Spring 2007 Gulf Currents Newsletter

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Inside this issue: Coastal Recovery Plans Flood Protection or Wetland Destruction?; Board Chair Joe Murphy on Saving Florida's Nature Coast; Louisiana Wetlands Treatment Plan; Aveda partners with the GRN in 2007; Member spotlight on Louisiana Bucket Brigade.



Volume 11, Issue 1 March 2007

In the aftermath of the 2006 hurricane season, state and federal authorities mobilized to develop plans for coastal protection and restoration in Mississippi and Louisiana. The plans are being developed separately in each state and the GRN has been monitoring the process to ensure that the plans incorporate wetland protection and restoration and do not further degrade the coast. The Mobile District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) is developing a plan for the coast as part of what the Corps is calling the Mississippi Coastal Improvement Program (MSCIP). The Corps is working closely with the state to examine a range of options from heavily engineered floodwalls, levees, and floodgates, to preservation and restoration of wetlands. The Corps is required to present its long-term plan to Congress by the end of 2007. The first draft of the report, along with a draft environmental impact statement, will be made public in May.

Inside this issue:
A Letter from the Chair Protecting Florida’s Nature 2 Coast Healthy Waters Update Wastewater Treatment in Louisiana Wetlands Aveda & GRN Re-United for Earth Month Member spotlight: Louisiana Bucket Brigade Network News and Calendar of Events 3


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Despite overwhelming public support for proposals such as the restoration of degraded wetlands, better floodplain management, government buyouts of flood-prone land, and elevation of buildings, the Corps seems intent on pushing many costly engineered solutions. Though still in the planning phase and subject to change, the Corps is considering many well-worn and ill-conceived ideas that have failed in other parts of the country. Perhaps the most ridiculous option currently under consideration involves dumping 50 million cubic yards of sand on the Gulf Islands National Seashore. The project, publicly supported by Governor Haley Barbour is supposed to restore the islands to their pre-Hurricane Camille footprint. In order to find such an immense quantity of sand, the Corps would have to go 45 miles off the coast of Mississippi and the cost to taxpayers would be astronomical. By the Corps’ own estimate, restoring the barrier islands to a pre-Camille level would only reduce hurricane storm surge by about 5% for much of the coast. In addition, much of the sand would need to be continually replenished and the burial of the islands in twenty feet of sand would harm or kill much of the plant and animal life present.

Sea turtle hatchlings depend on the beaches of the National Seashore

The Corps is also considering major coastal armoring, including ring levees around the towns of Gautier and Ocean Springs, mechanical barriers or gates across coastal inlets, seawalls, and inland floodwalls. Such a system of levees and floodgates would create a need for an array of pumps to force water out from behind floodwalls and levees that would accumulate due to rainfall. The Corps’ initial estimate is that such a system would require 140 pumping stations. Beyond the sheer cost of engineering Mississippi’s coast, there would likely be significant environmental consequences. Scientists have long opposed
(Continued on page 4)

