Blogging for a Healthy Gulf

 


Back in April 15 New Orleans environmental and social justice groups organized an event on the levees of the lower 9th ward to urge immediate action on climate change. It was a great event, with great music, food, speakers, and a great photo (which even showed up on the New York Times website). Unfortunately, we didn't get what we wanted, and Congress still hasn't passed legislation to avert the climate crisis.

So we're doing it again. This time, we're drawing attention to the continuing absence of climate leadership with the most quintessential of New Orleans festivities - a second line! We've invited every member of the Louisiana congressional delegation and every candidate for president - so far, Senator John Edwards alone will be shaking it to Da Truth Brass Band with us (Sen. Clinton and a number of the other presidential candidates will be attending other Step It Up events).

But we need you! This Saturday at 2pm, the first 200 people get a free "Save New Orleans - Stop Global Warming" t-shirt! Visit this website to RSVP and let us know you're in! There will also be speakers, food, beer, sustainable energy workshops (you can check out the Art Egg's solar panels!).

We know New Orleans is ground zero for climate change impacts, but not a single member of the Louisiana congressional delegation has agreed to attend our event (and that includes Gov-elect Bobby Jindal). What are they afraid of? Green jobs? A stable climate and all that means for the Gulf's sea level, hurricanes and our subsiding coast? Visit this site to send them another invite to our event.

 

Aaron Viles is the GRN's Campaign Director

 

As a native Southerner, when I think of the south I think of fried okra, collard greens, grits, vine ripe tomatoes, and HUMIDITY. I picture lush green trees and creeks and rivers to cool off in during hot, humid summers. When I think of Atlanta and many parts of North Georgia—I think of sprawl.

From the moment my parents moved us from North Florida to suburban Atlanta, I understood loud and clear Atlanta’s motto: Grow, Grow, as fast as you can. I watched Alpharetta (a suburb north of Atlanta) turn from cow pastures to strip malls at lightening speed. We griped about traffic and lack of mass transit. We griped about bad air days. I looked at huge swaths of forests turn to manicured grass and thirsty landscaping. I wondered, how long can it possibly last?

As Atlanta continued (and still continues) to burst at the seams spilling into Cumming, Dahlonega and splashing against the foothills and mountains of North Georgia. I still ask, how long can it possibly last?

With Georgia and much of the southeast in extreme drought conditions, there’s much talk about the Southeast water crisis. Unfortunately there’s one crisis not being discussed fully enough—a management crisis. Political leaders in the Atlanta area and across Georgia have watched on (and even shouted words and policies of encouragement) as rapid and unsustainable growth and development spread across North Georgia. Now Georgians and those downstream are facing the consequences. To make matters worse, while lawns across the state go brown, Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue has resorted to pointing fingers instead of taking real leadership.

This drought did not happen overnight and its severity could have been abated by early and effective action instead of last minute ditch efforts. Instead of using this devastating disaster as a learning lesson to help the state prepare for future the Governor has decided to blame the problem on the Army Corps of Engineers. The Endangered Species Act is not, as Governor Perdue has called it, “a tangle of silly and unnecessary bureaucracy.” It is a federal law and an important one. I, for one, am personally embarrassed (and horrified) by Sonny’s bullheadedness. What I do find silly and unnecessary is the “mussel vs man” argument Governor Perdue is desperately clinging to. We cannot allow the Army Corps of Engineers and endangered mussels to become Sonny’s scapegoat for his own failures.

Dr. Ron Carroll, an ecologist at the University of Georgia, stated it very well in an Op-Ed for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Our endangered species are sentinels, like the mine canaries, warning us of growing environmental degradation. Blaming the endangered fish and mussels for our water woes is as silly and misdirected as blaming the sick canary for shutting down the mine.”

If Atlantans, Georgians, and Southerners are prudent the “Great Drought of 2007” might help us build our communities in a healthier and more sustainable way. Atlanta’s population has boomed. The metro population has tripled in the past three decades going from 1.6 million to 4.2 million in 2000. The Atlanta Regional Commission estimates that between 2000 and 2030 the area will add another 2.7 million people. Yet no meaningful water plan was adopted.

