Summer 2006 Gulf Currents Newsletter

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Inside this issue: LNG Victory for Gulf Fish; Lessons from the School of Big Storms; Setting the Bar for Wetlands Protection; Mississippi River and the Gulf; GRN welcomes new staff; Member spotlight on Gulf Coast Environmental Defense



Volume 10, Issue 2 June 2006

The Gulf is now safe from future open-loop liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals! Thanks to a veto by Louisiana Governor Blanco and strong opposition by Alabama Governor Riley, two of the seven proposed open-loop LNG terminals in the Gulf have been changed or withdrawn. We thank the Gumbo Alliance, the Gulf Fisheries Alliance, and all of you who sent emails and faxes asking the Governors to veto the open loop terminals. We have achieved a major victory in protecting fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico.
Adapted from Gulf States Marine Fish Commission

Inside this issue:
Thank you Aveda! Lessons from the School of Big Storms Setting the Bar for 2 3 4

Mississippi River and 5 the Gulf: Connecting the Dots Member spotlight: 6 Gulf Coast Environmental Defense

On May 5, 2006, Governor Kathleen Blanco followed through with her pledge to oppose any proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals that seek to use the controversial open rack vaporizer or open-loop technology. Following the recommendation of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Governor Blanco utilized her veto power over the Freeport McMoRan Main Pass Energy Hub terminal, proposed for 16 miles off the mouth of the Mississippi River in an area known as the ‘fertile fisheries crescent.’

GRN launches a newsletter for the Water Quality Action Network

The veto underscored the continued disagreement among federal agencies over the potential impacts of the open-loop process, which uses the ambient temperature of Gulf seawater to re-warm and vaporize the minus 260°F liquefied natural gas. This super-cooled seawater would kill billions of fish eggs, larvae, and zooplankton. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Services (NOAA-Fisheries) opposes the process while the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD), has permitted every terminal application that has come before it.
(Continued on page 5)

Congress has agreed on a closure plan for the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO) bringing a major victory for southeast Louisiana. Thank you to everyone who participated in our email action alert, to our MRGO Must Go Coalition partners*, and to those who donated towards our ad in Congress Daily. The closure plan, championed by Senators Landrieu (D-La.), Vitter (R-La.), Inhofe (R-Ok.), and Jeffords (I-Vt.), will at a minimum de-authorize deep draft navigation on the MRGO while restoring wetlands
(Continued on page 7)

Aveda and its Customers Contribute Generously to the Health of the Gulf!
As mentioned in our previous newsletter, Aveda distributors, the Neill Corporation and The Salon People, selected the Gulf Restoration Network as their regional Earth Month 2006 partner. Throughout the month of April, Aveda salons raised money to support the GRN in protecting important coastal habitat necessary for the survival of many endangered species. In addition to raising money, the salons collected petition signatures to protect the Endangered Species Act, which will be delivered to members of Congress across the country. We are thankful to the Neill Corporation and The Salon People, and especially to all of their participating salons, for their hard work and dedication. Together they raised many thousands of dollars to support our work and, in addition, were invaluable in helping to raise awareness of the dangers that face threatened and endangered species, such as the manatee, the Alabama beach mouse, and sperm whales, across the Gulf. Show your appreciation for Aveda’s efforts and visit a salon near you. A complete list of participating salons can be found in the green insert.  We at the GRN hope that you too will express your thanks to Aveda. Please take the time to visit your local Aveda salon. Your support of Aveda salons throughout the year translates into support for a company committed to protecting the natural resources of the Gulf region. FOR MORE Earth Month

Endangered Species Act


Kemp Ridley’s sea turtle

Sperm Whale

Bald Eagle


Alison Chase joined the GRN staff in March as the new Director of Administration. Alison brings over 12 years of experience in various industries, including conservation, environmental education, information technology, and executive administration. Most recently she worked in Washington, DC where she was an Executive Coordinator in the office of the president and CEO of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). Having moved to New Orleans just weeks before Hurricane Katrina struck, she is delighted to be able to contribute to the health of the Gulf Coast through her work at the GRN. She can be reached at (504) 5251528 x201 or [email protected].
Page 2 JUNE 2006

