Fall 2009 Gulf Currents Newsletter

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Inside this issue: Sediment Study Troublesome for Gulf, Water Report Card Released, Aveda Earth Month Support, Climate Change Legislation

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15th Anniversary Issue
Report Card for Gulf States Page 3 Earth Month Review Page 5

Fall 2009
Climate Legislation Page 7

In a new study entitled “Drowning in the Mississippi Delta,” printed in the letters section of the July edition of the journal Nature Geoscience, two Louisiana State University (LSU) researchers, Harry H. Roberts and Michael D. Blum, have analyzed the ability of the Mississippi River to sustain Louisiana’s coastal wetlands—and the math isn’t good. Due to increased sea-level rise, decreased sediment in the river, and our ever-subsiding coast, the Mississippi River estuarine wetlands aren’t long for this earth. The Geographic Information Systems (GIS) imagery, shown below, accompanying the analysis shows New Orleans as a highly isolated city, and Lafayette and Baton Rouge far closer to the coast by the year 2100. By that time, Louisiana’s coast will lose another 4–5,000 square miles, an area about the size of Connecticut. Of course this map (and the accompanying report) does not look at the bene�icial use of dredged material, or pipeline sediment delivery, but it is unlikely that there is enough dredge

New Study: Mississippi River Delta Coastal Wetlands Cannot Be Maintained By Current River Sediment in Face of Sea-Level Rise

to be, even capturing everything in the river and everything the Corps dredges.

It can be concluded from this study that we have got to get serious about picking critical areas and sustaining them with sediment delivery, backed up with sediment diversions from the river. The authors express similar thinking when questioned by reporters from the Times-Picayune: “Louisiana is facing some really tough decisions here,” said Roberts. “You can’t do this restoration all over the coast because the whole coast is not sustainable and it never has been.” He then points to a couple proposed important river diversions—possibly at Caernarvon and Bayou Lafourche.

What this report very graphically shows is that the coast of tomorrow is not the coast of yesterday. That has been said a number of times, by a number of experts, but this is the �irst time it’s really been mapped out in such a hard-hitting way.

spoil to make up the difference. A recent Times-Picayune article (“Dredged Mud Can Save Louisiana Coast, State Says” by Mark Schleifstein, June 13, 2009) reports that Louisiana of�icials estimate that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have 60 million tons of dredged sediment theoretically available for wetlands restoration every year, while the LSU researchers put the historic amount of sediment in the river at 400–500 million tons, with the current river holding about 200 million tons. It seems as though we have not reached where we need

GIS renderings of Mississippi Delta: current coast (left), predicted coastal change absent measures to address climate change and wetlands loss by 2100 (right)

While everyone in southern Louisiana supports and knows that coastal restoration is important, it is impossible to �ind unanimity among the responses to the question of “what should be done about it?” Politicians, engineers, biologists, �ishermen, and restoration advocates often say dissimilar things. Understandably, everyone wants the coast that they know. Unfortunately, the report shows that this is impossible. It also makes it clear that if we don't quickly make some important decisions, we will be left with no coast at all.

Image : Roberts and Blum

A MESSAGE FROM A MEMBER OF THE BOARD
Tough, aggressive coalition
A story of GRN’s beginning
Robert Wiygul Member of the Board of Directors n the fall of 1994 I was in the airport in Houston, waiting for a connection to Denver, when Vic Sher, who was my boss at the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, beeped me on my pager. (Remember, this was �ifteen years ago, when only one in twenty of us had a cell phone. Some of us used pagers to get messages, and when traveling we used something that was called a “pay telephone.” You can learn more about this long ago, simpler era at the Smithsonian Institution or your state historical society.)
Photo: Je rey Dubinsky

BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Hank Caddell Mobile, AL Teresa Carrillo Corpus Christi, TX Martina Cartwright Houston, TX Robert Hastings, Chair Prattville, AL Brooke Himot St. Petersburg, FL Allen McReynolds Longview, TX Jose Miranda, Treasurer New Orleans, LA Bob Schae er Sanibel, FL Louis Skrmetta Gulfport, MS Susan Spicer New Orleans, LA Robert Wiygul Ocean Springs, MS

