February 2009 Wave Maker's Newsletter

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From fighting an ill-conceived Army Corps plan in Louisiana to defending the integrity of Florida's drinking water, this issue details our work to protect the Gulf region's waters and communities. Check inside for some great articles about Gulf Gathering 2009, the Aveda Earth Month raffle winner, upcoming workshops about protecting your community from sewage pollution, and our efforts to defend communities and wetlands in North Gulfport, MS.



Volume IV
Inside this issue:
Protecting the Green Swamp Gulf Gathering and Aveda Raffle Winner 2

Issue 1

February 2009

Navigating Towards Disaster
Once again, the Army Corps of Engineers is attempting to resurrect an ill-conceived plan to expand the lock complex in New Orleans’ Industrial Canal. This project has been pushed by the Corps for over 50 years now, despite the fact that it is socially and environmentally unacceptable and lacks economic justification. During Hurricane Katrina, the Industrial Canal was breached – devastating adjacent neighborhoods like the Lower 9th Ward. Now this project threatens to destroy hundreds of acres of urban wetlands which help protect these vulnerable neighborhoods from flooding and storm surge.
Courtesy of US Army Corps of Engineers


Fecal Matters and Phosphate 4 Monsters

Back in 2003, the GRN, along with our partners, the Holy Cross Neighborhood Association and the Louisiana Environmental Action Network, filed suit because the Corps failed to adequately study the environmental consequences of this project. The judge ruled in our favor and instructed the Corps to again undertake an assessment of the environmental impacts. Now the Corps has come out with a new assessment, and it still does not come close to justifying the damage that the new lock will cause. One of the most striking things about this new proposal is the Corps
Continued on page 2

View of the Industrial Canal and Lock

Fight Continues to Protect Gulfport Communities, Waters
In 2007, the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) applied for a permit to construct a four lane highway known as the “Port Connector” through North Gulfport and Turkey Creek communities. These communities, are home to a unique cultural, historical, and environmental heritage that reaches back generations. Unfortunately, this project could have a profound effect on the individuals and communities that call this area home. The proposed highway would destroy 162 acres of wetlands, pollute the nearby Turkey Creek, increase air pollution in the community, and worsen existing flooding problems by converting flood waterabsorbing wetlands into asphalt. Several organizations including, North Gulfport Community Land Trust, Turkey Creek Community Initiatives, Sierra Club, and Gulf Restoration Network have joined together to protect this area. The simple truth is that there are a number of alternatives to the proposed highway that the engineers at MDOT have never wanted to consider. From better timing stoplights on Highway 49 to widening and expanding the existing Canal Road, MDOT has failed to envision any alternatives but the one that puts a major new highway through a low-income community that already has flooding
Continued on page 3

Page 2

Wave Maker’s News

Protecting the Green Swamp and the Withlacoochee River
It has been said that the Green Swamp is the hydrologic heart of Florida. Located in west central Florida, the Green Swamp is an essential area of recharge for the Floridan Aquifer (the source of drinking water for millions of Floridians). Four of Florida’s major rivers are born in the Green Swamp, including the Withlachoochee River and the Hillsborough River. It would be hard to find a natural area in Florida more important in terms of water supply and water quality. Millions of Floridians depend on the Green Swamp. So, it would seem to be simply logical that the absolute last place to site a massive landfill would be on the edge of the Green Swamp, only a few thousand feet from the banks of the Withlacoochee River. In Florida, what is logical and what is proposed are seldom the same. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) is currently considering a permit for a massive one thousand acre landfill at the edge of the Green Swamp. A private corporation has submitted a permit request despite that fact that numerous local governments (City of Tampa, Dade City, City of Zephyrhills, etc.), conservation groups, chambers of commerce, and community groups are strongly opposed to a massive landfill on the edge of Florida’s drinking water supply. The area in question, eastern Pasco County, is well known for sinkholes and geologic features that could lead to contaminants reaching the aquifer, the Green Swamp, or the river. The potential for contamination and environmental damage to the Green Swamp and the Withlacoochee River is clear, and Gulf Restoration Network is helping to lead the charge
Courtesy of Anthony Rue

Kayaking Gum Slough off the Withlacoochee

to oppose this landfill. We are working with Protector’s of Florida’s Legacy and the newly formed Withlacoochee River Alliance (which we are a founding member of) to pressure the Florida DEP to deny this permit. A growing number of statewide conservation groups, including the Florida Wildlife Federation and Audubon of Florida have joined this effort to protect the Green Swamp and the Withlacoochee River. Florida DEP has set a February 12th, 2009 date for a decision on this permit and Gulf Restoration Network will continue to work with our allies and partners to achieve the denial of this permit and protect the hydrologic heart of Florida.

Navigating Towards Disaster (continued from page 1)
failed their own mandate to only undertake projects where benefits outweigh the cost to the tax-payers. Traffic through the lock has been decreasing, yet the Corps continues to push this unnecessary project. According to one economic analysis, this project would only return 30 cents on every dollar invested in this $1.3 billion project! This analysis also concludes that the Army Corps’ most recent report is primarily meant to “justify a fundamentally flawed decision to continue to construct a replacement lock.” Additionally, the environmental impacts to these communities could be severe. This project will impact 244 acres of wetlands. According to recent studies, these wetlands could provide well over one million dollars of services, including wildlife habitat and storm protection. These are urban wetlands provide important protection from flooding events and storm surge, yet the Corps has failed to take into account the vital services that these wetlands provide to neighborhoods like New Orleans East, the Lower 9th Ward, and St. Bernard Parish. For all these reasons and more, the lock expansion is not in the best interests of local communities. Gulf Restoration Network will continue to watchdog this and other Corps projects to ensure that they do not unnecessarily impact and destroy the vital resources that they have been tasked to protect.