The GRN and the Sierra Club Release a New Report
The impacts of severe hurricane seasons in the future can be minimized if the lessons of past hurricane seasons are heeded. This is the conclusion of our new report released to coincide with the start of Hurricane Season 2006. The GRN and the Sierra Club collaborated to produce The School of Big Storms: The High Cost of Compromising Our Natural Defenses and the Benefits of Protecting Them. The report examines the layers of protection nature provides – from barrier islands to natural flooding cycles – and what storms of the past have taught us about the consequences of compromising and undermining natural systems. “We hope to avoid making the same mistakes over and over that put our communities at greater and greater risk,” says Cynthia Sarthou, executive director of the GRN. “If we allow the continued destruction of our natural barriers, such as coastal wetlands and barrier islands, then we take away nature’s ability to protect us.” “The School of Big Storms provides examples of lessons that, when heeded, will benefit all communities on the Gulf Coast,” says Leslie March, author of the report and member of the Sierra Club Gulf Coast Environmental Restoration Task Force. “The lessons are a guide for public officials, government agencies and citizens living along the Gulf Coast. If we can learn from the lessons that past hurricanes have taught us, we will protect our natural coastal environment and the people and communities that live here.” Lessons highlighted in The School of Big Storms include: ♦ Allowing development in the flood plain or upriver from a flood-prone area only puts more people at risk. ♦ Developing plans to reduce flooding impact is only successful when the plans are not weakened as a result of political pressure. ♦ Protecting our barrier islands and coastal wetlands will protect communities. ♦ Allowing navigational projects or development that destroys our natural storm barriers will only worsen the impacts from hurricanes. ♦ Encouraging development that is set back from the waterfront will protect communities. ♦ Protecting the natural habitat for endangered species along the coast will also protect communities. ♦ Exempting development from building codes or other storm protection requirements only weakens a community’s defenses. ♦ Strengthening oil and gas critical infrastructure will help protect people and the environment. The GRN and the Sierra Club worked together to generate a media “buzz” about the report’s findings. We were successful, with ten newspaper articles — including one front page story — and five mentions on local TV News (four in New Orleans and one in Coastal Mississippi).

To download the report, go to For a hardcopy of the report, you can either: purchase a cd for $5, purchase a paper copy for $10, or — the best option — please join the GRN as a member for a complimentary copy (suggested membership level $35, minimum $15—see back page). Your membership helps to give us the united voice we need for a healthier Gulf of Mexico. 
Volume 10, Issue 2 Page 3

The hurricanes of the past few years in the Gulf of Mexico, punctuated by Katrina and Rita of 2005, have highlighted the importance of wetlands in protecting the coast from flooding and powerful storm surges. Despite the fact that most people seem to acknowledge the importance of the storm-buffering abilities of coastal wetlands, the U.S Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) is still allowing the destruction of these very wetlands to make way for the development of commercial and private enterprises. When applying for a permit from the Corps to build in, fill, or develop an area containing wetlands, the applicant must submit a plan to mitigate for the destruction of wetlands. Currently, the applicant can compensate for the damage in four ways: 1) construct new wetlands; 2) restore previously damaged wetlands; 3) enhance existing wetlands; or 4) preserve existing wetlands. In 2002, the Bush Administration set a goal of “no net-loss” of wetlands in their National Wetlands Mitigation Action Plan. To achieve this goal, the GRN believes that avoidance of unnecessary development should be pursued in order to protect as many wetlands as possible. In addition, the GRN supports an open and transparent process of monitoring and public comment for all proposed wetlands mitigation projects. In an effort to implement the Wetlands Mitigation Action Plan, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Corps announced proposed revisions to the regulations that govern wetlands mitigation. According to the EPA, these proposed regulations are designed to increase the effectiveness of wetlands mitigation and expand public participation in the mitigation process. nation and the Gulf. The GRN is also working to ensure that the rules will strengthen our protection of wetlands, not make it easier for the Corps fill to wetlands without genuine mitigation. Items that we want to make sure get into the proposed mitigation guidelines include:

Avoidance of harmful impacts to wetlands must be a priority. The Corps must recognize that replacing lost wetlands should be treated as a strategy of last resort for only the most vital projects. Newly constructed wetlands are not the same as existing wetlands. Therefore, multiple acres of constructed wetlands should be required for each acre of natural wetlands destroyed. Mitigation should be enforced. If a mitigation project is required to be preserved in perpetuity, the Corps must enforce that requirement in perpetuity. The public needs to be more involved in mitigation projects. Currently some Corps districts are not required to announce mitigation plans in conjunction with their public notices for wetland fill permits.

The above are just a few items that would help preserve the wetlands of the Gulf. The proposed rules are an excellent opportunity for us to push for the protection, preservation, and respect our wetlands deserve. These rules are currently up for public comment until June 30th. In addition to in-depth comments that the GRN is writing with other environmental groups, we encourage our members to write letters to the EPA, making sure that we take the best possible care of our coastline. If you are interested in writing a letter or have any questions, contact Matt Rota at [email protected] or (504)525-1528 x206.

View the Proposed Rule: Compensatory Currently, the GRN is working with national and Mitigation for Losses of Aquatic Resources local organizations to make sure that these proposed regulations are in the best interest of the

GRN launches Newsletter for the Water Quality Action Network (WQAN)
Currently available for Louisiana and Mississippi residents, the WQAN is designed for people who are fighting for clean water throughout Louisiana, Mississippi, and the Gulf of Mexico. Members are provided with updates on local and regional water issues, action alerts and an electronic newsletter, Wave Maker’s News. To sign up go to 
Page 4 JUNE 2006

The Mississippi River and the Gulf
Connecting the Dots
The Mississippi River is one of our country’s greatest natural resources. In addition to providing water for more than eighteen million people, the River and its tributaries provide an engine for economic development, an important transportation link, abundant recreational opportunities, and a vast habitat for wildlife. Forty percent of the nation's migratory waterfowl fly along the Mississippi River corridor, and the River supports a whopping 260 fish species. The Mississippi, however, is not without problems. As the River meanders southward, it picks up many contaminants, including Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCB’s), mercury, and pesticides. In addition, nutrients from sewage treatment plants, urban storm sewers, and farms using large quantities of fertilizer, combine to create a “Dead Zone” in the Gulf. The Dead Zone forms when excess nutrients cause algae to over-multiply. As the algae dies and decomposes, oxygen in the water is depleted causing marine life to die. Each summer, the Dead Zone in the Gulf reaches a size roughly that of the state of Massachusetts. (A similar process creates ‘dead zones’ in lakes and ponds throughout the United States.) Because nutrient and chemical pollution in the Mississippi River comes from many sources covering a vast area, the Gulf Restoration Network has joined with eleven other organizations in states along the Mississippi River, forming the Mississippi River Collaborative. The Collaborative is funded by an innovative grant from the McKnight Foundation, and brings together experts in science, law, policy, and advocacy to find ways to reduce the pollution entering the Mississippi. Much of our work is focused on ensuring that the Clean Water Act, designed to reduce pollution, is implemented and enforced consistently along the Mississippi River. Through our work, we hope to create a clean Mississippi that results in a healthy Gulf of Mexico. What You Can Do Though the Mississippi River basin is large, significant gains can be made by reducing pollution at the state and local levels. That’s why the Gulf Restoration Network focuses much of its water quality work on the two Gulf states bordering the Mississippi River. If you live in Louisiana and Mississippi and want to improve your local water quality and at the same time help decrease pollution entering the Gulf, sign up for our Water Quality Action Network (WQAN) at (see box on opposite page).