I

Vic, who is actually one of the unrecognized founders of the Gulf Restoration Network, told me he had this idea that the Gulf of Mexico needed a sort of tough, aggressive coalition to get out and do some serious advocacy work on marine resources. I told him this was an excellent idea, because for the past four years I had been working with some of the best environmental advocates around the Gulf South—people like Mary Lee Orr with the Louisiana Environmental Action Network, Ken Cramer with the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club, and others—but there was no single entity that was really focused on the Gulf and its critical issues as a whole. “Great,” Vic said. “You can help put it together.” I reminded Vic that the reason I was in Houston, �lying to Denver, was because he had moved me there to work on desert and mountain issues. “Wait,” I yelped, but he was gone. Vic was a big picture kind of guy. “Not a problem,” Vic said. “You just come back down and help get it started, maybe do a little litigation. Gotta run.”

It was a beautiful autumn that year all up and down the Gulf Coast. Hard to believe now that we’re in an active storm cycle, but there were no hurricanes. The people who met at the Coffeen Preserve over on the Florida Panhandle that fall were all seasoned advocates on wetlands, water quality, and �isheries. It didn’t really take long to agree that a grassroots coalition focused on Gulf issues was not just a good idea, but a necessity. Then we all went swimming.

STAFF
Cynthia Sarthou, Executive Director Pamela Brown, O ce Assistant Eir Danielson, Development Director Casey DeMoss Roberts, Water Resources Assistant Director Irene Dowling, O ce Manager Dan Favre, Campaign Organizer Jonathan Henderson, Louisiana Global Warming Organizer Raleigh Hoke, Mississippi Organizer Briana Kerstein, Special Projects Coordinator Joe Murphy, Florida Program Director Ellis Pickett, Texas Campaign Organizer Matt Rota, Water Resources Director Collin Fox Thomas, Campus Organizer Aaron Viles, Campaign Director

The rest is history, but what a history. On every major issue that the Gulf has faced since that day, the Gulf Restoration Network (GRN) has been in the thick of it. Wetlands, water quality, �isheries. Down in the weeds, in the comments and public hearings, in the meetings and late nights spent organizing. And when it comes right down to it, in the courts and in the media, making sure that the regulators and industry stay honest.

For species like the red snapper, it’s fair to say that without the GRN, the federal law on sustainable �isheries would never have been implemented. Without the GRN, illegal wetlands �ills would have gone unchallenged. Without the GRN, neighborhood groups would have been without the resources to make their voices heard. Reaching �ifteen years in an advocacy organization’s history is a big milestone. A group can last �ive years on a good vision, and it might last ten on a good vision and maybe a sympathetic foundation. But to last �ifteen you have to have a vision, the will to turn the vision into something on the ground, and the ability to adapt the vision to new circumstances. And if you’ve got that—and the GRN does—there’s no end in sight.

Volume 13, Issue 3

ISSUES & ACTIONS
GRN Tells Gulf States to Clean Up Their Act
As the only regional environmental organization focused on the health of the Gulf of Mexico, it is important for GRN to hold Gulf states accountable for the poor condition of the surface waters that feed the Gulf. In order to achieve this aim, we analyzed how well each of the �ive Gulf states has incorporated the Clean Water Act and Environmental Protection Agency guidance into their own water quality regulations. Passed in 1972, the Act’s primary goal is to restore and protect the integrity of the nation’s surface waters. Despite this explicit goal, we still have many polluted waters that �low into the Gulf; the �irst step to cleaning up our rivers and bayous is to make certain that each state has adopted the recommended regulations designed to protect these waters. The results of our analysis show that no Gulf state has adequately incorporated the letter and spirit of the Clean Water Act into their water quality regulations. In fact, when graded in the areas of water quality standards, public health protection, nitrogen and phosphorus pollution control, and public participation, all of the states scored poorly—the highest overall state grade was a C- and the lowest was an F. We hope that this report card will serve as a wake-up call for each of the Gulf states and encourage improvement of key regulations and procedures that could be a �irst step towards a cleaner Gulf. For the full report, visit www.healthygulf.org.

