Fall 2004 Gulf Currents Newsletter

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Inside this issue: Cypress swamps could benefit from new LA Advisory Panel and Science Working Group on Coastal Wetland Forest Conservation and Use; Avoid buying cypress mulch; Florida Marine Contractors attack important conservation laws, threaten manatees; More on the Climate Stewardship Act; Dead Zone remains large; Member Spotlight on the Sierra Club Lonestar Chapter; New GRN staff member; Network Notebook and Calendar.



Volume 8, Issue 3 September 2004

The cypress swamps of Louisiana are an ecological treasure and an integral part of the state’s cultural and natural heritage. Sadly, those swamps are now threatened by a growing market for cypress mulch, which has already resulted in widespread, extensive clear-cutting of cypress swamps in Florida. Now, the decreasing supply in Florida has brought the cypress mulch industry to Louisiana. Logging operations associated with the production of cypress mulch began last year in parts of the Maurepas Swamp west of New Orleans. Coastal Louisiana was abundant in cypress tupelo swamps until they were extensively clear-cut early in the last century. It is evident to even the most casual observer that extensive parts of Louisiana’s Maurepas Basin and other parts of the Deltaic plain have witnessed no significant regeneration of cypress trees where such clearcutting occurred. In fact, Cypress trees in Assumption Parish, LA some scientists doubt it is possible for cypress swamps to regenerate in the face of rising water levels and the continuing deterioration of wetlands now occurring in coastal Louisiana. Successful sprouting of seeds can take place only during prolonged drought conditions when deep swamps have exposed unsaturated soils—conditions which are improbable in modern coastal Louisiana.
Courtesy of www.dnr.state.la.us

Inside this issue:
Florida contractors seek to remove manatee protections Gulf Region will suffer effects of climate change Dead Zone larger than average in 2004; upriver states take action Member Spotlight on Lone Star Chapter, Sierra Club GRN hires Outreach Coordinator Take Action to preserve the Marine Mammal Protection Act

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Special points of interest:
♦ Buying Cypress Mulch
or Red Mulch contributes to loss of wetlands

♦ New Orleans listed by
the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as North America's most vulnerable city to climate change

The potential loss of cypress swamps, along with other concerns about the recent interest in clear-cutting thousands of acres of swamps in Louisiana, motivated Louisiana’s governor, Kathleen Blanco, to create a Science Working Group (“SWG”) and Advisory Panel on Coastal Wetland Forest Conservation and Use. Members of the Advisory Panel are diverse, including both conservationists and executives from the lumber industry. Two of the GRN’s member groups—the
(Continued on page 2)

♦ Dead Zone may contribute to increase in number of shark attacks

(Continued from page 1)

wetland forest health; Mississippi River Basin Alliance and the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana—have representatives on the panel, and Cynthia Sarthou, the GRN’s Executive Director, is an alternate. • Reviewing existing laws, regulations, policy, and guidelines affecting coastal forestry activities (and current forest conditions); Developing science-based, interim guidelines for the conservation and utilization of coastal wetland forests, as well as identifying critical areas of priority research needed to refine these interim guidelines.

The mission of both the SWG and the Advisory LA Governor Kathleen Blanco created the Science Working Panel is to provide inforGroup and the Advisory Panel. mation and guidelines for the long-term utilization, conservation, and protection of Louisiana’s coastal wetland forest ecosystem from both environmental and economic perspectives. The central objectives of the SWG and Advisory Panel include: • Gathering and synthesizing available scientific information on regeneration, growth, and potential harvesting effects on coastal

The SWG and the Advisory Panel are expected to present a report to the governor later this fall. The guidelines for conservation and utilization of coastal wetland forests called for in that report could have serious ramifications for the continuing health of Louisiana’s cypress swamps—and possibly for their very survival. For more information on the Science Working Group and Advisory Panel visit: www.coastalforestswg.lsu.edu

By Honey Island Group, Sierra Club Did you know that working in your yard might contribute to the irretrievable and unnecessary loss of Louisiana wetlands? Your local home-products warehouse store is selling horticultural mulch made from ground-up young cypress trees! This is not the residue of lumber production. Wetlands and marshes are being cleared of immature cypress, just for the immediate financial gain of the harvesters. Many buyers think that cypress mulch is termite resistant. This is not true when such young trees are ground up for mulch. Cypress mulch is receiving such a bad reputation that some manufacturers are repackaging it as “Red Mulch.” Please don't be misled. Next time, tell the garden-department manager that you are opposed to the store’s selling of cypress mulch. Watch out for the same product reappearing with a different name. Before you buy any mulch, ask the store where it came from. For more information, visit http://www.louisiana.sierraclub.org/honeyisland or e-mail [email protected].
Page 2 SEPTEMBER 2004