continued from page one

In following through with her pledge, Governor Blanco stood up to enormous pressure from elements of the business community. The Governor is owed the gratitude of every Louisiana and Gulf resident concerned about the long-term health of our fisheries, as her decision paves the way for other Gulf Governors to stand up for our fish and close the door on open-loop in the Gulf. Gumbo Alliance founding member, Charlie Smith of the Louisiana Charter Boat Association stated, “Given how little we understand about the impacts of these fish-killing machines, the future of fishing in the Gulf could hinge on this courageous decision. We’re proud of our Governor’s bold action.” Within 24 business hours of Governor Blanco’s decision, McMoRan announced that they would proceed with the development of Main Pass utilizing a fish-friendly, closed-loop option. In Alabama, Governor Bob Riley had until June 11th to veto the ConocoPhillips’ Compass Port open-loop terminal, proposed for 11 miles off Dauphin Island, AL. Gov. Riley attended a public meeting in Mobile on May 24th, organized by the Gulf Fisheries Alliance (GFA) and attended by a wide range of open-loop opponents, from GFA founding members, Mobile Bay Keeper and GRN, to the Alabama Gulf Coast Area Chamber of Commerce. At the meeting, the Governor indicated that he would likely veto the proposal. In the face of Governor Riley’s continued opposition, ConocoPhillips withdrew their proposal. At present, Shell remains the only corporation with both a permit and intent to build an open-loop LNG terminal in the Gulf of Mexico. The GRN continues to put pressure on Shell to reconsider their plans and use the safer closed-loop technology, but Shell is currently going forward with open-loop terminals.
Volume 10, Issue 2 Page 5

Gulf Coast Environmental Defense
Gulf Coast Environmental Defense (GCED) is a grassroots environmental organization dedicated to protecting and preserving the natural resources of the Florida Panhandle, especially its waters. The GCED was formed in 1992 by a group of 10 people who wanted to protect Florida’s Gulf Coast from offshore oil and gas drilling. They worked tirelessly, writing letters, attending hearings, reviewing Environmental Impact Statements, collecting petition signatures, and forming partnerships with other organizations. The result was an agreement in 2002 that bought back nine of the eleven Destin Dome leases within 25 miles of the shore and prohibited off-shore drilling within 100 miles of Florida’s Coast. The 100-mile buffer was won for only 10 years, but the victory was more than any other Gulf state had (or has) achieved. The GCED and its partners are responsible for keeping oil and gas drilling in the public eye since the early 90’s and for making the issue politically potent. For the past 13 years GCED has also joined with Citizens Against Toxic Exposure (CATE), a local African American environmental justice organization, and other groups to clean up and relocate a community located near two Superfund sites. The GCED has also been part of a coalition for the last six years to get Environmental Resource Permitting to the Florida Panhandle. The Florida legislature recently passed the necessary legislation and the GCED can add another victory to its list. The GCED has worked on a variety of other issues, such as air quality and protections for the Gulf Islands National Seashore. However, the GCED’s central mission remains keeping Florida’s coastline free of oil and gas drilling. Recently the White House and Interior Department announced plans for new offshore oil and gas drilling off Florida’s coast. Federal officials had originally decided not to have any hearings in Florida, despite holding numerous public meetings in pro-drilling states like Alaska, Texas, Alabama, and Louisiana. After protests from Florida’s Senators, the Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service (MMS), scheduled one hearing, but chose to hold it inland, in Tallahassee. “Having one hearing, in the middle of the workday, hours away most of Florida’s beachfront cities and towns, may be convenient for oil and gas lobbyists, but certainly not for average Floridians concerned about the future of our coastal economy,” noted Enid Sisskin, President of GCED. GCED is working with other organizations, including the Sierra Club and Florida PIRG, to prevent any new oil and gas drilling off the coast of Florida. For more information on the GCED, contact Enid Sisskin at [email protected].

