Summer 2004 Gulf Currents Newsletter

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Inside this issue: The Big Sunflower and the Mississippi River on the Most Enangered Rivers report; Kemp's Ridley turtles face challenges in Texas; LA DEQ launches source water protection program; Corps launches wasteful study in LaFleurs Lake; Member Spotlight on the Alabama Environmental Council; Fenholloway wastes threaten Gulf; Network Notebook and Calendar.



Volume 8, Issue 2 June 2004

The Big Sunflower River and the Mississippi River are among the 10 most endangered rivers in America, according to a report issued by American Rivers on April 14. The Most Endangered Rivers report draws attention to rivers facing uncertain futures (not those beset by the worst chronic problems), presents alternatives to proposals that would damage rivers, identifies those who will make the crucial decisions, and points out opportunities for the public to take action on behalf of the listed rivers. The Big Sunflower River is ranked second on the 2004 Most Endangered Rivers list. The Big Sunflower River and its tributaries are one of the few remaining river systems in the Mississippi Delta that have not been extensively altered by flood control projects. As a result, the slow moving, serpentine Big Sunflower supports a rich and diverse array of fish and wildlife, including 55 different species of fish, The Big Sunflower River and provides some of the most valuable winter waterfowl habitat in the state of Mississippi. Most notably, the River is home to one of the world’s richest mussel beds (measured by density and biomass). At least 31 known species of mussels are found in the Big Sunflower, with densities in excess of 200 individuals per square meter. The river’s rich resources are in immediate danger because of a pair of costly flood control boondoggles promoted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. First, the Corps is moving forward with its plans to dredge 104 miles of the Big Sunflower River for “flood control” at an enormous environmental cost. The Corps completely rejected the use of nonstructural measures, which would have provided the same or better flood damage reduction benefits without causing a single negative environmental impact. Dredging of the Big Sunflower’s riverbed will destroy wetlands and stir up a toxic stew of pesticides, endangering the health of those who eat fish caught in the river.
(Continued on page 2)
Courtesy of

Inside this issue:
Farewell to Jill Jensen Kemp’s Ridley Turtles face nesting challenges Inside LDEQ’s drinking water protection program Corps revisits flood control in Pearl River watershed Member Spotlight on the Alabama Environmental Council Fenholloway project threatens Gulf waters

2 3 4 5 6 8

Special points of interest:
♦ 2004 marks the first
time that three endangered sea turtles have been known to nest in Galveston County in one year.

♦ LaFleurs Lake Project
in Mississippi prioritizes private development over public interest.

♦ Mill owners in Florida
have proposed a pipeline to channel dangerous waste directly into Gulf waters.

(Continued from page 1)

Second, under the Yazoo Backwater Pumps project, the Corps plans to spend $165 million to build the world’s largest hydraulic pumping plant, which would move enormous quantities of water from one side of a Corps-built flood control structure to the other side of that structure. Again, the Corps rejected available non-structural flood control alternatives. The Yazoo Pumps Project will drain and damage an estimated 200,000 acres of wetlands— seven times more than all of the nation’s private developers harm in one year. The Mississippi River is ranked tenth on the 2004 Most Endangered Rivers list. The Mississippi River flows to the Gulf of Mexico through Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana. The river is a cultural and recreational treasure. The river and its floodplain support more than 400 different species of wildlife, and some 40 percent of North America’s waterfowl migrate along the river’s flyway.
Courtesy of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

As a result, almost everything about the river has been profoundly altered. Among the casualties: more than half the river’s floodplain has been cut off by levees, millions of acres of wetlands and countless side channels and sandbars have been destroyed or damaged, and at least 20 square miles of coastal wetlands are lost each year. In addition, polluted runoff from the “bread basket” states contributes to a “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico where oxygen is so low that it cannot support marine life. Yet the Corps continues to pursue more of the same types of projects. For example, despite the existence of less expensive and less environmentally damaging alternatives, the Corps has proposed spending $2 billion to replace or extend many of the 29 locks above St. Louis. The Corps also wants to spend $85 million on the St. Johns Bayou/New Madrid levee and pump project in southeastern Missouri—a project that would wall off more than 75,000 acres of floodplain along the river.