By Eric Glitzenstein Efforts are underway to undermine two of the naprotections for Gulf sperm whales, Northern right tion’s premier conservation laws—the Marine whales, Steller sea lions, and other imperiled marine Mammal Protection Act (“MMPA”) and the Endan- mammals. For example, under this amendment, if a gered Species Act (“ESA”)—by greatly weakening particular project—such as a huge marina in manalongstanding federal tee habitat—were deemed protections of Florida by the FWS to be consistent manatees and many with the ESA because it other marine mammals. would not jeopardize the In particular, the Florcontinued existence of the ida Marine Contractors entire species, but it would Association nonetheless result in a sig(“Contractors”) has nificant increase in the death sued the U.S. Fish and or injury of manatees beWildlife Service (“FWS”), cause of inadequate speed alleging that the manatee zones or other protections in and other marine mammals a particular area, the FWS are entitled to no protecwould be powerless to inThe gentle manatee may soon lose important protections in Florida. tion under the MMPA in voke the MMPA’s safe"inland waters" such as rivers, lakes, and bays. If guards to protect manatees in that area. this argument were adopted by the Court, it would mean that manatees and many other marine mamThis is not simply a theoretical concern. The FWS mals could be "taken” (i.e., killed, injured, or harhas refused to authorize projects in several areas assed) without violating the MMPA. The Contrac(such as Tampa Bay) where manatees are currently tors are also pushing for federal legislation amend“inadequately protected” and, hence, where the proing the MMPA and the ESA to entirely exempt enjects are “reasonably certain to result in the take of dangered and threatened mammals from the manatees in the form of additional deaths and injuMMPA's protections. ries.”1 Thus, the practical effect of the Contractors’ proposed amendment would be a substantial inThe MMPA was intentionally designed to afford all crease in boat traffic in precisely those areas that marine mammals (whether endangered or not) with lack “adequate measures to protect manatees”— broader protections than the ESA provides for spewith the “reasonably certain” result that more manacies listed as endangered or threatened. The objectees will be killed, injured by blades and boat collitives of the MMPA go far beyond bringing species sions, and otherwise harassed. The MMPA was back from the brink of extinction, which is the goal adopted precisely to avoid this type of result. under the ESA. The MMPA is designed to achieve optimum “sustainable” populations of marine mam- Editor’s note: The Save the Manatee Club, the Humane Society of the United States, and Defenders of Wildlife have petimals because of their aesthetic, recreational, and tioned to intervene in the lawsuit brought by the Contractors, economic value to the nation. and they have also sent a letter to Congress urging it not to
© Patrick M. Rose, SMC

If successful, the Contractors would effectively devastate ongoing efforts to protect Florida manatees from boat strikes and other threats to their survival and recovery. They would also undermine federal
Volume 8, Issue 3

adopt the legislation proposed by the Contractors. Eric Glitzenstein of Meyer & Glitzenstein is their attorney.

FWS, Sept. 8, 2003 Biological Opinion regarding projects in Pinellas County, page 10.

Page 3

By Micah Walker Parkin, Program Director for the Alliance for Affordable Energy Last November, the U.S. Senate voted on the McCainLieberman Climate Stewardship Act, which would cap our country’s emissions of greenhouse gases to year 2000 levels, effective by the year 2010. Granted, this is by no means a large enough cut to stop global warming and the resulting sea-level rise and climatic changes that scientists around the world predict, but it would be an important first step by the U.S., which produces approximately 25% of the world’s global warming pollution. Unfortunately, the vote failed by a narrow margin, 44-52. Senator John McCain has vowed to bring this legislation back, giving our senators the opportunity to vote again. This time, they should vote in the best interest of coastal citizens, considering the huge impact climate change is predicted to have on our region.
Courtesy of www.nccos.noaa.gov/stressors/climatechange/science.html