It is time for Georgia and the entire South (Alabama and Florida, you’re included here) to take a close and scrutinizing look at available water supply and current development trends. Let’s not get caught with our pants…errr, reservoirs down again.

Stephanie is the Outreach Associate for the GRN's Healthy Waters Program.

 

I love oysters. I love them because when they come out fresh from the Gulf of Mexico its like a little bit of heaven has gone from the bounty of the sea to the tip of my tongue. Shellfish, finfish, and other things that people gather from the sea are important along the Gulf Coast of Florida. They are important to working families, they are important to the economy of Florida, and they are important because they are integral pieces of an ecosystem that has evolved over thousands of years. Sometimes when I’m feeling a little ornery I whisper to myself that folks want to make the regional water wars between Florida, Alabama, and Georgia about people versus shellfish I say bring it on I've had my own personal battle with a bivalve or two--prying them open and slurping them down. Oysters need a home too, and did I mention they taste like heaven.

Truth be told though it is about much, much more than that and to reduce it to people versus shellfish creates the illusion that people bear little or no responsibility for the mess we often find ourselves in. Neither Florida nor Alabama can truthfully claim much moral high ground when it comes to issues of water conservation and growth management, but nor should we see degraded natural resources, risks to public health, potential energy supply disruptions, or economic harm because Georgia decided the best way to handle a water and growth crisis was to hope that in rained.

Along the Gulf Coast the health, wildlife, and future of the Gulf of Mexico are part of who we are and a part of our future. It connects us to each other, and to the broader idea that we all essentially live downstream. In this case we literally live downstream from Georgia and the future and survival of the ApalachicolaRiver depends on our neighbors to the north having the grace and wisdom to live within their means.

While there is indeed a severe and prolonged natural or hydrological drought in the Southeastern U.S., there has been a much longer and more pronounced drought in political courage and leadership in Georgia (and Alabama and Florida for that matter) to limit growth and enact meaningful water conservation. Georgia is in this mess in part due to natural cycles, but mostly due to the explosive growth occurring in central and north Georgia and almost no limits on water use until late this summer/early fall.

Both Governor Crist of Florida and Governor Riley of Alabama have been pushing hard in the last frew days to oppose Georgia’s attempts to severely limit downstream flows and to undermine the Endangered Species Act. They have engaged in that fight because there are human and natural communities downstream that need that water just as metro Atlanta does. Again, this is not about people vs. mussels as Gov. Perdue would like the public to believe, this is about folks in three states and the natural systems they depend on. This drought has been coming on for a long time, and Georgia has been closing their eyes, saying yes to any and all growth, and hoping for rain for far too long.

I am sympathetic to the situation Georgia finds itself in, and understand the Gov. Perdue has to advocate for his state, but that does not mean Florida, Alabama, or federal agencies like the US Army Corps of Engineers or US Fish and Wildlife Service have to surrender their responsibility to the people and species they serve in Florida and Alabama. Real people in numerous communities in Florida, Alabama, and south Georgia for that matter need that water too. And, if the Endangered Species Act has any value, teeth, or purpose it has to be a strong law in all occasions.

There can be some comprise that recognizes the situation that Georgia is in, but if I never paid my water bill and let a hundred people move into my home…. once my water was cut off should I be able, based simply on my lack of planning and new found need, to come to your house to steal your water? Florida and Alabama Georgia should find ways to help their neighbor, but is asking for a free pass at their expense.

Joe Murphy is the Florida Program Coordinator for the GRN.

 

The conclusion of a recent National Research Council report is that the Mighty Mississippi is an "orphan." To those of us who live in the Gulf and know of the impact a polluted Mississippi River has in creating the Dead Zone, this finding is no surprise. The EPA has neglected its duty to set limits for nitrogen and phosphorus pollution, the two primary causes of the Dead Zone. The United States Department of Agriculture has not done enough to target farm conservation money to places where it would help reduce farm runoff into the River. The federal Dead Zone Task Force, charged with finding solutions to the 7,000 square mile lifeless area in the Gulf, hasn't done much of anything.