For many GRN members, this is the �irst newsletter you are receiving by mail after a canvasser left the Summer 2009 edition at your door. Whether it’s your �irst or you have been enjoying Gulf Currents for �ifteen years (it’s been through a few name changes), we would like to extend a sincere thanks, once again, for your support. GRN also recognizes and appreciates the hard work of our dedicated staff who braved the heat to save the Gulf. This summer, our Outreach Of�ices in New Orleans and Tampa recruited thousands of dedicated advocates, like yourself, from all �ive Gulf states and beyond. The money raised will enable GRN to, for example, provide materials and support for hosts of Katrinaversary Home Film Screenings to engage constituents throughout the country to pressure Congress for real action for Louisiana’s coast. Thanks to your donations we will be able to pressure Governor Crist in Florida to leave a legacy of protecting healthy waters and to engage even more citizens in the �ight for a healthy Gulf (see the adjacent article “Summer Campaign in Florida Demands Clean Water”).
Photo: Dubinsky Photography

Thanks for Supporting GRN

Summer Campaign in Florida Demands Clean Water

Anyone who lives in the Gulf South knows that it is hot here in the summer. Temperatures and humidity rise, and the best bet is to head indoors to wait it out. So, with that in mind imagine spending your summer knocking on doors and building a campaign for clean water. The hearty, brave, and dedicated crew of the GRN Tampa Summer Outreach Of�ice did just that.

GRN campaigns have already received a huge boost through the work of our Summer Outreach Of�ices. From meeting with state lawmakers in Louisiana to push for the Coastal Lines of Defense Strategy and oil and gas accountability to conducting a rally in Florida to convince Home Depot to abandon unsustainable cypress mulch, it happened through the hard work of our canvass staff and the dedication of our members. We look forward to continuing to work with you for a healthy Gulf. Fall 2009

In May, the Florida GRN team launched our “Defend the Gulf Coast” campaign. We held community events from Tampa to Tallahassee and knocked on thousands of doors, asking residents to join GRN’s campaign to protect the rivers, coastlines, wetlands, and estuaries along the Gulf Coast of Florida. We urged Governor Charlie Crist to step up and really work to protect Florida’s water resources. In thousands of one-on-one conversations with residents across the state, we found and built support for Florida doing the right thing and protecting the water resources on which we all depend.

While summer may be coming to an end, the campaign continues. Floridians deserve safe, clean water and our natural systems and tourism-based economy depend on Florida’s water resources. Whether it is coastal pollution, coastal development, mining, or overpumping of Florida’s rivers, GRN will continue the �ight to call on Governor Crist to be the true people’s governor and protect the lifeblood of Florida.

29 Katrina Anniversary Events: Faded” Film Screenings of “Paradise
SEPTEMBER

AUGUST

National Nonpoint 14-17 17thOrleans, Louisiana Source Monitoring Workshop New Coast, 20 Defend Ourof great Defend Our Culture food, and An evening company, discussion, For more information, visit http://npsmonitoring.tetratech- x.com/index.htm. music to bene t GRN. Keynote Speaker: Ivor van Heerden Bayona Restaurant, New Orleans, Louisiana, 6 p.m. For tickets and more information, e-mail [email protected] or call (504) 525-1528 x210.

Taking place across the U.S. Flood Washington Fest II: Wetlands Action Event With a screening of “Paradise Faded: The Fight for Louisiana” followed by music by Anders Osborn, Stanton Moore, and Leon “Kid Chocolate” Brown One-Eyed Jacks, New Orleans, Louisiana 8 p.m., $10 at the door. For more information, visit http://bit.ly/FloodFest.