For more information about Army Corps locks in the Mississippi River above St. Louis these and other endangered rivers discussed within the American Rivers Most Endangered Rivers report go to For decades the Corps of Engineers has focused on managing the river for navigation and flood control. 04announced.html

With much sadness, the GRN bids farewell to Jill Jensen, Assistant Director for Fisheries. Jill joined the GRN staff in September 2002, and her work in educating policy makers and the public on the importance of a sustainable Gulf has been invaluable. Jill is moving on to work as an independent fisheries consultant on federal fisheries issues in United States waters. She will be working on fisheries management issues regarding policy, science, and economics as a contractor for various government agencies as well as private and public interest groups.
JUNE 2004

Jill Jensen, right, operating a fisheries education table with Eric Rardin of the Marine Fish Conservation Network Page 2

By Page Williams, GRN Board Member

On April 5, a Kemp’s ridley turtle nesting in Galnesting season, which will be well into hurricane veston was the earliest, and most northerly, ridley season. Advocates of the Texas Open Beach Act, nesting recorded on a Texas beach. The turtle primarily comprising recreational fishermen, opwore tags indicating that she pose any cause that threatens had participated in the Natheir unique Texas tradition tional Marine Fisheries Serof using beaches as highvice’s “head start” program ways. The potential for damin 1990. Two additional aging nests of endangered turtles were observed on species, including sea turtles April 17 and May 11, markand birds, has not deterred ing the first time in history this group from suing over A Kemp’s ridley turtle in Padre Island, Texas that three endangered sea efforts to restrict their beach turtles have been known to nest in Galveston access to foot traffic for four miles at San Luis County in a single year. While these exciting Pass, although many of them identify themselves events indicate that conservation efforts produce as “beach lovers” or “conservationists.” results, those efforts are being challenged even as ridleys face new threats. The greatest threats to Texas ridley nests are the 18-wheel trucks that BNP Petroleum is driving on The United States and Mexico started collaborating Padre Island National Seashore beaches (up to 20 on Kemp’s ridley conservation efforts in the trucks a day are authorized) to drill a natural gas 1970’s, in response to a decrease in ridley numbers well. When the federal government purchased the from an estimated 40,000 in 1947 to a few hunland for the National Seashore, they did not purdred. As part of these efforts, the National Marine chase the mineral rights. This year the park is perFisheries Service (NMFS) began a head start promitting drilling activity to be scheduled for April 6 gram in 1978. The program was prematurely disto June 15, the middle of the ridley nesting season. continued after 1993, and it was not proven to be Lone Star Sierra Club filed an unsuccessful lawsuit successful until 1996, when the first participating in an effort to block this traffic; the group is now ridley returned to Padre Island to nest. leading a campaign to encourage a federal buyout of mineral rights in order to protect the national Turtle “corrals” were established around nests at seashore from all future drilling. Rancho Nuevo, Mexico. Entire clutches of eggs were flown to Padre Island National Seashore to be No matter how these conflicts are resolved, sea turincubated, and the hatchlings were allowed to imtles nesting in Texas face incredible hazards. A biprint on Padre by crawling into the Gulf before be- national Recovery Team for the Kemp’s ridley sea ing netted and transported to Galveston to get a turtle is now re-assessing its recovery plan. The “head start” for their first, most perilous, year. team held an April stakeholder meeting in Houston, where members encouraged participants to Currently, important conservation efforts are being brainstorm about the issues impacting ridley recovchallenged by both homeowners and recreational ery. These issues included: incidental take from fisherman. Homeowners fronting a five-mile Boli- fisheries, oil and gas-related activities, marine devar peninsula beach where tropical storm Claudette bris ingestion and entanglement, dredging, entraindamaged geotubes last year are upset that geotube ment, boat strikes, noise and light pollution, shorerepair funds are being withheld until after sea turtle (Continued on page 5)
Courtesy of

