Blogging for a Healthy Gulf

 

Perhaps no environmental phenomenon is as critical to the future of the Louisiana Gulf coast as sea level rise and the disappearance of our coastal marshes. A warming climate, a sinking coast and decades of unchecked assaults are driving the loss of coastal wetlands at unimaginable rates (almost 30 sq miles per year), a staggering reality for those who make their living here. The magnitude of forces driving wetland loss seems so far beyond human ability to control that we can be paralyzed into inaction. So it was with considerable enthusiasm that two weeks ago I joined GRN staff and donors for a drive down to Plaquemines Parish to explore a 10 year-old marsh reclamation project.

We headed downriver to Buras to see the results of a project established by the US Fish and Wildlife Service under the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act (CWPPRA). In Buras, we...

 

New Report Reveals Most States Failing to Manage Nitrogen & Phosphorus Pollution

The Mississippi River Collaborative (MRC) today released a report that implores the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take specific actions to regulate excess nitrogen and phosphorus pollution in state waters along the Mississippi River because those 10 states haven’t achieved any significant pollution reductions on their own.

MRC, a partnership of 13 environmental and legal groups, authored the report–entitled “Decades of Delay”–to assess state-level progress to reduce the pollution that threatens drinking water supplies for millions of Americans and causes so-called dead zones that cannot support aquatic life. 

“The results of the EPA’s hands-off approach with the Mississippi River basin states are massive algae blooms and nitrate contamination that make our drinking water unsafe and render lakes and rivers unfit for recreation,” said Kris Sigford, Water Quality Director at the Minnesota Center for...

 

GRN crew with Breton Sound in our booth at Voodoo.

We had a blast this Halloween weekend hanging out in New Orleans’ City Park for the Voodoo Music + Arts Experience! This was GRN’s 10th year as a non-profit partner of the festival, and we were focused on talking to the hundreds of thousands of festivalgoers and many musicians playing the fest about how they can help defend the music and defend the coast.

The Gulf is facing sea level rise, coastal wetland loss and ongoing environmental disasters fueled by the oil and gas industry. Oil and gas must pay for its damages and now is the time for our region to transition away from destructive industry and to a clean energy economy.

The good news is that the people at Voodoo, including many artist playing the fest, were ready to join...

 
Lower Pearl River from airplane
Lower Pearl River by Bonny Schumaker, On Wings of Care

The Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) is the omnibus Congressional bill that funds the Army Corps of Engineers in their work on the nation’s waterways. A 2016 version of WRDA is moving through Congress now and has passed the U.S. Senate.

Two sections of the Act pertain to projects on the Pearl River in Louisiana and Mississippi. One is good; the other is not so good.

Section 5002 of WRDA describes a good restoration project in Louisiana that would de-authorize and eventually remove old, unused navigational locks meant for barge traffic. The project would cede the control of the structures and property to the State of Louisiana. The negotiation of this solution has taken many years. This project would allow Louisiana to remove structures that no longer work, making the river less fragmented to improve fish migration and make things easier for recreational boaters. The Pearl River’s threatened...

 

Defend the CoastWe are living in a time when rising seas are pushing our communities out of their homes and away from the places they know and love.

The Gulf is facing sea level rise, coastal wetland loss and ongoing environmental disasters fueled by the oil and gas industry. But we will no longer let the Gulf be treated as sacrifice zone.

Together, let’s build a movement of people to defend our coast – our homes, our culture, our food and our music! Take action to tell state and federal leaders to defend the coast.

Whether it’s cutting canals through our wetlands or spilling oil across our coast, the oil and gas industry is responsible for damaging our communities and coast. We are calling for the oil and gas industry to pay for the injuries they have caused....

 
Help give Tampa Bay a voice

For years, Tampa Bay communities have lived with a polluted Bay. Because of aging infrastructure, poor decisions, climate change and extreme weather events, sewage frequently flows directly into our water and onto our beaches.Take action now to stop the sewage crisis!

Most recently, Hurricane Hermine overwhelmed the sewage systems of St. Petersburg, Tampa and Clearwater, resulting in the dumping of roughly 240 million gallons of sewage into the Bay and other waters. Take action now to protect the Bay from sewage!

Tampa Bay Cities are now negotiating with the state to plan how future sewage disasters will be avoided. While some draft plans have been released, it does not seem that the public is going to be involved in these discussions.

The...

 
Stop the Dakota Access and Bayou Bridge Pipelines

From the north a black snake will come. It will kill our lands, slowly killing all that it touches, and in its passing, the water will become poison.

So says a Lakota prophecy. Today it inches towards fulfillment.

Our brothers and sisters to the north remain strong in their stand against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). Dakota Access would move fracked oil over 1,172 miles, downstream from North Dakota’s Bakken region to southern Illinois. A black snake indeed.

Yet the snake won’t station there. From Illinois, the fracked oil may be shipped east via train. Or it could be sent further south in another pipeline, some 700 miles to Texas. Transport to Louisiana refineries would then be possible thanks to a third pipeline, the so-called Bayou Bridge.

These three pipelines all happen to be assets of the same company, Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners (ETP). ETP owns Sunoco, and it’s...

 

In response to the sewage overflows in St. Petersburg, FL, a draft Consent Order [pdf] has been released by St. Petersburg and Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection. Proposed improvements in the draft include:

  • Increasing the capacity of the Southwest Reclamation Facility (cost $21.7 M)
  • Construct two additional injection wells for disposal of treated sewage cost ($12.2 M)
  • Albert Whitehead Water Reclamaition Facility storage to be increased from 5 to 8 miillion gallons (cost $3.3 M)
  • Sanitary sewer evaluation (cost $.8 M)
  • Repair/replace wastewater system components ($35.5 M through FY21)

To view the draft consent order go here....

 

It’s been five months since the $20 billion settlement with BP was finalized, setting forth the timeline and dollar amounts that will make its way down to the Gulf Coast. Within that $20 billion, approximately $5.3 billion went towards the funding of the RESTORE Act, which has been tasked with implementing restoration projects and programs across the Gulf. The RESTORE Council, a federal-state body tasked with governing two significant portion's of the RESTORE Act dollars, recently released their update to its 2013 Initial Comprehensive Plan, informing the public, and federal, state and local bodies how the Council portion of RESTORE dollars will be spent.

 
Beach Closed
Photo Courtesy of Pinellas County Dept. of Health

Due to massive rainfalls earlier this month during Hurricane Hermine, St. Petersburg sewage treatment systems began discharging partially treated sewage, comingled with rain water, into Tampa Bay. This has resulted in over 111 million gallons of sewer overflows in the Bay.

While this obviously constitutes a failure in St. Petersburg infrastructure and a threat to public health, residents and the City Council were not notified of the sewage contamination until September 7, a day after they stopped pumping waste into the Bay.

City officials are saying the water is clean, but their own monitoring says otherwise. GRN has completed an analysis of the monitoring data [download pdf of report here] and has found the following:
•    There are still high levels of fecal coliform bacteria in waters they are sampling.
•    They have stopped sampling in 16 of 23 sampling sites, without adequate evidence or...

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