Bonnarooers For the Environment

30-31 Voodoo Experience As the festival’s o Come see GRN at Voodoo!
NOVEMBER

22-23 Clean Water Network Regional Caucus on Stormwater Management and Green Infrastructure Solutions
Bu alo, New York For more information, e-mail [email protected] or call (202) 547-4208. cial nonpro t partner, we’ll be educating performing artists and attendees about Louisiana’s coastal wetlands crisis. New Orleans, Louisiana

1-3 Regional Mississippi River Basin Summit: Nitrogen & Phosphorus Pollution Issues
Co-sponsored by Clean Water Network, Sierra Club and Coalition Partners New Orleans, Louisiana For more information, e-mail [email protected] or call (202) 547-4208.

OCTOBER

On June 11-14, nearly 80,000 people gathered on a farm outside of Manchester, Tennessee, to attend the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, one of the largest music festivals in the world. Over the four days, Bonnarooers attended comedy shows, live music concerts on six stages, and helped save the environment. GRN made its third appearance at Bonnaroo with a booth in the Planetroo section of the festival. Our heartfelt thanks go out to Michelle Denney, Megan Morikawa, Mitchell (Moe) Long, Stephanie Short, Nari Ely, and our dedicated volunteers Danny Durkee and Joseph Imhof for their hard work and commitment to our cause. They worked to educate festival attendees about the wetlands issues and the text messaging campaign that allows people to demand action with the push of a few buttons. Bonnaroo also hosted a screening of Walter Williams’ short �ilms on Louisiana’s coastal crisis, with an appearance by Stanton Moore of Galactic. A special thanks to Michelle, who participated in a roundtable discussion on water pollution during which she explained to concertgoers how they can get involved in the �ight for Louisiana.

Coming This Fall To Your Mailbox

1 Voodoo Experience (continues) the Coast 8 Cruising forof great company, discussion, and food to An evening

As summer comes to an end, temperatures cool, and schools start up again, GRN is gearing up to reach out to you...

bene t GRN. Ship Island Excursions, Gulfport, Mississippi For more information, e-mail [email protected] or call (504) 525-1528 x210.

• In September, GRN’s 2008 Annual Report—which will include a calendar for 2010—will be mailed to upper level and Gulf Sustainer members. • Our fall major donor campaign will take place in October. • In celebration of GRN’s 15th anniversary, our winter edition of the newsletter, due out in December, will include a review of signi�icant actions and issues from the past �ifteen years. Watch your mailbox and take action for a healthy Gulf!

Volume 13, Issue 3

Fusion Salon and Spa in Miramar Beach, Florida, held a Spa Day for Young Women during Earth Month.

Many salons, like AvantGarde Salon in Destin, Florida, held cut-a-thons to raise money. Stylists donated their time and all money raised from the services was donated to GRN.

Aveda and Clean Water

Throughout April 2009, Aveda distributors, Neill Corporation and The Salon People, and their salons across the Southeast partnered with GRN to raise awareness and funds to keep our waters clean. The GRN extends a heartfelt thanks to all of the hardworking Aveda salon staff and their clients for everything they do to make Earth Month a success. Their contributions will support our work to keep our waterways clean by protecting wetlands and keeping pollution such as sewage and fertilizer runoff out of our waters. Aveda stands out as a shining example of an authentic green company that makes protecting our environment central to the way they do business.

Salons were very creative in helping to raise awareness about the GRN and threats to the waters of the Gulf. Ti ney of Lemongrass Salon in Ft. Worth, Texas, created hand painted globes to help stylists remember to talk about Earth Month.

In St. Petersburg, walkers headed towards City Hall.

This year Aveda salons in nineteen cities hosted “Walks for Water” on Earth Day, April 22. From Charlotte to New Orleans to Houston and across Florida, stylists and their clients hit the sidewalks and the park trails to show their support for GRN and our work to protect our waters across the Gulf region.

More than 150 people participated in the Walk in Houston.

In New Orleans, GRN sta member, Aaron Viles, spoke brie y with the walkers on the need to protect our wetlands and our waterways.

