September 2009 Wave Maker's Newsletter

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GRN's Healthy Waters Team has had another busy summer working to keep rivers, streams, and bayous throughout the Gulf Coast safe for fishing, swimming, and all the wild critters that rely on them. From releasing GRN’s Clean Up Your Act! Report card to fighting against irresponsible development proposals in Mississippi and Florida, GRN is committed to preserving and enhancing our healthy waters and communities.

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Content

Volume IV
Inside this issue:
Florida Report Card 2

Issue III

September 2009

GRN Report Card Makes Waves in Gulf States
Nearly forty years ago, Congress passed the Clean Water Act in order to protect the health of our nation’s waterways and ensure the safety of the communities and individuals that rely on healthy waters. As the loyal readers of Wave Maker’s News are aware, a big part of GRN’s Healthy Waters Program involves watchdogging Gulf States to make sure that they are properly using and enforcing the Clean Water Act. As the only organization exclusively focused on the health of the Gulf of Mexico, GRN has been working to prepare a report card that analyzes all five Gulf States and how they have incorporated the Clean Water Act and EPA guidance into their water quality regulations. This month, we released the report, titled Clean Up Your Act!, and, sadly, the Gulf States all scored poorly. Clean Up Your Act! assesses each state on four categories that are critical for successfully protecting our fresh and marine waters.

Alabama Report Card

3

Mississippi Report Card

4

Louisiana Report 5 Card

Texas Report Card Wasted Federal Dollars in Mississippi

6

7

Offshore Drilling in Florida and a 8 Victory for the Nature Coast

• • • •

Water quality standards Human health protections Limits on nitrogen and phosphorous pollution Encouraging and facilitating public participation in water quality policy

in all state waters. This pollution is linked to algal blooms, fish kills, and the massive Dead Zone in the Gulf. Not only do we report weaknesses in state policies, we propose recommendations to each of the states to improve their regulations. In this issue of Wave Maker’s, you can read about our recommendations in each state and take action to protect you community and its waters. Each states’ water quality standards form the foundation of clean water policy, and if our states don’t have strong policies, our waters are doomed to poor protection. The report can be found on GRN’s website at healthygulf.org/reportcard.

These categories represent some of the most critical areas in which states need to strengthen their policies to protect waters. The report points out problems in state policies that fail to safeguard Gulf waters for swimming and fishing. For example, no Gulf state has numeric standards that would reduce nitrogen and phosphorous pollution

Page 2

Wave Maker’s News

Greater Protections Needed to Ensure Florida’s Waters Safe
The beaches and waters of Florida are renowned worldwide for the recreational opportunities that they provide to tourist and locals alike. In turn, water-based tourism is a major driver of the state’s economy. Unfortunately, while Florida scored poorly in several areas, one particular area of concern is the fact that it does not protect all of Florida's waters to be safe for swimming and wildlife. Other areas of concern include a lack of state-wide numeric limits on nitrogen and phosphorous pollution that has impaired many of the states waters and the need for greater public participation in the decision-making process. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has recently decided to create a new system of categories that determine how much pollution will be allowed in each stream and lake. The new, more complex categories will allow for more variation in DEP's protection of our waters. GRN is committed to making sure that this new system leads to safer, healthier waters for our communities, not more pollution. So, if you are a Florida resident, please send a note urging Governor Crist to tell DEP to use its new classification system to completely protect the state’s waters for swimming, fishing, and wildlife. We need cleaner, healthier water- not water with downgraded protection! By convincing Governor Crist to send a strong message to DEP, our united voice can show how important healthy water is to our communities.

Take action to protect Florida’s waters at http://action.healthygulf.org/campaign.jsp?campaign_KEY=27830

Volume IV

Issue III

Page 3

Nitrogen and Phosphorous Pollution Threaten Alabama’s Waters
Alabama’s Gulf coast and the thousands of miles of rivers, lakes and streams that feed into the Gulf are an amazing natural resource. The state’s waters provide residents with endless hours of enjoyment and help drive the local economy. Unfortunately, Alabama scored poorly in several areas which are crucial to protecting this resource for future generations. In order to improve, Alabama should move to set Water Quality Standards that protect all of its waters for human contact and fish and wildlife, while also improving public participation in the process. In addition, one particular area the state needs to improve is protecting waters from nitrogen and phosphorus pollution. At this time, Alabama does not have the policies in place to protect its waters from nitrogen and phosphorous pollution. This pollution, which often comes from sewage treatment facilities, septic tank failure, and fertilizer runoff, leads to algal blooms that can truly damage the health of our waters. If you are an Alabama resident, please tell the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) to set limits on this pollution! Several years ago, the United States Environmental Protection Agency told all the States to establish limits on nitrogen and phosphorus pollution, yet Alabama has not done so. Please join us in telling ADEM to prioritize these protections, and establish numeric limits for nitrogen and phosphorus pollution.