USFWS photo

Dear GRN Members and Supporters, The Nature Coast region of Florida, if strictly defined by geography, comprises the coastal counties that stretch from the northern Tampa Bay area to St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge (see map at right.) This stretch of coastline is the wildest left in Florida, and, for that matter, one of the wildest and longest natural coastlines left in America. Geography alone can neither fully define, nor capture the essence of the Nature Coast. This is a place of magic, wonder, and mystery. It’s where Florida’s culture, history, and natural heritage mingle together and create a place that offers a glimpse of what was, and, if we have the grace and wisdom to protect it, what still could be. The Nature Coast is the Florida Black Bear that travels the secret pathways it has traveled for generations. It is the freshwater, crystal clear springs that gently emerge from the Earth and dance in their newfound freedom in the sunlight. It is a Swallowtail Kite floating above a coastal marsh, a Bald Eagle soaring above the Gulf of Mexico, and an American Alligator silently prowling a slough in search of sustenance. It is a place where the raw power and magic of nature flows freely and can be felt. I’m proud that the GRN is continuing to expand our campaign work into Florida in 2007. We are working to protect water quality, coastal wetlands, coastal communities, and places like the Nature Coast. We are working to oppose the Magnolia Bay development in Taylor County, which threatens the beauty and natural functions of the entire region. Worst of all, the developers have proposed a two-mile channel that would cut right through the Big Bend Seagrass Aquatic Preserve. The seagrass beds in this part of the Gulf are critical to recreational and commercial fisheries as they are the nurseries for hundreds of marine species. (See “Preserve the Nature Coast” on page seven for an update.) Few places in Florida offer us the chance to save vast, wild chunks of natural Florida. With dedication and strength we can do this in the Nature Coast. Someday we can gaze out across a vast coastal marsh and then look our grandchildren in the eye and say with honesty that at least we had the grace and wisdom to protect this place. I sincerely pray that this is true. It is the kind of place worth dedicating a life’s work to. Joe Murphy Chair, Board of Directors, Gulf Restoration Network Joe Murphy is a native Floridian who grew up on the Gulf Coast of Florida and now lives in Hernando County, Florida with his wife and three dogs. Joe has worked on conservation and coastal issues as an advocate and community organizer in Florida since 1990, working for groups like the Sierra Club, Florida PIRG, the Endangered Species Coalition, and Oceana. Joe also volunteers with the Hernando Audubon Society and Florida Defenders of the Environment. He enjoys kayaking and fishing along the Gulf Coast of Florida, and is always looking for an excuse to spend time along Florida's Nature Coast. He currently works as the Southeastern U.S./Gulf of Mexico Campaign Projects Manager for Oceana.

If you are a member group we invite you to share your news with us. Whether it’s a short update on a current campaign or a full page article, we’d like to hear what you’re up to. Please send submissions to [email protected].
Page 2 MARCH 2007


Last September, the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) issued a proposed rule involving “wetland assimilation,” which entails using wetlands to treat disinfected municipal wastewater. In theory, wetland assimilation is a good idea. Treated and disinfected wastewater is discharged into specifically chosen wetlands, allowing the wetlands to take up nutrients in the wastewater. If everything works properly, the wastewater gets treated to a greater extent than it would otherwise have been, and wetlands that are starved of nutrients are enhanced, slowing the rate of wetland loss in Louisiana. meeting, we offered revisions to the draft rule that we felt more closely accomplished the goal of strategically using treated wastewater to nourish some of the Gulf’s threatened wetlands. LDEQ accepted some of our suggestions and, most importantly, the revised rule keeps in place the protections for wetlands that currently exist for all wetlands in Louisiana. While the GRN has often disagreed with LDEQ, we hope that the process involved in revising the wetland assimilation rule can serve as a model for future collaboration. We feel that, by working closely with LDEQ, all parties were able to devise a wetland assimilation rule that allows for projects to move forward while better ensuring the protection of Louisiana’s streams and wetlands.

Wetland assimilation can have multiple benefits, but projects must be properly designed, maintained, and monitored. The original rule proposed by LDEQ had some serious flaws. The main problem was that in the Although the wetland process of changing assimilation rule has state regulations, LDEQ been significantly proposed to remove improved, some protections from all issues still remain. wetlands in Louisiana, There is a document rather than confining that outlines the rules to apply to procedures for only those wetlands that Wetlands Assimilation Project in Thibodaux, LA assimilation projects had been carefully that still requires more details and each of these selected for assimilation projects. Because projects must be closely monitored. wetland assimilation involves using treated wastewater, it should only be used in places where GRN will continue to watch the development of there is a scientifically demonstrable benefit and these projects and comment on any permits that there is no degradation to the environment. do not agree with the new rule or the Clean Water Act. To accomplish this we will continue to depend With the help of letters sent by over 130 GRN eon our members and member groups to ask activists, the GRN, member group Louisiana questions, point out potential problems with future Environmental Action Network (LEAN), and legal projects, and take action when needed. advisors from Tulane Environmental Law Clinic were able to meet with LDEQ to discuss our concerns with the proposed rule. After that
GRN Photo

To stay informed on the GRN’s Healthy Water Campaign, join the Water Quality Action Network (WQAN) www.healthygulf.org/water/getinvolved.htm
Volume 11, Issue 1 Page 3