Walkers gathered on the steps of Florida’s state capitol in Tallahassee.

Fall 2009

GULF NEWS
Preserve the Texas Coast
Last year Hurricane Ike devastated the upper Texas coast. Thousands of houses and businesses were destroyed, along with the beaches and coastal dunes. This damage highlighted the need for better stewardship to preserve the beaches and wetlands that naturally protect our shores. At least that is what most people thought would happen.

Truth is Stranger than Fiction
Some Louisianans recently enjoyed a rare experience—the sighting of an albino bottlenose dolphin calf that calls the Gulf home. The pink-colored dolphin calf was �irst photographed at Lake Calcasieu, which is actually an estuary, in the Calcasieu Ship Channel in Louisiana in May of 2009. Most dolphin calves are born dark grey in color. Additional sightings of this unique dolphin occurred in the vicinity of Lake Calcasieu and the nearby Calcasieu Ship Channel in June of 2007 and then intermittently throughout the years until this most recent sighting in 2009. The pink dolphin is usually spotted traveling with a group of grey dolphins.

A Pink Dolphin Calls the Gulf Home

Unfortunately many want to rebuild in hazard-prone areas along the coast. Recently Texas Rep. Wayne Christian created, and Governor Rick Perry signed, a bill that overturns the policy of the Texas Open Beaches Act, which prohibits construction of private structures on public beaches. Along with many others, GRN believes that barrier islands and coastal wetlands are not safe locations to build housing. We continue to work to encourage good coastal management that promotes construction behind a natural buffer zone of dunes to protect beaches and upland development. It is time to formulate a plan that will preserve the Texas coast—and stick to it.

white albino dolphin was seen in the summer of 1994 in Little Lake near New Orleans swimming in a group of four to �ive grey dolphins, but was never seen

Photo: NOAA

Since 1962, it is believed that there has been only fourteen reported sightings of albino dolphins throughout the world. It is the third sighting of an albino dolphin in the Gulf of Mexico. A

again. Another white albino dolphin was observed in a group of more than forty grey dolphins south of Galveston, Texas, in September of 2003 and several times in the same vicinity throughout 2004.

It just goes to prove once again that the natural resources of the Gulf of Mexico are vast and unique.

Paddling1200 Miles for a Healthy Gulf

Canoer Margo Pellegrino ended her 1,200 mile journey from Miami to New Orleans on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain on May 23. An avid environmentalist, Margo paddled the Gulf of Mexico this summer to raise awareness about protecting the Gulf of Mexico and our oceans. Margo traveled more than 40 miles on some days and encountered everything from sea turtles to industrialized harbors �illed with litter and debris. Margo paddled the eastern seaboard in 2007 to raise a similar message of awareness of ocean conservation in her Miami to Maine Paddle. In an interview in The Tampa Tribune, published April 30, she expressed her concern: “Our oceans are near crisis. We can turn a blind eye or do something. We have a clean air act and a clean water act but we don't have a healthy oceans act.” To learn more, read her blog at www.miami2nola.com.

Pellegrino celebrates the conclusion of her Gulf journey with GRN sta and friends

Paddler Margo Pellegrino

Volume 13, Issue 3

ISSUES & ACTIONS
Seafood and the Grand Canyon
The Gulf of Mexico and the Texas coast are national treasures that many would argue are comparable to the Grand Canyon. How, you may ask, can the Grand Canyon be compared to tiny dunes, brown water, and coastal marshes with very big mosquitoes? They are all important pieces of the environment that sustains us. Without the barrier islands and bays we would have much less to eat: the Texas coast provides millions of pounds of seafood every year. Can you say that about the Grand Canyon? Fish populations and captured �ish size have declined. These trends must be reversed if we are to have sustainable numbers of breeding �ish and a healthy ecosystem. Modern technology enables us to locate a single �ish to harvest and our nets and long-line equipment have grown to enormous lengths. Commercial and recreational �ishermen are more ef�icient than ever. But they are often catching fewer �ish compared to thirty years ago. The Houston Chronicle recently published an article about the success of King Mackeral management (May 23, 2009). NMFS greatly reduced bag limits in the early 1980’s. Commercial and recreational �ishermen howled, however, the spawning stock immediately rebounded. King Mackeral populations went from a low of about 4 million �ish in 1984 to 17.2 million �ish in 2006. This is a success story that needs to be repeated in other �ish species. At this moment there is another threat to our �isheries. It is in the form of Senate Bill 1255 by Senator Charles Schumer. This bill weakens the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA). It allows �ishery managers to delay �ish population rebuilding deadlines and creates loopholes in the MSA that will harm the efforts to create sustainable �ish populations.