As you might guess, there are a number of powerful interests who would like to see things remain lifeless at the federal agencies, much like the lifelessness found in the Dead Zone. In particular, agribusiness interests are currently clamoring to see that the Dead Zone Task Force does not set any meaningful goals to reduce the Dead Zone because they are afraid they might actually be held accountable to such a goal! Unfortunately, it is the Gulf of Mexico and the citizens who rely upon its abundant natural resources that are paying the price.

Jeff Grimes is Assistant Director of Water Resources for the GRN

 

Corps Resurrecting Destructive World War II Era Project

Posted on October 17, 2007 | Filed Under River Renewal, Government Affairs, Flood Protection

Joyce Wu, Program Associate
Natural Flood Protection

Sixty-six years of opposition have not been enough for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to give up on a flood control project that won’t actually protect homes. Over the objections of the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Corps is continuing to push for the Yazoo Pumps—a proposal to build the world’s largest hydraulic pumping plant that will drain 200,000 acres of what the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service called some of the richest resources in the country. The real purpose of the project is not to protect people from flooding, but to open up thousands of acres of rich (and sparsely populated) floodplain land to more intensive farming.

Local stakeholders and federal agencies have fought against this project because it violates the Clean Water Act, violates federal policy, is not economically justified, and impacts wetlands that have already been set aside for federal protection. Furthermore, the whopping $211 million price-tag is a 100% federal cost; the Corps wants taxpayers to shoulder the entire financial burden.

The Yazoo pumps will squander federal tax dollars.

Some 80% of the project’s alleged benefits are from increased agricultural production, mostly from more federal subsidies. If this project is authorized, the federal government will spend $211 million tax dollars to increase agricultural production in the Mississippi Delta, where farmers received $15.3 billion in subsidies from 1996 to 2001 and where the federal government is already actively setting aside sensitive croplands to decrease production.

Furthermore, the pumps will not appreciably save local homeowners from flood disasters. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, residential flooding is very limited in the project area. From 1979 to 2002, the National Flood Insurance Program paid out just $1.664 million in flood loss claims. At that rate, it would take more than 3,054 years to recoup the construction investment in the Yazoo Pumps.

The project itself is also fundamentally flawed. An independent analysis commissioned by the EPA revealed that the Corps’ calculations inflated the project’s economic benefits by a stunning $144 million.

The Yazoo pumps will destroy the local environment.

The Yazoo Backwater Area is a haven for migratory birds, floodplain fisheries and wildlife. The project area is also nationally renowned for excellent deer, waterfowl, and other game hunting. In fact, the region became famous in 1902 for being the original home of the ‘Teddy Bear.’ While hunting in the Yazoo Backwater Area, President Theodore Roosevelt refusal to shoot a bear that had been tied to a tree spawned the iconic children’s toy.

The Yazoo pumps project will damage or harm 200,000 acres of ecologically significant wetlands, much of which are national park land, mitigation for earlier federal projects, or voluntary restoration projects. The Yazoo pumps will also change the hydrology of 925,000 acres of the Mississippi delta—almost the entire historic delta floodplain for the Mississippi River.

The Yazoo pumps do not have local, national, or federal support.

The Yazoo pumps have met with local and national opposition for 65 years. The Clarion Ledger, the largest newspaper in the state of Mississippi, the New York Times, and papers and magazines from Oregon to New England have repeatedly and consistently editorialized against the project.

Moreover, both the EPA and USFWS have stated that the project should not proceed because of its colossal environmental toll, and because the project violates federal law as well as federal wetlands policy. According to the EPA, the pumps’ wetlands impacts will be 25 times greater than the combined impacts of all other projects it had vetoed because of Clean Water Act Section 404 (c) violations. This final EIS does not improve on the Draft EIS, which received the EPA’s lowest rating—EU-3, Environmentally Unsatisfactory – Inadequate.

In its Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act report, published as recently as 2006, the USFWS called the Yazoo Pumps “ecologically unsound” and “totally contrary to the Service’s goal for a balance between economic and environmental sustainability in the [Yazoo Backwater Area].”