services in the Gulf Coast wetlands exceeds $160 billion per year. The loss of wetlands due to the effects of global warming will lead to loss of fisheries and habitats, impacting our seafood industry and culture. In addition, oil and gas pipelines will be exposed and vulnerable to damage and spills, further harming wetland ecosystems and rendering transportation waterways unusable. Visit http://www.ucsusa.org/gulf/ for more information on the impacts of climate change in the Gulf region. The McCain-Leiberman Climate Stewardship Act is a bipartisan national plan for action to begin solving the serious problem of global warming. The Stewardship Act would be a first step in dealing with this threat by requiring industry to control the amount of pollution that is emitted into the atmosphere. The Stewardship Act gives power plants, oil companies, and factories until 2010 to collectively reduce their emissions to the levels they emitted in 2000. By creating an emissions trading system under which companies can sell excess reductions to companies that are unable to meet these requirements, the Stewardship Act encourages innovation and helps reduce the costs of environmental progress. In addition, the Stewardship Act helps farmers to be part of the solution by allowing companies to meet a portion of their emissions goals by paying farmers to use conservation methods to increase the amount of carbon stored in their soil. Global warming poses threats to public health, fish and wildlife resources, and our economy. The longer we wait to take action, the worse the problem will become. Our senators should demonstrate good stewardship of the environment now by supporting climate change legislation. Encourage your senators to support the Climate Stewardship Act and help stop global warming. You can find your senator’s contact information at http://www.senate.gov/index.htm.

Global warming is one of the most serious environmental threats of our time. New Orleans was listed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (“IPCC”) as North America's most vulnerable city to climate change due to its low elevation, land subsidence, and the predictions of more frequent hurricanes, widespread mosquitoborne illnesses and continuing sea level rise. The IPCC also concluded that average world temperatures will increase up to 10.4 degrees by 2100 if heat-trapping emissions are not significantly reduced. Because of this increase, sea levels are predicted to rise 1 to 3 feet over the next 100 years, inundating low-lying cities along our coast and threatening citizens. Confronting Climate Change in the Gulf Coast Region, a report by the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Ecological Society of America, predicts more intense hurricanes and flooding events in the Gulf Coast region, as well as saltwater intrusion into freshwater aquifers and rivers (spoiling water supplies) due to sea level rise, warmer oceans, and changes in rainfall patterns. According to this report, the estimated direct value of goods and

GRN Action Alert list:
To stay updated on upcoming regional events, critical actions on Capitol Hill, and opportunities for public comment, join the GRN listserv by e-mailing [email protected] or visiting groups.yahoo.com.
Page 4 SEPTEMBER 2004

Data collected this summer by Dr. Nancy Rabalais, a researcher at the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, show that the coastwide extent of the Louisiana Dead Zone is 5,800 square miles, slightly larger than the average size (since mapping began in 1985) of 5,000 square miles. The scientific word for the condition of the Dead Zone is “hypoxia,” or low oxygen, which refers to the failure to capture fish, shrimp, and crabs in trawls when the oxygen falls below 2 parts per million in bottom waters. This year’s Dead Zone extended from the Mississippi River delta almost to the Texas coast. North winds and onshore currents pushed the zone towards the beach, so that low oxygen bottom waters were very close to shore during this summer’s mapping—impacting shrimp trawlers’ ability to utilize those near-shore areas. According to an August 3, 2004, Reuters story by Jeff Franks, the Dead Zone may be contributing indirectly to an increased number of shark bites along the Texas coast this year. Sharks may be moving away from the hypoxic zone into areas of higher dissolved oxygen where they more frequently come into contact with Texas beachgoers, say some scientists. For the complete Reuters story, visit http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=570 &u=/nm/environment_deadzone_dc&printe. The Dead Zone has grown because of nutrients that flow from farms into the Gulf by way of the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers. These nutrients stimulate the growth of microscopic plants (phytoplankton), which can end up as organic debris on the sea floor. The decomposition of this organic matter depletes oxygen in the lower waters until the conditions can no longer sustain the life of most marine animals. However, nutrients may not be the only driving force behind the formation of hypoxia in the Gulf. A group of scientists funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is currently looking at how other factors, such as sedimentation and physical stratification of the water, control hypoxia in different areas off the coast of Louisiana. Although the Gulf of Mexico/Mississippi River Watershed Nutrient Task Force presented an “Action Plan to Reduce Gulf Hypoxia” to Congress in 2001, little action has been taken on a federal level to implement this plan. Fortunately, small steps have been taken on state and regional levels to reduce the nutrients fueling the Dead Zone. The Louisiana Hypoxia Working Group that the GRN and its partners helped form back in 2002 is still active. In addition, the Lower Mississippi River SubBasin Committee on Gulf Hypoxia, a new group, has members from Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee. These states are developing Showcase Watershed Projects to demonstrate methods of reducing the amount of nutrients entering the Gulf. However, upriver states are the largest contributors of nutrients to the Mississippi River. Action in these states has been slow, but there are promising signs of a willingness to tackle their role in the formation of the Dead Zone. For example, the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission is working to form an Ohio River Sub-Basin Committee. The governors of Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin also recently pledged to work toward reducing nutrient discharges. Others such as the Texas Institute for Applied Environmental Research are working on efforts to provide “Industry-Led Solutions” to the problem of Gulf hypoxia. Unfortunately, federal funding to support these efforts has not been forthcoming. Therefore, the GRN and its partners will continue to work with diverse interests to push for necessary funding and federal action to reduce the Gulf of Mexico’s Dead Zone.