Looking Back at ACES and Ahead to the Senate
GRN is relieved by the House of Representatives’ vote to pass the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) in a close 219–212 vote. However, a great deal of work remains in the Senate to pass the strongest climate legislation possible. Grassroots voices will need to be louder than ever in the coming months to demand it. In the days preceding the vote, strong grassroots pressure helped log tens of thousands of calls and faxes to Congress from across the country, so many that the congressional switchboard was shut down. We thank you if you were one of the many who made a phone call, sent a letter or fax, or attended one of the rallies at district of�ices organized by GRN and 1Sky. GRN is disappointed in the congressional delegations of Alabama and Louisiana who did not vote in support of ACES. Apparently, threats of rising sea levels and more powerful storms are not enough to overcome the far reaching in�luence of polluting industries. Fall 2009

We should all encourage the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, NOAA, and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to establish sustainable management of Gulf �isheries.

If you could do one thing today to make the oceans better, would you do it? Here is your chance. Please make a phone call to your two U.S. senators—using the U.S. Capital switchboard at (202) 224-3121. Ask them NOT to support Senate Bill 1255. This is one easy step you can take to make the planet better.

GRN, with our partner 1Sky, and other climate advocates, will continue pushing for a bill that:

Currently, provisions in the Senate bill allow for expanded offshore drilling in the eastern Gulf. While we supported ACES, GRN, 1Sky, and most climate activists are refusing to support the Senate bill in its current form, and we will seek �loor improvements to increase renewable energy deployment, eliminate safeguards for fossil fuels, and prevent expanded drilling. Getting sixty votes for a strong bill in the Senate will be dif�icult, but not impossible. It will take support from grassroots efforts if we want to win some of the more dif�icult swing votes,

• Increases short-term targets for reducing global warming pollution. • Preserves the Clean Air Act so the Environmental Protection Agency can regulate dirty coal plants. • Reduces giveaways to polluting industries to increase investment in clean energy jobs and technologies.

like Senator Landrieu (D-LA), and to prevent serious additional weakening throughout the process. You can count on the GRN to be on the front lines of this battle, but we need your help! For more information, please contact Jonathan Henderson, GRN’s 1Sky organizer at [email protected]

Rallies at o ces of Rep. Melancon (DLA), above, and Rep. Cao (R- LA), below

GULF RESTORATION

NETWORK

Gulf Restoration Network 338 Baronne Street, Suite 200 New Orleans, LA 70112 Louisiana O ce: 504.525.1528 Florida O ce: 813.468.0870 Texas O ce: 713.906.3940 www.healthygulf.org

Celebrating 15 Years of Action for a Healthy Gulf
Join us at GRN’s upcoming fundraising parties in Louisiana and Mississippi:

SAVE THESE DATES

GREEN Your Membership
 

New Orleans, Louisiana Sunday, September 20, 6-8 p.m. Bayona Restaurant Keynote speaker: Ivor van Heerden Gulfport, Mississippi Sunday, November 8 Ship Island Excursions

Switch to the Gulf Currents e-newsletter Sign up for GulfWaves
GRN’s bi-weekly e-update

SUBSCRIBE

Louisiana event committee members Caroline Helwick and GRN board member Jose Miranda, at last year’s event

Go to www.healthygulf.org/newsletters, call (504) 525-1528 x210 or e-mail [email protected]

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