and Georgia has been closing their eyes, saying yes to any and all growth, and hoping for rain for far too long.

I am sympathetic to the situation Georgia finds itself in, and understand the Gov. Perdue has to advocate for his state, but that does not mean Florida, Alabama, or federal agencies like the US Army Corps of Engineers or US Fish and Wildlife Service have to surrender their responsibility to the people and species they serve in Florida and Alabama. Real people in numerous communities in Florida, Alabama, and south Georgia for that matter need that water too. And, if the Endangered Species Act has any value, teeth, or purpose it has to be a strong law in all occasions.

There can be some comprise that recognizes the situation that Georgia is in, but if I never paid my water bill and let a hundred people move into my home…. once my water was cut off should I be able, based simply on my lack of planning and new found need, to come to your house to steal your water? Florida and Alabama Georgia should find ways to help their neighbor, but is asking for a free pass at their expense.

Joe Murphy is the Florida Program Coordinator for the GRN.


The conclusion of a recent National Research Council report is that the Mighty Mississippi is an "orphan." To those of us who live in the Gulf and know of the impact a polluted Mississippi River has in creating the Dead Zone, this finding is no surprise. The EPA has neglected its duty to set limits for nitrogen and phosphorus pollution, the two primary causes of the Dead Zone. The United States Department of Agriculture has not done enough to target farm conservation money to places where it would help reduce farm runoff into the River. The federal Dead Zone Task Force, charged with finding solutions to the 7,000 square mile lifeless area in the Gulf, hasn't done much of anything.

As you might guess, there are a number of powerful interests who would like to see things remain lifeless at the federal agencies, much like the lifelessness found in the Dead Zone. In particular, agribusiness interests are currently clamoring to see that the Dead Zone Task Force does not set any meaningful goals to reduce the Dead Zone because they are afraid they might actually be held accountable to such a goal! Unfortunately, it is the Gulf of Mexico and the citizens who rely upon its abundant natural resources that are paying the price.

Jeff Grimes is Assistant Director of Water Resources for the GRN


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