Volume IV

Issue 1

Page 3

Fight Continues to Protect Gulfport Communities, Waters (continued from page 1)
problems. A one acre wetland can store roughly one million gallons of water. Thus, by destroying 162 acres of wetlands, the state would be removing 162 million gallons of water storage capacity, only exacerbating the likelihood of future flooding. In January of 2009, our coalition dealt MDOT their first setback. Due to concerns over MDOT’s failure to avoid wetland destruction, the EPA threatened to veto their permit application. MDOT has since agreed to put its application on hold. This positive news means that MDOT will likely have to devise a better plan, but it does not mean the highway project is dead. Gulf Restoration Network and its allies will continue to fight for an alternative to the “Port Connector” that better protects the local community and the wetlands that the community relies upon for flood protection.

Local community members fish along Turkey Creek

Join us May 8-9 at a Gulf-wide conference for coastal advocates and organizers concerned about the Gulf of Mexico. If you're interested in Clean Water, Climate Change, Coastal Habitat Resiliency, Wetlands and Cypress Swamps Conservation, or would like to meet other folks from across the five Gulf states who want to protect the Gulf - this is the environmental conference for you. To receive agenda updates and further information, contact Briana Kerstein, [email protected] (504) 525-1528 ext. 208.

Aveda Earth Month Raffle Winner
Last April, Aveda salons across the southeast partnered with GRN to support our Healthy Waters work with an Earth Month raffle. The raffle was a ringing success and GRN would like to thank the salons that sold raffle tickets and all the individuals who took part in helping to protect our waters. The winner of the grand prize is Ms. Pamela Kowzan of Orlando, Florida. She received two nights and brunch from the Intercontinental New Orleans, a $500 gift card on the airline of her choice, dinner from Gautreau's and Lilette, and spa services from Paris Parker Salons. Congratulations to Pamela! This Earth Month, we are proud to once again partner with Aveda Salons to raffle off some great prizes and keep our waters healthy.


Fecal Matters
Scientists test public water for fecal coliform bacteria, but what does that mean? Feces, poop, excrement, dung - I think you get the picture. When you flush, the water and waste heads to a sewage treatment plant where it gets cleaned and released back into the environment. Sometimes though, the treatment plant releases untreated or undertreated sewage into waterways where it can make people sick. State agencies are supposed to protect the public but this process can also break down.
New Orleans Office 338 Baronne St., Ste. 200 New Orleans, LA 70112 Phone: 504-525-1528 Florida Office 34413 Orchid Parkway Ridge Manor, FL 33523 Phone: 352-583-0870 Email: [email protected]

That is why the Gulf Restoration Network and Louisiana Bayou Keeper produced the Our Waters Our Health, a Citizen’s Guide to Sewage Pollution, a how-to on stopping sewage pollution and protecting your community. The manual is free to our member groups and interested parties can contact us for trainings on where experienced staff will walk you through the ways you can fight sewage pollution. For more information please contact our Special Projects Coordinator, Casey DeMoss Roberts at 504-525-1528 extension 212 or by email at [email protected].

Phosphate Monster Poised to Gobble Up More Wetlands
Most Americans do not think of Florida as a mining state. Despite the perception of Florida as a state of beaches and sunsets, Florida has a major mining industry which poses a direct threat to the environment and tourist economy. Sand mines, limerock mines, and phosphate mines are scattered across Florida. The mining of phosphate, which is used as a fertilizer, poses the greatest threat to Florida’s rivers, wetlands, and bays. Now more than ever Floridians are facing a fundamental choice: fish or phosphate. Phosphate strip mining rips the soul from the landscape. The earth is torn asunder by massive drag lines that scar the landscape. The hydrologic system that has supported rivers, wetlands, and creeks for thousands of years is forever altered and mining runoff pollutes downstream rivers and estuaries. All of this is done with permits granted to the phosphate industry by the state of Florida and the federal government. One is left to wonder what future generations will think as they ponder the destruction of Florida that has been done primarily to benefit a few companies. Surely, they will judge us harshly for not putting the health of our rivers, wetlands, and coastal estuaries ahead of drag lines and strip mining. Mosaic is Florida’s 800 lbs. gorilla when it comes to phosphate mining. This company owns thousands of acres from central to southwest Florida and is actively working to mine Florida of this non-renewable resource. Despite the overwhelming evidence of tattered landscapes lost to the strip mines, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers routinely grant permits for the continued destruction. In the summer of 2008, the Gulf Restoration Network joined with the Sierra Club, Manasota-88, People for the Protection of the Peace River, and Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund in going to court to challenge to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permits that would have allowed wetlands to be destroyed in the Altman Tract in Manatee County. After we filed suit, the Corps suspended the permits. Our shot across the bow let state and federal agencies know we are serious about protecting wetlands and rivers from destruction caused by phosphate mining. Unfortunately, a victory we achieved in 2008 was reversed when the Manatee County Commission changed courses due to legal threats from Mosaic. The County voted to approve local government permits for Mosaic to mine wetlands in the Altman Tract. The phosphate bullies convinced Manatee County to abandon principles and disregard the public interest. However, Gulf Restoration Network continues to pressure Manatee County to revisit this decision and do what is right for taxpayers, the environment, and the region’s future. We can and will take on the phosphate monster and protect Florida’s future.


GRN Healthy Waters Program Staff Florida: Joe Murphy 352-583-0870 or [email protected] Mississippi: Jeff Grimes 504-525-1528 x 205 or [email protected] Raleigh Hoke 504-525-1528 x 204 or [email protected] Louisiana: Matt Rota 504-525-1528 x 206 or [email protected] Special Projects Coordinator: Casey DeMoss Roberts [email protected]

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