July 21-25, 2004 - Area of Bottom Hypoxia
L. Calcasieu Atchafalaya R. Mississippi R.


Sabine L.

Terrebonne Bay

Dissolved Oxygen less than 2.0 (mg/L)







Data Source: N. Rabalais, LUMCON

Volume 8, Issue 3

Page 5

Lone Star Chapter, Sierra Club
The Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club consists of over 23,000 members. The Chapter spans the entire state of Texas, excepting El Paso, which is part of the Rio Grande Chapter. Located in Austin, the Lone Star Chapter's State Conservation Office serves Sierra Club members as their grassroots communications center. The chapter fights at the state level to protect and preserve Texas's diverse and valuable natural heritage. The Lone Star Chapter’s 2004-2005 priorities include: Water Resources Management and Protection; Clean Air; Land Conservation; Protection of Padre Island National Seashore; and a Responsible and Environmentally Sound Energy Policy. In pursuit of these priority issues and other conservation action goals, the Lone Star Chapter is committed to achieving environmental justice for all Texans and is dedicated to promoting environmental education in schools, homes, and communities for people of all ages, but especially for the youth of Texas. The Lone Star Sierran, the chapter’s newsletter, is available online in PDF format. The most recent edition focuses on state water issues. Lone Star Chapter, Sierra Club P.O. Box 1931 Austin, TX 78767 Phone: 512-477-1729 Fax: 512-477-8526 Website: http://texas.sierraclub.org/

Founded in 1994, the Gulf Restoration Network is a section 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization committed to uniting and empowering people to protect and restore the resources of the Gulf Region, forever protecting it for future generations. Board of Directors
Casi Callaway Mobile Bay Watch/Mobile Baykeeper Mobile, AL Mark Davis—Chair Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana Baton Rouge, LA Robert Hastings Alabama Natural Heritage Program Montgomery, AL Rose Johnson—Vice-Chair Concerned Citizens Coalition Gulfport, MS Joe Murphy Sierra Club Tampa, FL Juan Parras TSU Law Clinic Houston, TX Bob Schaeffer Public Policy Communications Sanibel, FL Page Williams Sierra Club—Lone Star Chapter Houston, TX Robert Wiygul—Acting Secretary/ Treasurer Waltzer and Associates Biloxi, MS

Briana Kerstein has joined the GRN staff as the new Outreach Coordinator. Most recently, Briana worked as the Lead Organizer for Montana People’s Action, a statewide grassroots community organization. She has also worked as an organizer for the Northwest Federation of Community Organizations out of Seattle, Washington; Missouri ACORN; and Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region. As an organizer, she has worked on campaigns to win living wage jobs, increase access to healthcare and simplify the food stamp program. She has extensive experience in outreach to community members and other organizations. Briana and her husband relocated to the New Orleans area from the rural town of Soda Springs, Idaho, but she is originally from Montana.
Page 6

Cynthia Sarthou: Executive Director Vicki Murillo: Director for Water Resources Amy Gill: Director of Operations Briana Kerstein: Outreach Coordinator Marianne Cufone: Fisheries Consultant


Network Notebook: New literature and reports that GRN members might find useful Reel Danger: Power Plant Mercury Pollution and the Fish We Eat. U.S. PIRG Education Fund. Mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants and other industrial sources are making the fish in our lakes, rivers, and streams unsafe to eat. This report analyzes the first available data from EPA’s ongoing National Study of Chemical Residues in Lake Fish Tissue. Every fish sample EPA tested was contaminated with mercury, and the majority of the fish samples were contaminated with mercury at levels that could pose a public health risk. Available online at www.uspirg.org/reports/ReelDanger7_04.pdf . Testing the Waters 2004: A Guide to Water Quality at Vacation Beaches. Natural Resources Defense Council. NRDC's annual survey of water quality monitoring and public notification at U.S. beaches finds that there were 51 percent more beach closings and advisories in 2003 than in the previous year. Across the country, pollution caused more than 18,000 days of closings and advisories at beaches last year—more than ever recorded in the survey's history. Check out the report’s findings for your state at www.nrdc.org/water/oceans/ttw/titinx.asp. Reckless Abandon: How the Bush Administration is Exposing America's Waters to Harm. Four Clean Water Network member organizations released a report on August 12, 2004 showing how the Bush administration's Policy Directive is being used by the Army Corps of Engineers to deny Clean Water Act protections over waters of the United States. Case studies in the report indicate that Corps districts around the country are failing to assert jurisdiction over waters ranging from an 86-acre lake to a 150-mile-long river, a 4000-acre tract of wetlands and a 70-mile-long canal, leaving these waters vulnerable to pollution and destruction. The report is available on the Clean Water Network’s website at www.cwn.org.