Volume 8, Issue 2

Page 3

Although we’ve discussed source water protection in sions. A few weeks later, the team transferred their outreach effort to the classroom, where they made past issues of GRN News, this story gives you a new environmental presentations to perspective—that of a state water over 1,000 students ranging from quality agency. The Louisiana the elementary to high school Department of Environmental level. A May 2003 community Quality (LDEQ) has successfully meeting resulted in a team of 18 reached out to communities in its volunteers who will serve as direct efforts to implement a drinking contacts to LDEQ and the comwater protection program. We munity. hope that LDEQ’s work inspires you to investigate your own Acadia Parish was recently sestate’s efforts and get involved in lected as the parish for the next protecting our precious source Michaela Marchand and Don Haydel, DEQ's Drinking Water Protection team, at a community DWPP campaign, which officially waters. meeting in Avoyelles Parish. kicked off in April. The DWPP team has given environmental presentations to more “Protect Your Water One Drop At A Time” than 2,000 students in Acadia Parish, and after a well-attended community meeting, the team reWhere does your drinking water come from? Resicruited about 25 area volunteers. dents of Avoyelles and Acadia Parishes are learning the answer to that question and much more as a reThe DWPP is an extension of LDEQ’s Wellhead sult of the LDEQ’s Drinking Water Protection ProProtection Program. The term "Wellhead" refers to gram (DWPP) public outreach campaign. the part of a water well that is present at the surface. The DWPP is a voluntary program designed to assist A "Drinking Water Protection Area" is the surface and educate communities on actions they can take to and subsurface area surrounding a water well. The protect their drinking water sources. Implementation volunteer teams in Acadia and Avoyelles also have worked to replace “Wellhead Protection Area” of the DWPP began with the pilot program in signs along major roadways with new “Drinking Avoyelles parish last year and was based on data reWater Protection Area” signs, which help identify ported from the Source Water Assessment Program and clarify the program and remind people when a (SWAP). The DWPP’s goal is to increase public public drinking water supply well is nearby. awareness and community involvement in the process of drinking water protection. The LDEQ intends To learn more on how you can protect your drinkto take this program into all Louisiana parishes. ing water in Louisiana, visit The DWPP team first set out to work with local citizens and government officials to encourage the adop- Article adapted from stories provided by Tiffany Dickerson, Public Information Officer, Louisiana tion of drinking water protection ordinances and to incorporate the use of SWAP assessments previously Department of Environmental Quality Communications Section. developed by LDEQ into planning and zoning deciCourtesy of LDEQ

GRN Action Alert list:
To stay updated on upcoming regional events, critical actions on Capitol Hill, and opportunities for public comment, join the GRN listserv by e-mailing [email protected] or visiting
Page 4 JUNE 2004

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is needlessly reconsidering structural flood control in an area that previously rejected it: the Pearl River watershed near Jackson, Mississippi. The agency is working on a feasibility study and draft Environmental Impact Statement on flood control plans for the area. A Feasibility Report and an Environmental Impact Statement regarding flood control were already completed in 1996. That report recommended construction of a system of levees for Jackson in combination with channel cuts offs and improvements between the levees. The Corps plan ultimately lacked sufficient local support for implementation. Now, apparently due to political pressure on the Corps, the agency is again conducting a study to determine whether any further improvements for flood damage prevention are warranted. Unlike the 1996 study, this study will include as an alternative a project that would dam the Pearl River below Jackson, Mississippi. The so-called LaFleurs Lake project, promoted by Jackson landowner and businessman John McGowan, would create 12 miles of lakes in Jackson. The proponents argue that the project would allow officials to regulate the river’s water level while creating new development opportunities throughout the river’s flood plain, including a 600acre island ripe for commercial and residential development. The LaFleurs Lake project would permanently flood almost 10,000 acres of wetlands, increase development in ecologically sensitive areas, degrade critical habitat for the endangered Gulf sturgeon, and potentially change water quality in Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Borgne and the Mississippi Sound. According to some Louisiana scientists, changing the Pearl River’s flow could affect aquatic resources, including economically valuable oyster beds, throughout the area. Several Corps officials have indicated hostility to the LaFleurs Lake project. The GRN also opposes the new study. Revisiting the need for additional flood control in the Pearl River Watershed near Jackson is a waste of scarce taxpayer dollars, particularly in light of the State of Mississippi’s failure to obtain funding for construction of the levee system chosen as the preferred alternative in 1996. This is especially true when it appears that private development interest is the impetus behind the present study. Moreover, the new alternative said to justify the study – the LaFleurs Lake Project – would have potentially significant environmental costs to downstream communities that far outweigh any “flood control” benefits. The GRN will be working with the Mississippi Wildlife Federation, Mississippi Sierra Club, and others to monitor the study to ensure that, when completed, it thoroughly considers all potential impacts to downstream communities.