The irony of theYazoo pumps project is that it proposes destroying natural flood protection systems in the name of flood control. Wetlands act as natural sponges, storing and slowly releasing floodwaters after peak flood flows have passed. A single acre of wetland, saturated to a depth of one foot, will retain 330,000 gallons of water—enough to flood thirteen average-sized homes thigh-deep. Coastal wetlands also reduce the size and velocity of storm surge during storms and hurricanes. The dramatic loss of these resources in the Yazoo Backwater area will have lasting and unpredictable consequences. For more information, see the USFWS fact sheet on the Yazoo pumps www.fws.gov/southeast/pubs/facts/yazooback.pdf or see our fact sheets on theYazoo pumps.

 

There is a saying in the nutritional world: “Eat to live, don’t live to eat”. I am a native of Louisiana so this statement makes zero sense to me. Food is a huge part of our culture, from acquiring food through fishing to competitive cook-offs and guarding family recipes. Even though I am someone who lives to eat, I still worry about the environmental impact of my choices.

There are many good reasons to avoid cows, chickens, and pigs. The environmental impact of mass producing meat is far-reaching and the process is gross. It is also questionable on moral grounds; people are starving in the world. The calories in the grain used to feed farm animals could feed many more people than the meat does.

Furthermore, eating beef contributes to global warming. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization reported in 2006 that livestock is responsible for approximately 18% of global warming pollution. We have all heard the jokes but would it surprise you to know that most of the methane gas from cows is from their belches? Also contributing to the climate problem is the destruction of carbon sinks, e.g. forests, which are required for grazing.

But what about Fish? Eating fish is good for you, omega 3’s, healthy protein, and all that. But it has its drawbacks, of course. Carnivorous fish farming requires large amounts of wild fish for feed. Other farmed fish can have much higher levels of contamination than wild caught fish because of the contaminants that are added during the processing of the fish food. Many animals get caught up in fishing nets and must be tossed out, known as bycatch. It is estimated that 25% of the commercial seafood harvest is wasted bycatch.

Making the right choices can be tricky. Luckily, I recently visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium and noticed little pocket-sized cards that read “Seafood WATCH”. Since seafood was already on my mind, I picked one up and was delighted to find a gem’s worth of information to help me diet more sustainably.

The Aquarium’s guide recommends that you ask 3 questions when eating out or shopping:

1. Where is the seafood from?

2. Is it farmed or wild-caught?

3. How was it caught?

Choose seafood caught more locally to you. The US has better regulations on bycatch, habitat protection, and farming practices. Furthermore, the more local the seafood was caught the fresher it is likely to be. You are also doing your part to limit global warming by buying local and cutting transportation time for your food.

Wild caught fish are generally better than farmed as farming fish can be harmful to the local environment and the contamination in the fish tends to be higher. If you choose farmed fish, omnivorous fish (tilapia) are better than carnivorous fish and seafood (tuna, and salmon).

Dredging, gillnetting, and trawling are bad because they damage important habitat and increase the risk of bycatch. Harpooning, trolling, and hook and lining are environmentally responsible ways to fish. Check the Seafood Watch website for a specific list of “Best Choices” and “Good Alternatives” in the “Southeast Seafood Guide 2007”.

To help get you started on a sustainable seafood diet here is my family’s rabidly guarded seafood gumbo recipe. Enjoy!

