Fall 2006 Gulf Currents Newsletter

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Inside this issue: Katrinaversary a look back at the year; Watershed Clean Up Needs You; LA Stakeholders at Loggerheads over Cypress; Expanded Endangered Species Work; GRN welcomes new staff;Member spotlight on Portersville Revival Group.



Volume 10, Issue 3 September 2006

A Year Later One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
After the immediate human crisis abated and people were evacuated to safety, the magnitude of our region’s challenge was brought into focus. Hundreds of thousands of homes were destroyed, two hundred square miles of wetlands are gone, and the federal flood control system for a major U.S. city was exposed as fatally flawed and in horrible disrepair.

Inside this issue:
Watershed Cleanup Needs You LA Stakeholders at Loggerheads over Cypress Expanded Endangered Species Work Member spotlight: Portersville Revival Group GRN Staff Updates and Calendar of Events 2 3 5 6 7

One year later, we take a look back at the stumbling attempts to move forward, not just on the road to recovery, but toward creating a sustainable Gulf coast that can survive similar events in the future. Valdez vs. Katrina & Rita The toll on the Gulf coast’s energy infrastructure from the 2005 hurricane season was staggering. The most up-to-date totals for oil spilled tops 11 million gallons, more than Exxon’s estimate of the Valdez release (10.8 million gallons). Over 150 platforms were destroyed, damaged, or moved hundreds of miles. Four-hundred fifty-seven pipelines, some that were originally built in wetlands or on the coast, were damaged from exposure to openocean conditions — for which they were not designed— due to coastal erosion. Shell’s Mars platform, their crown jewel rig, was down for over eight months, representing the largest single source of natural gas in the Gulf. Murphy Oil added to St. Bernard Parish’s devastation by spilling over 1 million gallons of oil into the community. BP just admitted that one of their Gulf wells continues to leak, calling into question whether their operations in the Gulf are as negligent as those in Prudhoe Bay, AK. In total, the hurricanes of 2005 cut the nation’s refining capacity by 29%, and necessitated over $30 billion in repairs to the oil and gas infrastructure of the Gulf. Despite this destruction and the fact that increased hurricane activity and the effects of global warming put the oil and gas infrastructure at increased risk of future damage, there continues to be no rules ensuring that platforms built off-shore can withstand category 4 and 5 storms, and the industry has shown no interest in moving on-shore infrastructure such as refineries and tank farms out of high-risk coastal areas.

Hurricane Katrina making landfall. August 29, 2006 2:45 PM

Phono: NOAA

Oil from Murphy’s spill in St. Bernard parish LA

The Governmental Two-Step As these impacts are being tallied, Governor Kathleen Blanco of Louisiana has exercised her powers under the Coastal Zone Management Act to challenge a new wave of oil and gas leases from going forward in the Gulf until a new environmental impact statement can be prepared, and mitigation measures can be put in place to deal with the significant impacts of oil and gas drilling. It’s a courageous stand, as Louisiana politicians have long seen the state and oil companies’ interests as one and the same.
(Continued on page 4)

Photo: EPA

We all hear that our states are cleaning up the polluted rivers, streams, bayous, and lakes in our area; but how does this cleanup process actually happen?
Photo by A. Murray ©Univ. of Florida

On July 20, EPA released a total of 85 different plans for Louisiana waterways, all at the same time, only allowing a comment period of 30 days! For perspective, the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality only released four plans in all of 2005. While we thank EPA for adhering to a timeline for the development of these cleanup plans, 30 days simply does not give us or the public enough time to look at 85 different plans and make sure that their local LEARN MORE ABOUT waters are going to get the WATERSHED CLEANUP PLANS cleanup they CLEAN WATER NETWORK. The deserve. Ripple Effect: How to make EPA has waves in the turbulent world refused to of watershed cleanup plans. extend the www.cwn.org comment period due to pressure RIVER NETWORK. The Clean to finalize the Water Act Owner’s Manual. plans by the www.rivernetwork.org. end of their fiscal year. However, thanks to letters from member groups and individual citizens in our Water Quality Action Network, EPA has agreed to take additional comments for 60 days after the comment period ends. Although a full extension would have been preferable, this will at least give the public an opportunity to voice their opinions regarding how their waters are going to be cleaned up and to receive a response to these comments from EPA. The moral of the story? The public must be informed, aggressive, and pay attention to how their state, or EPA, is proposing to cleanup their polluted waters. We must fight to get our voices heard and push states and EPA to involve the public in the restoration of the waters we care about. You can begin this process by contacting your state agency and your EPA region and get on their list that announces the development of TMDLs.