Take action to protect Alabama’s waters at http://action.healthygulf.org/campaign.jsp?campaign_KEY=27831

Page 4

Wave Maker’s News

Mississippi’s Most Beautiful Waters Lack Maximum Protections
The waters of Mississippi—including amazing water bodies like the Mississippi Sound and the Pascagoula River—are among the nation’s most precious natural resources. Generations of Mississippians have enjoyed swimming, hunting and fishing in and around the state’s waters but this resource is threatened because the state of Mississippi is not living up to it obligations to keep state waters healthy. Mississippi scored poorly in several areas. However, one particular area stands out. Mississippi has not designated any of its most beautiful waters as "Outstanding Natural Resource Waters", a category designed by the Clean Water Act to offer the maximum level of protection to a stunning water body. Waters such as Black Creek, parts of which are already designated as a National Scenic River, undoubtedly deserve and need this protection. To ensure that these waters bodies receive this designation, the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality must also create a process by which citizens can nominate additional Outstanding Waters. The state could also do a better job of uniformly monitoring the state’s fresh waters for short term threats to human health, regulating nitrogen and phosphorous pollution, and utilizing volunteer monitoring of water bodies in the decision-making process. If you are Mississippi resident, send a strong message to Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality today. It is time to protect the health of state waters in order to ensure the health of our communities and future generations.

Take action to protect Mississippi’s waters at http://action.healthygulf.org/campaign.jsp?campaign_KEY=27832

Volume IV

Issue III

Page 5

Greater Protection from Pathogens Needed in Louisiana Waters
Louisiana’s rivers, wetlands, lakes and streams are among the most biodiverse and productive water bodies in the nation. It’s no mistake that Louisiana is known as a “Sportsman’s Paradise” - the states waters provide boundless recreational opportunity along with much of the seafood consumed in the United States. Unfortunately, the state needs to do a better job protecting its waters. Louisiana needs to improve monitoring of biological indicators in order to accurately judge the health of state water. In addition, Louisiana should take a leadership role in limiting the nitrogen and phosphorous pollution that contributes to the huge Dead Zone off its Gulf coast every summer. Although there were several areas of concern, one particular area the state needs to improve is protecting waters from disease-causing pathogens. The bottom line is that the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) does not have adequate standards to identify waters that could make us sick. The current standards that determine if water is safe for swimming are only enforced for part of the year. Further, waters must violate the standards for 4 months before LDEQ considers them polluted. LDEQ is currently re-examining its water protections, so, if you are a Louisiana resident, now is the perfect time to send a strong message that Louisiana needs improved protection in their standards to ensure that we don't get sick from swimming in our lakes and streams.

Take action to protect Louisiana’s waters at http://action.healthygulf.org/campaign.jsp?campaign_KEY=27833

Page 6

Wave Maker’s News

Texas Must Protect its Waters from Nitrogen and Phosphorous Pollution
The Texas Gulf coast and all of its waters are a beautiful treasure for the state and a big part of the states’ economy. In the coastal areas alone, tourism generates about $10 billion a year for the state and coastal fishing generates another $4 billion. While Texas does a better job incorporating the Clean Water Act into state policies than the other Gulf States in many categories, there are still significant areas that need improvement. Texas, like most other Gulf States, does not have any waters designated “Outstanding Natural Resource Waters,” denying them the highest level of protection available. In addition, the state is years behind in completing a Triennial review, an important venue for public participation, and the state still does not provide many public documents online for review. One particular area the state needs to improve is protecting waters from nitrogen and phosphorus pollution. This pollution comes from a variety of sources including sewage treatment plants, failing septic systems, and fertilizer run-off. It leads to algal blooms that can truly damage the health of our waters by causing Dead Zones, or areas of water with so little oxygen that fish cannot survive. Dead Zones have been observed off the Texas coast, and some algae blooms can be unsafe for human contact. If you are a Texas resident, please take a moment to tell the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) that Texas needs to do a better job protecting our waters by putting policies in place that limit nitrogen and phosphorus pollution.

Take action to protect Texas’s waters at http://action.healthygulf.org/campaign.jsp?campaign_KEY=27834

Volume IV

Issue III

Page 7

Wasted Opportunity in Mississippi
Image courtesy of Andrea Westmoreland

In 2007, the state of Mississippi was granted over $600 million in federal Hurricane Katrina relief funds to solve sewage and water quality problems exposed by the storm. While much of this money will go to recovery projects, the state wants to redirect a portion of the taxpayer’s dollars to subsidize private real estate developments that threaten Mississippi's streams, wildlife, and wetlands. To make things worse, the state has violated federal law by not adequately analyzing the damage that the badly planned developments will have on the state's environment. On Tuesday, September 8th, GRN and the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic sent a letter of intent to sue to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Mississippi Development Authority, and the Utility Authorities of Jackson, Harrison, and Stone Counties for violations of the National Environmental Policy Act, known as NEPA.

Sandhill Cranes are one of the endangered species that could be negatively impacted.