The Roux: Equal parts peanut oil and flour (1 cup each), flat edged wooden spatula, cast iron skillet. Add oil and keep heat at slightly higher than medium heat. Sprinkle flour in slowly while stirring continuously. Be sure to scrape the bottom so the flour does not burn. Get the roux a very dark chocolate brown but not black! This can take up to 45 minutes. When the roux is the darkest possible add the green onions (1 cup chopped into ½ inch pieces), remove from heat, and stir vigorously adding a little green bell pepper (1/2 cup) and celery (1/4 cup) and as much yellow onion as will fit in your skillet. Roux will sizzle and it smells really good. Meanwhile, have a pot of water or fish stock at medium heat (a gallon) standing by. When the sizzling stops add roux and veggies to water and stir until dissolved. Add the rest of your vegetables (1/2 cup bells, yellow onion (2 cups), celery (1 cup). Add cayenne pepper, gumbo file, garlic, thyme, rosemary, oregano, and salt to taste. If this is your first time, use a pinch of each. You can always add more later if you want more spice. Bring to a boil. Turn down heat to a simmer and leave for about 45 minutes. Cook the rice. When the soup tastes right, bring back to a boil. Add the shrimp (1 lbLouisiana caught) wait 2-3 minutes. Add 1 lb cleaned Louisiana crawfish tails wait 2-3 minutes. Add 1 lb sustainable tilapia white fish wait 2-3 minutes. Add lastly add 1 lb gulf coast oysters cook and cook another 2 minutes. Make sure your seafood is properly cooked! Take off heat. Put a little bit of rice in a bowl and spoon out some gumbo on top. cleaned and peeled wild


 

Casey Roberts is the GRN's Special Projects Coordinator

 

I had a lawyer friend once who lived by the motto “sue early, sue often.” I’m not sure if that is what I want on my tombstone, but I admired the dedication. Usually in the course of human events it is better to resolve something without litigation and the courts. With that said sometimes something is so egregious that its time to head on down to the courthouse and seek some justice.

It is hard to figure out the Army Corps in Florida these days. Are they the champions of Everglades restoration? Or are they the “Dredge and Fill” Corp? The Corps has promised changes and a new way in Florida, but from where I sit the permit approvals to destroy wetlands still flow out of the Corp office in Jacksonville like money flows to a corrupt politician.

On Monday Oct. 1st, 2007 the Sierra Club, Clean Water Action and Gulf Restoration Network filed a federal lawsuit in Washington, D.C. against the Army Corp and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for violations of federal environmental laws by issuing a section 404 permit to the developers on the Cypress Creek Town Center project (Case No. 07-CV-01756). We are suing to require that impacts to the endangered species, wetlands and our waters be avoided and minimized. We are suing because federal agencies, both the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, fundamentally failed the people of Tampa Bay, and the wetlands and wildlife of Tampa Bay. We are suing because nature only made one Cypress Creek and it is a beautiful place.

When we filed suit Denise Layne of the Sierra Club noted that “350 acres of concrete on a 550 acre site containing huge wetlands, creek and recharge areas is a crying shame. The ecosystem on this property has been the home to all kinds of threatened and endangered species which need the wetlands and a healthy creek system to survive. And, speaking of water…the land clearing has already polluted the creek, an Outstanding Florida Water. We have no faith in this permit protecting this exquisite piece of property as required by federal laws.”

GRN was drawn to this case because of the impact this project will have and has had on threatened and endangered species, and the wetlands systems they depend on. The Army Corps of Engineers has fundamentally failed to protect threatened and endangered species, failed to protect wetlands and Cypress Creek, and failed to protect water quality for regional residents. Citizens in the Tampa Bay region expect and deserve better from the government agencies charged with protecting our environment. We’re in court and working on the ground to make sure that this happens.

Joe Murphy is the Florida Program Coordinator for GRN.

 


This past weekend, we had an awesome kick-off to our work with this semester’s interns at our GRN training weekend. It started on Friday with an invite to our local and regional interns to participate in Tree Hugger Happy Hour. After plenty of socializing, the regional interns headed over to GRN’s headquarters to get a tasty po-boy and a thorough introduction to the organization from Cyn Sarthou, GRN’s executive director. From there, the regional interns left to crash on the couches of local interns, past and present.

Bright and early the next morning, everyone came together at Tulane’s UniversityCenter for breakfast and the beginning of an intense day of training. With a mix of local intern and regional interns, there was lots of great energy from all over the Gulf. First off, Dan elaborated on the knowledge they already had by giving a presentation on the Save Our Cypress Campaign, effective campaign strategies, and the campaigns relevance to wetland restoration and environmental change. Next up, I went over the grassroots organizing tool of petitioning and what its context is within our campaign through the use of postcards. I discussed how we utilize postcards to show Wal-Mart, Lowe’s, and Home Depot that there is public support against their sale of cypress mulch. Anat put her canvassing skills to good use by helping me out with a demonstration of the postcarding rap. Once we went over the keys to successful postcarding and practiced a few times, everyone was ready to jump right in. We went out for an extremely productive hour where we surpassed our goal of 135 postcards signed by getting over 200! And this was on a sleepy Saturday morning on campus. Lorraine did an especially stellar job postcarding by collecting a grand total of 32. Kyle and Heather, regional interns from Lafayette, reflected on how much they enjoyed getting out there and talking to people. This got all the interns started on their individual goals of collecting 400 postcards over the semester.