Lake Yale, Florida

Like most water regulations, cleanup starts with the Clean Water Act (CWA). The CWA requires each state to compile all of its polluted water bodies on an “impaired water list.” This list must be submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) every two years for review. Once water bodies are on the impaired waters list, the state or EPA must develop a plan to cleanup or restore these waters. These watershed cleanup plans are known as Total Maximum Daily Loads, (TMDLs) because they determine the total amount, or “load”, of pollution that a water body can handle. These TMDL plans should then recommend reductions in pollution from various sources in a particular watershed. An important, but often underappreciated, part of this process is the requirement of public participation. The public must have an opportunity to comment on whether the proposed reductions are appropriate and will be effective. However, the EPA has recently attempted to subvert this very requirement.

Watershed Cleanup Plan (TMDL) Agencies

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency www.epa.gov/ebtpages/watewatertotalmaximumdailyloadstmd.html Texas Commission on Environmental Quality www.tceq.state.tx.us/implementation/water/tmdl/index.html Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality www.deq.louisiana.gov/portal/default.aspx?tabid=130 Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality www.deq.state.ms.us/MDEQ.nsf/page/ TWB_Total_Maximum_Daily_Load_Section?OpenDocument Alabama Department of Environmental Management www.adem.state.al.us/WaterDivision/WQuality/TMDL/ WQTMDLInfo.htm Florida Department of Environmental Protection www.dep.state.fl.us/water/tmdl/
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on opposite page) SEPTEMBER 2006

GULF COAST CYPRESS UPDATE LA Stakeholders at Loggerheads (literally)
An effort to finalize recommendations to Governor Blanco by an Advisory Panel to the Governors'’ Science Working Group on Coastal Wetland Forest Conservation and Use (SWG) was nearly derailed at the Advisory Panel’s final meeting. As you may recall the SWG was appointed by Governor Blanco in 2004 to study the condition of Louisiana’s coastal forests, primarily cypress-tupelo swamplands. The SWG’s report concluded that, because of changes in water levels (hydrology) — the same changes that are causing coastal land loss — many of these forests are unable to regenerate naturally if logged and reforestation efforts may not work. These threatened forests provide critical habitat to many endangered species throughout the region such as black bear, red-cockaded woodpecker, and the recently rediscovered ivorybilled woodpecker. In the wake of last year’s overactive storm season, citizens are even more aware of the effective protection these forests provide for populated areas by reducing storm surge and wind speed. addressing activities on private land, whether or not that activity would be in the public interest. In the SWG report, the ecosystem services value, (the societal value of the land for flood control, water filtration, and wildlife habitat) was estimated at over $7,000 per acre. Some forestry interests wanted the AP report to state that this ecosystem value was equal to the fair-market value. This change could have made the purchasing of land by state and federal agencies or for conservation easements prohibitively expensive. Fortunately, a compromise was reached that simply acknowledged the value of ecosystem services without any reference to private versus public ownership. What we have found is that no matter the science, no matter the value of the forests as endangered species habitat or as protection for human habitat, the threats to these forests will not go away.

The GRN is proud to be working along side a large Cypress Logging in Lake Maurepas Basin, LA contingent of our member groups including the Sierra Club, the Atchafalya Basinkeeper, the Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper, GRN’s Executive Director, Cynthia Sarthou, has Mississippi River Basin Alliance, and others to been serving as a member of the Advisory Panel protect these valuable forests from unchecked (AP). At the meeting, it became clear that some development and from the cypress mulch industry. logging interests reject the SWG’s findings and oppose any effort, no matter how voluntary, to Keep reading GRN News in the months to come to discourage landowners from harvesting cypress keep up with our unified efforts, or log onto forests designated as Class III— forests not likely www.SaveOurCypress.org to get updates as we to regenerate. In fact, it became evident that some announce the next steps in our campaign! AP members don’t accept any federal role in



If we can get involved in this planning process, and then make sure the plans are implemented, we can help assure the health of our Gulf waters. For more information contact Matt Rota at [email protected] or (504)525-1528 x206.