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
Casi Callaway Mobile Bay Watch/Mobile Baykeeper Mobile, AL Mark Davis—Secretary/Treasurer Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana Baton Rouge, LA Robert Hastings Montgomery, AL Joe Murphy—Chair Hernando County, 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—Vice Chair Waltzer and Associates Ocean Springs, MS

Cynthia Sarthou, Executive Director Vicki Murillo, Water Resources Program Director Briana Kerstein, Director of Organizational Development Aaron Viles, Campaign Director Matthew Rota, Assistant Director, Water Resources Program Jeff Grimes, Outreach Associate Alison Chase, Director of Administration Marianne Cufone, Fisheries Consultant Cynthia Ramseur, Mississippi Field Consultant

Page 6

JUNE 2006

NETWORK NOTEBOOK: New Literature and Reports
The School of Big Storms: The High Cost of Compromising Our Natural Defenses and the Benefits of Protecting Them A joint publication of the GRN and the Sierra Club. See page 3 for more information. 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 Fact Sheet: Need to Protect America’s Precious Resource: Drinking Water (EPA #816F0522) Handbook for Managing Onsite and Clustered (Decentralized) Wastewater Treatment Systems: Introduction to Management Tools and Information for Implementing EPA’s Management Guidelines (EPA #832B05001) ♦ Water: Is it Safe To Drink? (EPA #816F02015)
♦ ♦

JUNE One River Mississippi 24 Simultaneous celebration of music and dance at six sites along the Mississippi. See for the location nearest you. AUG Nutrient Loading and Removal in 1-2 the Lower Mississippi River Basin: Data, Trends, and Opportunities. LMR Sub-basin Committee on Hypoxia. Location TBD



NOV 33rd Annual Conference on 2-3 Ecosystems Restoration and Creation. Hillsborough Community College, Plant City, FL. For more information, to submit abstracts and/or posters, or for registration, see html DEC Restore America’s Estuaries 3rd 9-13 National Conference “Forging the National Imperative” Hilton Riverside, New Orleans.


continued from page one

destroyed by the construction and operation of the channel. In addition to reducing the threat to New Orleans and its surrounding parishes, these actions will help restore Louisiana’s rapidly vanishing coastal wetlands by stopping salt water intrusion up the channel, which has been a major cause of significant wetlands loss in the area. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ will have six months to develop this plan. Since its construction in the 1960’s, this little used navigation channel has been responsible for the direct loss and degradation of 20,000 acres of wetlands through shoreline erosion and saltwater intrusion. It has also been blamed for the overtopping and breaching of the levees and flood walls that swamped the Lower 9th Ward, St. Bernard Parish, and the heart of New Orleans, causing hundreds of deaths in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
*The MRGO Must Go Coalition partners are: American Rivers, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, Gulf Restoration Network, Holy Cross Neighborhood Association, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation,, Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN) and Sierra Club.
Volume 10, Issue 2 Page 7

United for a Healthy Gulf

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, and the work of the GRN, possible: The Arntz Family Foundation, The Ben and Jerry’s Foundation, The Booth-Bricker Foundation, The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, Common Stream, The Elizabeth Ordway Dunn Foundation, The Joe W. & Dorothy Dorsett Brown Foundation, The McKnight Foundation, the Regional Marine Conservation Project, the Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, and The RosaMary Foundation.

As we enter the 2006 hurricane season, we hope you will join us in protecting our natural resources. These resources provide critical protection for our Coast from the destructive impacts of hurricanes. Our wetlands and barrier islands urgently need our protection and restoration. We hope you’ll send the most generous tax-deductible donation possible. Your generosity will help safeguard our wetlands, valuable fisheries, unique bayous, rivers, and lakes — all the natural resources that protect and enrich our coastal communities. Yes! I would like a complimentary copy of The School of Big Storms report. Mail to: GRN, P.O. Box 2245, New Orleans, LA 70176 Name: __________________________________ Address: ________________________________ City: ___________ State: ______ Zip: _____ E-mail:__________________________________ THANK YOU! Please make your checks payable to GRN __$35 __$50 __$75 __$100 __$200 ______Other

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