After postcarding, we relaxed for a while to eat a well-deserved lunch. As soon as lunch was done, Aaron Viles, GRN’s campaign director, stopped in to talk about the state of Louisiana’s wetlands and the Flood Washington e-action campaign that he created to bring attention to them. He illustrated how interns can also bring attention to them by organizing screenings of the movie, Washing Away: Losing Louisiana, on their campuses. His intern, Stephanie, is helping him work on sustainable fisheries. When he took off, Dan and I helped the interns brainstorm how to plan their own movie screening events. There are now three movie screening events under preparation across the Gulf in Lafayette, New Orleans, and Tampa, FL.

Although postcarding is huge, Dan talked next about how to keep the public pressure on Wal-Mart, Lowe’s, and Home Depot going through direct actions. The interns contributed some really great ideas for direct action. My personal favorite was going up to the cashier with several bags of mulch in your cart, questioning them about it, and then asking to speak with the manager. As we finished up, Matt Rota, director of the Water Resources Program, came in to talk to the interns about the dead zone. Even though the interns are working primarily on the cypress campaign, it’s good to know about a variety of the issues facing the Gulf of Mexico. Mike, the intern from Tampa, was interested in how the Dead Zone information applied to red tide issues in Florida. The training day ended with an overview of the art of public speaking. Dan gave the basics for presenting a message to a large group of people and then the interns stood in turn to give their best. Everyone rocked it and Casey definitely nailed the presentation.

This group of talented students left the room having gained the ability to train volunteers to postcard, plan an amazing movie screening event, talk to community and campus groups and classes, and generally organize people to get behind the Save Our Cypress Campaign. Way to go everyone!

The next morning, we rallied the interns back together after a night out on the town to enjoy some of the ecosystem we had been talking about. Originally, the plan was to go on a boat tour with Professor Rob Moreau of SELU, but the weather was not on our side. A tropical storm depression was moving through and Rob was worried about having boats out on the water. Instead, we traveled west of New Orleans to the Jean Lafitte Barataria Preserve. Once there we saw tons of wildlife-tree frogs, massive spiders, and even a couple of alligators! Heather went nuts taking photographs. I've included a photo she took of a tree frog. Afterwards, everyone agreed it was- without a doubt- an amazing place.

Now they’re all back home kicking some corporate butt to save the wetlands.

Amy Medtlie is the Outreach Associate for the Gulf Restoration Network.

 


According to a new study on sea level rise by Architecture 2030, North America is just as vulnerable to dangerous property and land loss as the developing world because of how we have settled our coastal areas. In a “Nation Under Siege”, report author Dr. Mazria warns us that “. . . with just one meter of sea level rise, our nation will be physically under siege, vulnerable to catastrophic property and infrastructure loss with large population disruptions and economic hardship” because 53% of us in America live in or around a coastal city.

Earth will gradually warm 2-3°C (3.6 – 5.4°F) over the next 100 years. Anthropogenic greenhouse gases are to blame. Currently, the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide is 383 ppm. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts that it will be very difficult to reverse climatic changes once we reach an atmospheric concentration of 450 ppm. This could trigger “irreversible glacial melt and rapid sea level rise” that will be beyond our ability to control. At the current rate of carbon dioxide emissions, 2ppm per year, we will reach this dangerous level by 2040.

Dr. Mazria raises the red flag about coal in “Nation Under Siege”. He says “the one fossil fuel positioned to push the planet beyond 450 ppm, and trigger dangerous climate change, is coal. If we are to avert this tipping point, we will need to call for an immediate halt to the construction of any new conventional coal-fired power plants and the phasing out of existing and aging coal plants over time. If we fail to take this action, there is no doubt we will soon reach the 450 ppm threshold.”