(Continued from page 3)

line stabilization barriers, erosion, predation and poaching, human construction and activity, pollution and contamination. Meanwhile, the Kemp’s ridleys finally returning to nest face a conundrum whereby, after monumental efforts on behalf of the federal government to insure the recovery of the species, the federal government is now allowing 18-wheel truck traffic on the target federal nesting beach in the middle of nesting season,
Volume 8, Issue 2

while the state of Texas is battling “conservation” groups for the right to protect any endangered species on selected state beaches! Anyone finding a sea turtle, dead or alive, on the Texas coast is urged to phone 1-866-TURTLE. For information on attending Padre hatchling releases, check To assist Lone Star Sierra with its efforts to promote a federal buyout of Padre mineral rights, contact Chris Wilhite at 512472-9093 or [email protected].
Page 5

Alabama Environmental Council
The AEC is an educational and grassroots advocacy organization dedicated to the preservation and protection of Alabama’s natural environment and health. Since its inception in 1967, AEC has worked to build environmental awareness, promote the wise management of natural resources, and ensure the protection of Alabama’s diverse natural heritage. One of the AEC’s biggest accomplishments has been establishing systems for recycling around the state. The AEC opened the state’s first recycling center in 1973 in Birmingham, then led efforts to establish centers in Auburn, Montevallo, Tuscaloosa, and Muscle Shoals. The AEC also established curbside programs, with the first one located in Birmingham. In 1989, the AEC operated the program with a modest 25 households participating and grew the program to over 1100 households by 1991, when the city took over. The AEC also launched Alabama’s Christmas tree recycling program in 1989. The program has grown each year and now covers most major cities in Alabama, with over 60,000 trees recycled each year. Alabama Environmental Council State Office 2717 7th Avenue S., Ste. 207 Birmingham, AL 35233 Phone: 205-322-3126 Website:

Founded in 1994, the Gulf Restoration Network is a section 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization committed to uniting and empowering people to protect and restore the resources of the Gulf Region, forever protecting it for future generations. Board of Directors
Casi Callaway Mobile Bay Watch/Mobile Baykeeper Mobile, AL Mark Davis—Chair Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana Baton Rouge, LA Robert Hastings Alabama Natural Heritage Program Montgomery, AL Rose Johnson—Vice-Chair Concerned Citizens Coalition Gulfport, MS Joe Murphy Sierra Club Tampa, FL Juan Parras TSU Law Clinic Houston, TX Bob Schaeffer Public Policy Communications Sanibel, FL Page Williams Sierra Club—Lone Star Chapter Houston, TX Robert Wiygul—Acting Secretary/ Treasurer Waltzer and Associates Biloxi, MS

On May 6, the GRN teamed up with U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) for the second annual Save our Seafood dine-out in New Orleans. Participating restaurants made information on mercury contamination available to their diners and donated some proceeds to U.S. PIRG and the GRN. Since New Orleans cuisine relies on seafood, this effort served to educate restaurant patrons on safe consumption levels and safe species of seafood. The GRN would like to thank our supporters for dining out and the following participating restaurants for their donations: Barataria * Bayona * Café Degas * Café Giovanni * Café Volage * Commander’s Palace * Dante’s Kitchen * Fresco Café * Gautreau’s * Hillery’s on Toulouse * Jamila’s Café * Juan’s Flying Burrito * La Cote Brasserie * Lilette * Lulu’s * Lulu’s in the Garden * Martinique Bistro * Mat & Naddie’s * Muriel’s Jackson Square * Restaurant August * Saucy’s Freret Café * Sea Level * Tujague’s. For a complete list of restaurants, materials, and resources visit
Page 6

Cynthia Sarthou: Executive Director Vicki Murillo: Director for Water Resources Jill Jensen: Assistant Director for Fisheries Amy Gill: Office Administrator/ Bookkeeper

JUNE 2004

Network Notebook: New literature and reports that GRN members might find useful

Urban Subwatershed Restoration Manual Series. The Center for Watershed Protection has developed this manual series as a practitioner's guide to restoring urban watersheds. The manuals present practical and useful information on the actual techniques of watershed restoration that can be conveniently accessed and used by planners, engineers, stream biologists and municipal officials. Three manuals are now complete and available for FREE PDF download at through September. Color hard copies are also available for a nominal charge. The following are new documents available from the National Service Center for Environmental Publications, P.O. Box 42419, Cincinnati, OH 45242, 1-800-490-9198, or online at • Getting in Step: A Guide for Conducting Watershed Outreach Campaigns (EPA#841B03002) and Getting in Step: A Video Guide for Conducting Watershed Outreach Campaigns (EPA#841V03001): These two companion guides offer advice on effectively raising citizen awareness of nonpoint source pollution and motivating individual behavior change to develop more water-friendly habits and practices that will lead to cleaner waters for your community and our nation. The book is also available as a PDF download at • Funding Nonpoint Source Activities with the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (EPA#832F03009) • Fact Sheet: Visit EPA’s Web Site for Decentralized Wastewater Treatment (EPA#832F03014) • Fact Sheet: Funding Wet Weather Projects with the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (EPA#833F03005) • Wetlands Compensatory Mitigation (EPA#843F03002) • Ambient Aquatic Life Water Quality Criteria for Atrazine, Revised Draft (EPA#822R03023) • Ambient Aquatic Life Water Quality Criteria for Tributyltin (TBT), Final (EPA#822R03031)