Join the Water Quality Action Network (WQAN) www.healthygulf.org/water/getinvolved.htm
Volume 10, Issue 3 Page 3

GRN Photo

Concurrently, the Louisiana Congressional delegation continues to push for Representative Bobby Jindal’s oil drilling bill, which would open up every coast in America to oil and gas drilling and give producing states a big cut of the revenues. Fiercely opposed by the Florida delegation, this version of revenue-sharing is unlikely to pass in the final legislation. While Louisiana deserves a federal commitment to fund the restoration of its coastal marshes and forests, few Louisiana lawmakers are able to see the inconsistency of securing oil and gas revenues to fix our coast within the same bill that opens up other coasts to the same problems the state is now asking for funds to fix. Although estimates vary, at least one-third of the coastal erosion taking a football field’s worth of wetlands from the state every half hour is directly caused by oil and gas impacts. It was Louisiana’s willingness to allow energy production for the nation that is now, in part, destroying its Oil field in wetlands coast. Clearly, it’s fair to use oil and gas revenues to fix the problems caused by oil and gas activities. Unfortunately, the legislation written so far serves the interests of oil and gas more than it does Louisiana’s coast. The GRN is hopeful that the conference committee reconciling the House and Senate versions of the bill will recognize this inconsistency. Keystone Corps? Another federal institution that greatly affects the future of the Gulf Coast has been equally as inconsistent. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been charged with developing a plan for category 5 protection of coastal areas affected by Katrina and Rita, and they are currently moving forward with a technical report for Congress. The preliminary report has MR-GO been sent and featured a risk-based decisionmaking framework. This action is a significant departure from the standard Corps cost-benefit analysis, and takes into consideration assets at risk, storms and their recurrence, and assesses
Page 4

structural and non-structural measures, such as coastal restoration projects. While many people agree this is an important step forward, the technical sections of the report seemed to be very weighted towards the old Corps’ way of doing business — lots of big floodwalls and levee alignments that would actually undermine the natural barriers the Corps says it would Levee Construction like enhance and utilize.

Natural barriers such as barrier islands, coastal marshes, and coastal forests are a critical component of a sustainable Gulf coast. Recent analysis by the LSU Hurricane Center shows that every 3.4 miles of intact wetlands lowers storm surge by one foot. We’ve also learned, in the aftermath of Katrina and Rita, that levees that were fronted by wetlands stood up to storms far better than those that were fronted by open water. But is the Corps comfortable enough with natural systems and features to avoid its inherent tendency to build big structures, dredge big channels, and allow wetlands to be developed? That's the $30 billion question. The best answer can be seen in the Corps’ handling of the current plan development for closure of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MR-GO) to deep-draft navigation. Despite legislation passed by Congress that directs the Corps to “develop a comprehensive plan, at full Federal expense, to de-authorize deep draft navigation on the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet, Louisiana, extending from the Gulf of Mexico to the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway,” the Corps is currently planning to deliver to Congress a ‘range of closure options’ rather than develop an actual plan to shut the hurricane highway down. Clearly, the GRN and other groups must continue to watchdog the Corps’ Category 5 and the MRGO closure plans. The GRN also is continuing our Flood Washington campaign demanding federal support for coastal restoration. The region’s ability to achieve a sustainable coast depends on a public that is engaged in the process.
Photo: US Army Corps of Engineers

Photo: NASA © Gosselink

Photo: US Army Corps of Engineers

Thanks to the hard work of Aveda Salons throughout the Southeast and contributions from hundreds of their patrons, the GRN is able to increase our efforts to protect Gulf endangered species and the habitats upon which they depend. The Endangered Species Act (ESA) is a safety net for fish, plants, and wildlife on the brink of extinction. After more than 30 years, a number of species are still with us today because of the Act’s protections, but numerous species are still at risk. Over four hundred species of plants and animals found in Gulf states are considered either threatened or endangered under the ESA (134 in Alabama, 112 in Florida, 31 in Louisiana, 42 in Mississippi, and 94 in Texas). The continuing destruction of coastal forests, marshes, and swamps threaten the continued health, and even survival, of many of these species. Sadly, the ESA is currently under attack from those who seek to eliminate habitat protection. This would spell potential disaster for many Gulf species, as few protections exist other than the ESA to ensure that sufficient habitat exists. The GRN has always recognized the importance of coastal and marine habitat (coastal marshes, forests, and beaches) in ensuring both the survival of many species and the sustainability of coastal communities. It is within this context that we have decided to initially focus our ESA work on:

Protecting threatened cypress swamps which provide important habitat for a variety of endangered species, including the ivory billed woodpecker (until recently believed to be extinct.) Increasing the protection of other coastal habitats that are important to endangered species and vital to our communities as natural storm barriers. Building a broader base of concerned and active citizens across the Gulf to ensure that state and federal agencies protect endangered species. Protecting the Gulf’s Marine Mammals, including sperm whales, from harmful mineral exploration activities.

Don’t be surprised if you hear that the GRN has taken action to protect endangered species in your area. Also, please let us know if there are coastal or marine endangered species in your state that need an advocate. We look forward to working with all of you in an effort to protect and restore coastal habitats and ensure that marine species in the Gulf are not unduly affected by mineral exploration activities. Stay tuned at www.healthygulf.org


Kemp Ridley’s sea turtle

Sperm Whale

Bald Eagle


Want to get GRN updates more frequently than once every four months? Log onto our blog! http://healthygulf.org/blog - Blogging for a Healthy Gulf.

Volume 10, Issue 3

Page 5

Portersville Revival Group
Since their formation in the spring of 2004, the Portersville Revival Group (PRG) has been actively striving to preserve and document the culture, history, and environment of the French Coast of South Mobile County, Alabama. They have also worked to prevent community deterioration within these historic fishing villages. The PRG joined forces with the Gulf Restoration Network on our campaign to stop the destructive open-loop technology proposed for many LNG terminals in the Gulf. While the PRG was very concerned about the impacts to the area’s fisheries, their communities were also being impacted by proposed pipelines needed to bring the natural gas to shore. “Our area of the French Coast has been subject to excessive permitting and placement of the natural gas industry. Yet, we have enjoyed little or no direct benefit from this development. Significant damage to our environment, culture, and historical sites has and will occur from the cumulative impacts of these facilities,” explains Barbara Holley Reid of the PRG. "The dictates of environmental justice require no more permitting." When Hurricane Katrina roared ashore on August 29, 2006, the Alabama coast was dealt a devastating blow, including the French Coast communities. The PRG quickly went to work to bring what awareness they could to the needs of communities. The Better Life Foundation, formed by the band 3 Doors Down, recently donated $50,000 to the PRG to purchase and distribute building supplies to families in need. The Gulf Coast Ecological Health and Community Renewal Fund at Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors provided a grant to the PRG that will be utilized to purchase a mobile unit to house the organization and conduct community outreach and advocacy services within the region of the French Coast of Alabama. As with many other organizations, PRG suffered tremendous setbacks as a result of Hurricane Katrina. The organization has regrouped and remains vitally interested in issues related to Gulf Communities. Hurricane Katrina has brought many new challenges. Current organizational matters under consideration include: 1. 2. Environmental justice and cultural integrity as related to the rebuilding of the Gulf communities; Placement and rebuilding of a local waste water treatment plant to ensure future water quality of Portersville Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. www.portersvillerevivalgroup.org PO Box 371, Coden, AL 36523

Founded in 1994, the Gulf Restoration Network is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization committed to uniting and empowering people to protect and restore the resources of the Gulf Region for future generations. Board of Directors
Casi Callaway Mobile Bay Watch/Mobile Baykeeper Mobile, AL Mark Davis—Secretary/Treasurer Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana Baton Rouge, LA Robert Hastings Montgomery, AL Joe Murphy—Chair Hernando County, FL Juan Parras Houston, TX Bob Schaeffer Public Policy Communications Sanibel, FL Page Williams Sierra Club—Lone Star Chapter Houston, TX Robert Wiygul—Vice Chair Waltzer and Associates Ocean Springs, MS