GRN has joined the call to “Say Yes to Clean Energy” and is actively working alongside our member groups Sierra Club and LEAN to stop new coal in Louisiana. Recently, Entergy asked the Louisiana Public Service Commission to consider approving a proposal to convert the cleaner burning natural gas Little Gypsy power plant to a dirty coal and petroleum coke burning plant. Entergy-Louisiana’s 1,000,000 customers are being asked to foot the bill for this $1.55 billion project, which means that every Louisiana customer will be paying $1,550 to increase their global warming pollution output. This money could be spent more wisely and efficiently.

Click here to ask the Public Service Commission to reject plans to convert the Little Gypsy to burn coal and coke.

*Mark your calendar: We will also be attending the Louisiana Public Service Commission on October 11th to show the Commissioners that we care about our climate!

 

Casey DeMoss Roberts is the Special Projects Coordinator for the Gulf Restoration Network.

 


So the results are pouring in. Over 100 GRN e-activists from all across the country (and Germany) stepped up for the Louisiana coast and our wetlands and opened their homes to friends, family and colleagues in order to drop some knowledge about our land-loss crisis (and maybe serve up some home cooked red beans and rice). Click the flickr screenshot to see the map and photos of some of our reported events). Thanks to all our hosts - who generated some great media and great support for the coastal cause.

Two years and 217 + square miles of coastal marsh ago, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita roared ashore and changed life as we know it here in New Orleans, and throughout much of the Central Gulf Coast. These storms brought many of the issues that the GRN has been tackling for 14 years or so into far sharper relief: the prioritization and effectiveness of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects, water pollution, coastal development and coastal wetlands protection and restoration.

We've endeavored to grab ahold of the teachable moment that the devastating hurricane season of 2005 represents in order to let people know that restoring our coast isn't just about shrimp & redfish, or crawfish & cypress - it's about the very survival of New Orleans and our coastal communities. As the research mounts, demonstrating that every 3.4 miles of intact coastal wetlands a storm travels over knocks down its surge by one foot, it doesn't take overwhelming vision to understand the real, immediate value of these marshes.

Through the home screenings of Louisiana Public Broadcasting and award-winning independent producer Christina Melton's documentary Washing Away: Losing Louisiana, our e-activists helped spread that message.

Here at the GRN, we have a saying: “Protect our wetlands, protect ourselves.” Unfortunately, protecting and restoring these wetlands is a job that’s beyond gutting houses and putting up sheetrock. A few church groups from the Midwest aren’t really going to be able to make a dent in this one. We need to put the Mississippi River, and its fresh water and sediment, to work. We need the river to sustain and rebuild our coast. That’s big engineering. That’s big expense. That’s the federal government and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (gulp).

Louisiana coastal experts and the Corps have developed and are further developing the plans to sustain the coast. But plans are cheap – it’s the actual projects and engineering that run to $50 billion. About $2 billion in projects would be authorized by the current Water Resources Development Act (WRDA, say “WurDuh” if you want to sound like a DC insider). The problem dear reader, is that in a hail Mary to recapture the right, President Bush has threatened to veto WRDA, citing its expense. He says pork, we say future of our region. Of course he also once said he would “do whatever it takes” to make New Orleans and South Louisiana rise again.

We’re faced with a significant political challenge that despite hard work and the best of intentions (let alone federally marked cash in the freezer, a phone number on the DC Madame’s speed dial, and a staggering road home shortfall) Louisiana’s congressional delegation won’t be able to tackle on their own. This is why the home screenings were so critical, and worth the time and effort. We need help from elsewhere. We need your friends and family who think you’re crazy for living here (but clamoring for your guest room during Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest) to clue in their members of Congress and remind the President of his pledge.

Now’s the time to act, as Congress is just getting back from their August recess and we really need them to pass WRDA in the Senate and work to override the President’s veto, or we simply kiss New Orleans and South Louisiana goodbye.

Aaron Viles is the GRN's Campaign Director

 

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