Calendar of Events
JUNE 2004 9-10 AUGUST 2004 Cooperative Natural Resources Damage Assessment 4-5 SEAMAP Meeting. Rincon, Puerto Rico. Contact: [email protected]. and Restoration Workshop. Rancho Bernardo Inn, San Diego, CA. Contact: Eli Reinharz at (301)7133038, ext 193 or [email protected]. 16-20 Red Snapper SEDAR Assessment Workshop. Miami, FL. Visit: 22 Fishery-Independent Coordination Meeting. DoubleTree Guest Suites, Tampa, FL. Contact: ddon- SEPTEMBER 2004 [email protected]. 12-15 National Conference on Coastal and Estuarine Habitat Restoration: “Weaving Restoration into the Tapes28-29 Mississippi River Partnering Conference. “The try of Coastal Life!” Seattle, WA. Visit: Greatest Living and Working Watershed.” Peabody Hotel, Memphis, TN. Contact: Karen Buehler at (601) 634-7729 or visit 12-17 Watershed Restoration Institute 2004. Bainbridge, WA. Contact: Jennifer Zielinski at (410)461-8323 or JULY 2004 [email protected], or visit 11-13 Blue Vision Conference on Coastal and Ocean Policy. Jury’s Hotel, Washington, DC. Contact: David 13-16 Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council MeetHelvarg at (202)387-8030 or [email protected]. ing. Edgewater Beach Resort, Panama City Beach, FL. Contact: [email protected]. 12-15 Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council Meeting. Omni Hotel, Houston, TX. Contact: gulfcoun20-22 Southern States Environmental Conference & [email protected]. bition. Biloxi, MS. Visit:
Volume 8, Issue 2 Page 7

“Working to Protect and Preserve the Gulf of Mexico”

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

The GRN would like to thank the following foundations for making this newsletter, as well as the work of the GRN, possible: The Belvedere Fund, The Ben and Jerry’s Foundation, The Booth-Bricker Foundation, The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, The Greater New Orleans Foundation, The Joe W & Dorothy Dorsett Brown Foundation, The McKnight Foundation, The Moriah Fund, the Regional Marine Conservation Project, and The RosaMary Foundation.

Excerpted from materials provided by Linda Young and Joy Towles Ezell

It is hard to believe that a waterway as dirty as the Fenholloway River can exist in modern Florida. The Fenholloway's black water reeks of papermill waste, a stew of deadly toxins, disease-causing bacteria, and excess nutrients. Scientists have found that the few fish remaining in the river are mysteriously changing sex characteristics. Underground drinking-water supplies in the mill town of Perry are badly polluted. At the river's mouth in Florida's Big Bend, there's a 10-mile-square bald patch in the Gulf where sea grasses once nurtured marine life. In the early 1900’s, the river hosted a bottling plant and a health resort. But the state Legislature gave the river away to polluters in 1947, classifying it as the only official “industrial” river in Florida, a place where “any and all” wastes could be dumped legally. Consumer products giant Procter & Gamble opened the mill there in 1954 and began filling the river with poison.

Now, the Fenholloway River’s pollution might be coming your way. The mill's current owners, Buckeye Technologies, say the best way to clean up Florida's dirtiest river is to build a 15-mile pipe and send pulp-mill waste straight into the Gulf. Citizens need to let the EPA know that it is time to stop this environmental disaster! If the mill's waste is making fish change sex in the Fenholloway, then what might it do to all the marine species in the Gulf? If you care about clean water in the Gulf, take a minute to contact the EPA Region 4 office in Atlanta at (404) 562- 9345 or [email protected]. Tell EPA to write a new permit for the plant – one that doesn't include the pipeline and does contain the protections promised by the Clean Water Act. We've waited long enough.

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