Cynthia Sarthou, Executive Director Matt Rota, Water Resources Program Director Briana Kerstein, Director of Organizational Development Aaron Viles, Campaign Director Jeff Grimes, Assistant Director, Water Resources Program Alison Chase, Director of Administration Dan Favre, Campaign Associate Stephanie Powell, Outreach Associate Marianne Cufone, Fisheries Consultant Cynthia Ramseur, Mississippi Field Consultant

Page 6


It was with much sadness that we bid ’Adieu’ to Vicki Murillo, our Water Resources Program Director. Vicki has chosen to pursue a career in teaching and we wish her all the best in her new position. Matt Rota is our new Water Resources Program Director and Jeff Grimes has taken over as Assistant Director. Briana Kerstein, Director of Organizational Development, will soon be taking a leave of absence for the upcoming birth of her first child. Briana will return to us, on a part-time basis, in January. September also finds us welcoming two new staff members: Dan Favre will be our new Campaign Associate, working with Aaron Viles, our Campaign Director, to implement grassroots public education and outreach efforts to protect important Gulf habitats, such as cypress forests, throughout the Gulf. Dan received his B.A. in Sociology from Brown College and worked as a field organizer for the League of Conservation Voters and Green Corps through their 2006 Environmental Leadership Training Program. Many of you may have met him before when, while at Green Corps, he worked on the GRN’s Stop the Fish Killing Machine LNG campaign in early 2006. Stephanie Powell will be joining the GRN’s Water Resources Program as the Outreach Associate. Stephanie will work with Matt and Jeff to raise awareness of issues affecting the health of Gulf waters, develop outreach materials (i.e. fact sheets, brochures, presentations); and organize workshops and other water resource events. Stephanie graduated with a B.A. from the University of Georgia. She spent a summer working as a Field Organizer for Sierra Club’s environmental voter campaign and as a field organizer for Green Corps, through its 2006 Environmental Leadership Training Program.

SEPT La Fete d’Ecologie — Barataria23-25 Terrebonne 2006 Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve’s Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center 314 St. Mary Street, Thibodaux, LA.


and/or posters, or for registration, see www.hccfl.edu/depts/detp/ecocon f.html

NOV GRN Board Meeting 17-19 New Orleans, LA NOV Alabama Mississippi Bays and 28-29 Bayous Symposium- Register Online Nov 28-29, 2006 - Mobile, AL DEC Restore America’s Estuaries 3rd 9-13 National Conference “Forging the National Imperative” Hilton Riverside, New Orleans. www.estuaries.org/conference

OCT Voice of the Wetlands Festival 13-15 Southdown Plantation, Houma, LA www.voiceofthewetlands.com/vo wfest.html NOV 2-3 33rd Annual Conference on Ecosystems Restoration and Creation. Hillsborough Community College, Plant City, FL. For more information, to submit abstracts

Volume 10, Issue 3

Page 7

United for a Healthy Gulf

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

The GRN would like to thank the following for making this newsletter, and the work of the GRN, possible: The Arntz Family Foundation, Aveda, The Booth-Bricker Foundation, The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, Common Stream, The Elizabeth Ordway Dunn Foundation, The Joe W. & Dorothy Dorsett Brown Foundation, The McKnight Foundation, Patagonia, the Regional Marine Conservation Project, the Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, and The RosaMary Foundation.

We know your life is full, so we’ve tried to make it easy for you to stay involved in the campaign to restore and protect the Gulf of Mexico region. We’ve included a quick tear-out postcard for you to mail asking Shell to stop the use of fish-killing open-loop liquefied natural gas terminals. In addition, for a limited time, we are offering our 100% organic cotton Flood Washington Tshirts as a thank you gift for membership donations of $75 or more. Your generous tax-deductible donation helps us safeguard all the natural resources that protect and enrich our coastal communities.

Mail to: GRN, P.O. Box 2245, New Orleans, LA 70176 Enclosed is my donation of $75 or more, please send me a size ________ T-shirt. (Men’s S, M, L, XL, XXL or Women’s M, L, XL) Name: __________________________________ Address: ________________________________ City: ___________ State: ______ Zip: _____ E-mail:__________________________________ __$50 __$75 __$150 __$30(min memb.) ______Other THANK YOU! Please make your checks payable to GRN

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