Aveda distributors, the Neill Corporation and The Salon People, have once again chosen the GRN as their Earth Month partner. Across the South, Aveda salons will be raising money for the GRN and our Healthy Waters Campaign. In addition, salons will ask their customers to take part in Aveda’s first ever “text message” cell phone action campaign. Each text message containing the word “water” sent to the United Nations (dial 30644 in North America) during Earth Month will make strides in supporting clean water as a human right. Check Aveda’s webite (below) in April for more details. We, at the GRN, are excited about this opportunity to educate the public and raise support for our Healthy Waters campaign across the Gulf. We thank all of the Aveda salons participating in Earth Month for their hard work and dedication to a healthy Gulf! Earth Month gives us an unprecedented opportunity to reach out to thousands of new supporters and introduce them to the GRN. Do your part to protect our waters and visit your local Aveda salon to support Earth Month and the GRN. Continue your support of Aveda salons throughout the year and know that you are supporting a company committed to protecting the Gulf region. Visit www.aveda.com to find your local salon!

COASTAL RESTORATION—(continued from page one)
seawalls and other types of engineered structures, pointing out that they often destroy the very beaches they are supposed to protect (see diagram on page one.) Inland floodwalls would likely have to cross Bay St. Louis and the Back Bay of Biloxi, disrupting ecological life, local aesthetics, and recreational and fishing uses. The Corps is also considering diverting river water from the Bonnet Carré spillway in Louisiana into the Mississippi Sound. The project is being proposed in order to reduce salinity in the Mississippi sound to benefit oyster beds. Unfortunately, historical data actually suggests that opening the spillway reduces oyster yields in Mississippi, rather than increasing them. In addition, a Bonnet Carré diversion project would carry Mississippi River water that is high in nitrogen into Lake Pontchartrain, likely creating a dead zone in the lake where aquatic life could not live. With the Corps still in the planning process, it’s important for the GRN, our members, and our supporters to carefully watch as the process unfolds. Together we can stop bad projects before they start! Protection - Louisiana's Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast (Master Plan). Some elements of the draft Master Plan were well received, while others represent a step backward. One troubling item includes the assertion of the need for closure of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO) while reserving opportunities for a functioning shallow-draft transportation system. This language seems to indicate that the state has been pressured to support fast-tracking the inner harbor navigation canal (IHNC or Industrial Canal) lock replacement project, holding our natural defenses hostage until that questionable expansion is finished. Shipping interests claim that they desperately need the old lock replaced and expanded in order to stop using the MRGO when the lock is broken, a claim refuted by information provided by the Corps. To make New Orleans and the surrounding area safe as soon as possible, and provide the necessary confidence to those considering rebuilding, the MRGO needs to be closed now. Another troubling aspect of the draft Master Plan is a significant absence of discussion of the risks and rewards of putting so much of our protection hopes on the relatively untested idea of 'leaky levees' (placing flood gates and other drainage structures into the levees to minimize impediments to the hydrology.) The draft Master Plan seems
(Continued on page 5) MARCH 2007


Big developments are happening around the planning and actions needed for coastal restoration and hurricane protection for South Louisiana. The Governor and state legislaturecreated Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) recently unveiled its draft Integrated Ecosystem Restoration and Hurricane

Page 4

COASTAL RESTORATION—(continued from page four)
predicated on the construction of these levees across significant portions of important coastal wetlands. The idea of building levees that bisect the very wetlands the CPRA has been charged with restoring is a questionable option; one that many coastal experts feel is doomed to fail. If wetlands are impounded, even by ‘leaky levees,’ they will lose at least some of their hydrologic integrity, and thus become stressed, most likely jeopardizing their critical functions as natural storm defenses, fish and wildlife habitat, and filtration for Gulf water. CPRA’s charge, the remaining, laudable objectives (sustainable coastal ecosystems, healthy habitats, and sustainable heritage and culture) must be further developed. The GRN and coastal experts feel that moving ahead with a flood protection plan without those remaining objectives fully developed may eventually compromise the success of the entire plan. Whether it is the state’s draft Master Plan, the Corps’ Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration (LACPR) project (the parallel federal plan for Louisiana’s coast, also currently under development), or the Corps’ plan for closure of the MRGO, these large-scale protection plans must all be consistent with the goal of coastal restoration. Yet the trend so far has been to also include all the on-going and previously authorized Corps projects unchanged in all restoration plans. These projects must be re-evaluated in order to make sure that they are consistent with the goals of restoring Louisiana’s coast.
GRN Photo