Calendar of Events
SEPTEMBER 2004 13-16 Sharon Weaver at 518-872-1804. Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council Meet- 20-22 Mississippi Gulf Coast Geospatial Conference. Paling. Edgewater Beach Resort, Panama City Beach, FL. ace Casino Resort, Biloxi, MS. Visit www.usm.edu/ Contact: [email protected]. gcgc/geocon04/index.html Southern States Environmental Conference & Exhi- 25-28 Seventh Annual Wetlands Workshop: The Protecbition. Biloxi, MS. Visit: www.ssec.msstate.edu or tion of Aquatic Ecosystems Using Watershed-Based call Tamra at 662-325-8877. Approaches. Holiday Inn on the Boardwalk, Atlantic City, NJ. Contact: Frank J. Reilly, Jr. at 540-286-6072 2004 Watershed Leadership Train-the-Trainer or [email protected]. Academy. Callaway Gardens Resort Preserve, Pine Mountain, GA. Register at southeastwatershedfo25-29 Red Snapper SEDAR Review Workshop. New Orrum.org or call 1-866-902-7300. leans, LA. Visit: http://www.sefsc.noaa.gov/sedar.jsp. 27-29 2004 Southeast Watershed Roundtable & Tennessee Watershed Roundtable. Growth, Development & Water Supplies: Challenges for the Southeast. Gaylord Opryland Hotel, Nashville, TN. Visit 77th Annual Technical Exhibition and Conference of www.southeastwaterforum.org or e-mail the Water Environment Federation. Ernest N. [email protected]. Morial Convention Center, New Orleans, LA. Visit NOVEMBER 2004 www.weftec.org. LEAN People’s Conference. Baton Rouge, LA. Visit www.leanweb.org. Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission 55th Annual Meeting. Palace Casino Resort, Biloxi, MS. Visit: http://www.gsmfc.org/ National Symposium Wetlands 2004: Protecting Wetlands of International Significance. Hilton Airport, Kansas City, MO. Visit www.aswm.org or call 7-10 Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council Meeting. Sheraton, South Padre Island, TX. Contact: [email protected].







DECEMBER 2004 19-20 6-10 First National Conference on Ecosystem Restoration. Wyndham Palace, Orlando, FL. Visit http://conference.ifas.ufl.edu/ecosystem.
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Volume 8, Issue 3

“Working to Protect and Preserve the Gulf of Mexico”

P.O. Box 2245 New Orleans, LA 70176 Phone: (504) 525-1528 Fax: (504) 525-0833 Website: www.gulfrestorationnetwork.org

The GRN would like to thank the following foundations for making this newsletter, as well as the work of the GRN, possible: The Belvedere Fund, The Ben and Jerry’s Foundation, The Booth-Bricker Foundation, The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, The Greater New Orleans Foundation, The Joe W & Dorothy Dorsett Brown Foundation, The McKnight Foundation, the Regional Marine Conservation Project, and The RosaMary Foundation.

Call today to urge your representative to oppose a proposal being made by Florida Congressman Adam Putnam (with prompting from the Florida Marine Contractors Association) to remove important protections provided under the Marine Mammal Protection Act to many animals, like the West Indian Manatee and the Gulf sperm whale. (To find your representative’s contact information visit http:// www.house.gov.)
© Patrick M. Rose, SMC

1. conflicts with 30 years of federal conservation law; 2. undermines the conservation of manatees, Gulf sperm whales, Northern right whales, Steller sea lions, Hawaiian monk seals, and other imperiled marine mammals; and 3. would result in an arbitrary, irrational legislative scheme under which non-endangered marine mammals are entitled to more protection from human activities than endangered marine mammals!

Tell your representative that Congressman Putnam’s For more information see the article on page 3 of this newsletter. proposal:

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