Congress created NEPA to prevent wasteful spending by requiring the government to “look before it leaps” meaning that direct, indirect and cumulative impacts to the environment must be studied before the project can move forward. MDA, HUD, and the Utility Authorities have attempted to shortcut this safeguard and, in the process, failed to develop the information necessary to inform themselves and affected members of the public of the significant, unnecessary, and wasteful damage some of the projects will cause. The damage at issue includes destroying wetlands, fragmenting important wildlife habitat corridors (including those that threatened and endangered species depend on), increasing pollutant loadings to the Pascagoula and Coastal Streams Basins and degrading the Mississippi Sound

and the Gulf of Mexico. Finally, there is a lost opportunity in using limited hurricane recovery funds to subsidize private real estate development instead of helping communities in need. Furthermore, the public has largely been kept out of the decision making process which has greatly upset local Mississippians who will be impacted by these developments. We hope that these agencies will show a good faith effort to comply with federal laws and to help motivate them we are reaching out to Secretary Donovan, head of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. You can help too by sending Sec. Donovan a letter asking him to make sure that Katrina relief funds only go to Mississippi communities in need!

Send Secretary Donovan a letter: http://action.healthygulf.org/campaign.jsp?campaign_KEY=27861

UNITED FOR A HEALTHY GULF

Offshore Drilling Threatens Florida’s Gulf Coast
Don’t look now, but the Florida Legislature and a mysterious group of oil industry lobbyists and consultants have decided that Florida needs oil rigs in state waters (3-9 miles offshore). Drilling off the coast of Florida poses a direct and unacceptable risk to Florida’s beaches, fisheries, coastal economies, and military training facilities. The Gulf Restoration Network is completely opposed to any and all attempts to drill, and is actively working with our coalition partners to stop big oil in their tracks. Offshore drilling is wrong for Florida in numerous ways. By any criteria used to measure its potential negative impact to our coastlines, it fails to pass the test of acceptable risk or provide any benefit that would outweigh the tremendous dangers posed to the economic engines that drive Florida. Our economy in Florida is grounded in clean, healthy coastlines that are the backbone of our $65 billion a year tourist economy. In the absence of a state income tax, revenue generated by tourism represents a large section of our state budget. From recreational fishing to wildlife viewing, Florida’s natural resources produce billions in economic activity and millions of people visit regional beaches and coastal parks every year. Clean beaches, turquoise waters, and coastal recreation are essential to Florida’s economic future. These resources and their use employ almost a million Floridians! States make choices as to how to use and manage their coastlines. Florida has historically made the decision to manage and protect our coastlines to maximize coastal tourism, and the recreational use of coastal resources. Additionally, Florida has conserved and placed in public ownership large sections of the Gulf Coast of Florida, particularly in the Nature Coast, and protected coastal marshes, seagrass beds, and estuaries. These resources are critical to healthy commercial and recreational fisheries. The routine pollution from offshore oil and gas drilling, the associated coastal infrastructure, and the potential damage to both economic and environmental resources makes drilling unacceptable off the coast of Florida. Stay tuned for more information in future Wave Maker’s as this issue unfolds. Photo courtesy of newwavegurly.

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 Texas Office PO Box 563 Liberty, TX 77575 Phone: 713-906-3940

Email: [email protected]

www.healthygulf.org

GRN Healthy Waters Program Staff Florida: Joe Murphy 352-583-0870 or [email protected] Mississippi: Casey DeMoss Roberts 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] Texas: Ellis Pickett 713-906-3940 or [email protected]

Victory for Florida’s Nature Coast
As you may know from reading past editions of Wave Maker’s, Gulf Restoration Network, with our partners the Gulf Coast Conservancy and Defenders of Wildlife, have been working to stop a mega-development, called SunWest Harbourtowne, proposed for the southern Nature Coast,. Recently, we had a major victory when the Florida Department of Community Affairs (DCA) issued a report which raised significant and wide ranging concerns and objections to the project! Florida DCA raised tough and troubling questions about planning, land use, public safety, and habitat. While this fight is not over, we are glad that state growth management officials agreed with us in terms of the negative impacts this project poses for the Nature Coast. The proposed SunWest Harbourtowne development is a perfect example of unsustainable coastal development that threatens Florida’s environment and citizens. The proposed development will introduce 2,500 homes, a 500 boat marina, hotel, conference center, and 18-hole golf course in rural, low lying, coastal Pasco County. This extreme large scale development in the coastal high hazard area will significantly increase the risk of hurricane damage, destroy natural habitats, and result in higher costs to local and state taxpayers. SunWest Harbourtowne and the associated 2.7 mile channel dredge will cause significant environmental harm to the coastal ecosystem. These environmental impacts include destruction of vital coastal habitat, damage to the regional recreational and commercial fisheries resulting from degradation of the coastal marsh and estuaries, impacts to numerous terrestrial species, and severing access to core habitat for the imperiled Chassahowitzka River population of the Florida black bear. SunWest Harbourtowne threatens Florida’s vital economic and environmental resources, and it is heartening that the Florida Department of Community Affairs agreed with the conservation and community groups who have opposed this project from day one.

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