Included in the draft Master Plan’s Appendix C are some of the significant scientific questions that remain about these possible crossbasin 'leaky levees.' These maps supply an incomplete picture for how comprehensive restoration and protection will be. If the Master Plan is to be comprehensive, it must include plans to preserve and restore important habitats throughout the While the state, its citizens and coast, and conceptually and the CPRA will need to make tough graphically place them on equal choices - let's make sure these Aerial view of Coastal Louisiana footing with structural flood difficult choices are well-informed. protection. When levee alignments If we don't fully understand the ramifications of are considered, the least hydrologically and developing these structures, no management ecologically damaging alignments should be given technique will be able to put the genie back in the highest consideration. bottle. While four objectives are laid out in the draft Master Plan, only flood and storm surge protection is covered in any detail. In order for the plan to accomplish the To stay informed and involved, visit the sites below and be sure that you’re a member of the GRN’s eaction list. Sign up at www.healthygulf.org.

Integrated Ecosystem Restoration and Hurricane Protection - Louisiana's Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast: www.louisianacoastalplanning.org Corps MRGO Report: www.mvn.usace.army.mil/PAO/RELEASES/ MRGO_Report_Congress_061214_Final.pdf Corps LACPR: www.lacpr.usace.army.mil Corps’ Mississippi plans: www.mscip.usace.army.mil Lines of defense: www.saveourlake.org (see Natural Defenses) Article: www.law.tulane.edu/Houck_CanWeSaveNewOrleans.pdf
Volume 11, Issue 1 Page 5

Louisiana Bucket Brigade
The Louisiana Bucket Brigade (LABB) is an environmental health and justice organization that uses grassroots action to free neighborhoods from industrial pollution. An important part of that grassroots action is media coverage. Since its inception in 2000, the LABB has earned over 550 media stories featuring Louisiana neighbors standing up to polluting refineries and chemical plants. A grant has helped the LABB to expand its media work over the past year. They hired Hess Marketing to help in their campaign with the St. Bernard Citizens for Environmental Quality. Together they are targeting ExxonMobil’s refinery in Chalmette. The goal is implementation of the community’s post Katrina Four Point Community Refinery Collaborative Plan. For details of the plan, see www.labucketbrigade.org. The LABB’s TV campaign has been highly visible. Their non profit status meant that they were able to secure free air time for every ad purchased. The LABB ensured that the ads would run during the day and not just during the wee hours of the night. The TV ads, combined with billboards – one right in front of the Exxon refinery in Chalmette – have greatly increased the profile of the St. Bernard Citizens for Environmental Quality’s demands. The first ad was friendly, asking, ‘Please Exxon, follow the community’s Four Point Plan’. Exxon ignored the request, and the ads are now more aggressive, linking the refinery to asthma and cancer in the parish. The ads have escalated the campaign, and will continue to be a part of the larger strategy to pressure Exxon. Because Exxon made $36 billion in profit in 2006 — a record high for a U.S. company and Exxon’s highest profits ever—LABB believes they can afford to help St. Bernard Parish.

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
Mark Davis—Secretary/Treasurer Tulane Institute for Water Policy and Law New Orleans, LA Robert Hastings Montgomery, AL Joe Murphy—Chair Oceana Hernando County, FL Juan Parras Citizens’ League for Environmental Action Now Houston, TX Bob Schaeffer Public Policy Communications Sanibel, FL Louis Skrmetta Ship Island Excursions Gulfport, MS Susan Spicer Bayona Restaurant New Orleans, LA Page Williams Sierra Club—Lone Star Chapter Houston, TX Robert Wiygul—Vice Chair Waltzer and Associates Ocean Springs, MS

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

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MARCH 2007

Updates from Member Groups Across the Gulf
The Steps Coalition, representing over 30 organizations working for a just and sustainable recovery on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, held the first meeting of its Environmental Justice Alliance in February. The GRN is working with other Steps Coalition allies to devise a strategy to address environmental justice issues on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The Coalition is currently looking at ways to address such issues as: wetland loss that causes flooding in coastal communities; the continued need for cleanup and remediation of toxic waste sites; and drinking water and wastewater infrastructure needs in coastal communities. To learn more about the Steps Coalition, visit www.stepsouthms.org. Preserve the Nature Coast—An update on the Magnolia Bay Development. The Environmental Alliance of North Florida, the Florida Wildlife Federation, the GRN, and many other Florida environmental and civic organizations have formally voiced opposition to the Magnolia Bay Resort and Marina with comments submitted to the Corps and Florida Department of Environmental Quality. Using the GRN e-mail action system, over 1,000 individual citizens also weighed in. The proposed resort would impact water quality, important fisheries, endangered species, and start an unsustainable rush of development. We will keep you posted as we move through the process. Coastal Stewardship Awards. The Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana is accepting nominations for its Coastal Stewardship Awards honoring those individuals and groups that have made significant contributions to the preservation and restoration of Louisiana’s coastal wetlands. For more details or to download a nomination form, goto www.crcl.org/awardsMain.html Mercury victory! The GRN recently partnered with member group Oceana on an e-action alert to stop mercury pollution. We generated nearly 2000 letters to Pioneer Companies Inc., a Houston-based chemical company asking it to reduce its mercury emissions from a Louisiana plant. Within weeks, Pioneer announced it would eliminate mercury emissions by the year 2008.

Keep up-to-date on conservation developments and our work in the Gulf at www.healthygulf.org/blog

MAR 25 OUT OF BALANCE: ExxonMobil’s Impact on Climate Change Free Film. Doors at 6:30, Program at 7pm. 921 S. Carrollton Ave. New Orleans, LA Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council Meeting. Destin, FL. www.gulfcouncil.org SEASPACE 2007 Houston's annual exposition of adventure sports, travel, and scuba diving. Houston, TX. www.hucscuba.org/general_home.asp Wild Wing River and Nature Festival, Moss Point, MS www.wildwingfestival.com Step It Up 2007 Nationwide events to call on the U.S. Congress to cut carbon emissions. www.stepitup2007.org


Outdoor Photo Workshop Mississippi Wildlife Federation, Ridgeland, MS www.mswildlife.org/events/out_doo r_workshop.html EARTH DAY Save Our Cypress Arbor Day of Action www.healthygulf.org Louisiana Environmental Voter Lobby Day. Baton Rouge, LA www.louisiana.sierraclub.org Conference on Climate Change Tampa, FL www.ces.fau.edu/ccc/index.php River Networks’ River Rally 2007, Stevenson, WA www.rivernetwork.org/rally
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APR 21

MAR 26-30 MAR 31APR 1 APR 13-22 APR 14

APR 21 APR 27 MAY 8

MAY 9-11 MAY 18-22

Volume 11, Issue 1

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, Currents of Change, The Elizabeth Ordway Dunn Foundation, The McKnight Foundation, The Curtis and Edith Munson Foundation, Patagonia, the Regional Marine Conservation Project, the Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, and The RosaMary Foundation.

There are many ways that you can make a difference in the health of the Gulf region. Check out our website for recent action alerts and take action now. If you’re not already, consider becoming a member of the GRN to receive this newsletter and our weekly action alerts, or if you’re already a member, consider giving an additional donation in support of the work of the GRN, or a specific issue that we work on. Please be as generous as you can to help us safeguard all the natural resources that protect and enrich our coastal communities. Thank you in advance.

Mail to: GRN, P.O. Box 2245, New Orleans, LA 70176 __$50 __$75 __$150 __$30(min memb.) ______Other THANK YOU! Please make your checks payable to GRN

Name: __________________________________ Address: ________________________________ City: ___________ State: ______ Zip: _____ E-mail:__________________________________

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