Archive for People
This is the second post of our Voices of the Delta series.
Name: Keith Blomstrom
Occupation: President of the Minnesota Conservation Federation
Why are the Mississippi River Delta and Gulf Coast important to Minnesota?
Minnesota is linked to the gulf in many ways. The Mississippi River starts in Minnesota — its headwaters are located in Itasca State Park, near Bemidji, Minn. — so the river itself means a great deal to us. Some of the beneficial sediment that travels to the delta comes from Minnesota, but at the same time, our farms and cities are responsible for pollution traveling downriver as well. As an acknowledgment of our commitment to the river, the state of Minnesota and the Environmental Protection Agency have recently partnered with farmers and others to clean up water draining into the gulf.
Additionally, our waterfowl winter in the gulf — all total, 75 percent of our continent’s waterfowl pass through the region. The Minnesota state bird, the Common Loon, spends two to three years maturing in the gulf. To Minnesotans, this bird represents wilderness, and it also links us to the Mississippi River Delta.
What does the RESTORE Act mean to you personally?
After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, I visited a fish camp owned by some friends in Montegut, La., and I saw firsthand the devastation and problems caused by the loss of wetlands. The place we stayed was on 10-foot poles. During the storms, the tidal surge there was 8 feet. Anything that wasn’t higher than that was destroyed. We were 6 miles from the gulf, but the canal was still full of saltwater with bull sharks, stingrays and other saltwater creatures swimming everywhere.
The oil spill further devastated the area, killing the plants that hold together the soil, killing wildlife and hurting the fishing industry. It will take many years for the ecosystem to recover. But with the RESTORE Act, we have the chance to make a down payment on restoration, to help build a better future for the Gulf Coast and for our country.No Comments
This is the first in our “Voices of the Delta” blog series, where we’ll be interviewing coastal Louisiana restoration advocates from across the country. From Louisiana to Florida to Minnesota, these spokesmen and women have come to Washington to tell Congress that the Mississippi River Delta is a vital natural resource and that we need to pass the RESTORE Act now and send oil spill fines back to the Gulf States that deserve them. Check back over the coming days to read more of their stories!
Name: Chris Macaluso
Occupation: Coastal Outreach Coordinator, Louisiana Wildlife Federation
What does coastal Louisiana mean to you?
I have spent my life fishing and hunting in the rich marshes, barrier islands and swamps along Louisiana’s coast. My earliest memories of fishing with my dad are filled with images of vast areas of marsh grasses, scattered coastal ponds and bayous teeming with fish and waterfowl. Endless meadows of golden marsh grass stretched through the wetlands in some of our favorite fishing destinations, like Buras, Grand Isle, Cocodrie and Dulac.
Yet in the 30 years since those first memories were made, most of that habitat has washed away, leaving behind vast areas of open water. Mississippi River levees built to protect communities from river flooding have separated the marshes from their essential sediment and freshwater source. These levees have also made those same communities fatally vulnerable to storm surges from the Gulf of Mexico. Jetties and dredging meant to keep the river open for navigation have directed the land-building sediment into the gulf’s deep waters, and manmade navigation channels have carved up swamps and marshes, allowing saltwater to penetrate as much as 40 miles inland.
Why is it important that we move quickly to restore the Mississippi River Delta?
Simply put, my coast is dying. Louisiana’s coast is losing land at the fastest rate in the world, with more than 1,900 square miles washing away in the last 80 years. There is the possibility of almost that much more vanishing in the next 50 years unless projects are soon built to curb and hopefully reverse that loss.
Many of those projects have already been approved by Congress. A host of freshwater and sediment diversions as well as marsh and barrier island restoration projects meant to fix Louisiana have been listed in federal Water Resources Development Acts over the last 40 years. The state of Louisiana recently released a draft of a comprehensive coastal restoration and hurricane protection plan that optimistically demonstrates coastal land loss can turn into land gains if those projects are implemented.
Sadly though, most of the approved projects languish in wait for funding while tied up in lengthy federal bureaucracies.
Where does the RESTORE Act fit in this process?
The RESTORE Act is an absolutely essential piece of legislation for my home state of Louisiana. If we are to have any hope of making significant headway in reversing the devastating coastal land loss that has plagued the state for nearly a century, Congress must pass this bill.
Passage of the RESTORE Act can provide the money needed to move some projects to construction while helping Louisiana address the environmental damage caused by the devastating oil spill of 2010. More than that, it can give hope that the wetland loss threatening to completely wipe out one of the world’s great hunting and fishing destinations — and the communities and culture that go with it — can be reversed and that Louisiana’s coastal habitats can be sustained for generations to come.No Comments
CRCL volunteers plant more than 700 cypress trees at Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and PreserveJanuary 4, 2012 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in People, Restoration Projects
This story was originally posted on the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana's Coast Currents blog.
Following Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve’s western border is the long, narrow Bayou Segnette Waterway, an unnaturally-straight man-made canal with an equally unnatural problem: invasion from the Chinese tallow tree.
Chinese tallow is a beautiful ornamental tree that actually has many uses. Originally brought to the United States in the 1700’s as a resource for soap making and other cottage industries, the tree is valued in small numbers. Unfortunately, many areas of Louisiana just have too many of these trees. Jean Lafitte National Park is no exception. Because Chinese tallow spreads so quickly, it is threatening to squeeze out native species like cypress, oak and hickory from the park’s borders. Once-diverse stretches of forest would be dominated by one species… unless something is done about it.
On December 9 and 10, 2011, more than 50 Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana (CRCL) volunteers teamed up with the staff of Jean Lafitte National Park to take the fight to the Chinese tallow, and help restore sections of native cypress forest along the spoil banks of the Bayou Segnette Waterway. With shovels in hand, these volunteers combined to plant more than 700 bald cypress trees in a two-day period.
It is hoped that the newly-installed cypress trees will grow and establish a canopy under which the Chinese tallow cannot grow. Prior to the cypress planting, park rangers from Jean Lafitte individually poisoned many mature and growing Chinese tallow trees, allowing the new cypress the opportunity to overtake their territory.
Cypress trees are, of course, valued in Louisiana not only for their cultural worth (it’s the state tree of Louisiana), but for their ability to hold sediment within their extensive and mighty root systems. These new trees will grip the soil along the banks of the Bayou Segnette waterway and not let go. This will strengthen the integrity of the canal and give it a better chance to survive storm surge and erosion.
Volunteers also installed degradable plastic protection devices around the trunks of the newly planted trees. These plastic barriers prevent nutria, wild hogs and other herbivores from destroying the young cypress. The newly planted cypress were also tagged and measured, so that data could be kept on their rate of growth and survivability. In time, this two day project could leave a centuries-long mark on the landscape of Jean Lafitte National Historical Park.
CRCL would like to thank Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, Shell, Entergy Corporation, the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority of Louisiana, Restore America’s Estuaries and the dozens of volunteers who made this project a great success.No Comments
The Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana (CRCL) will host the 17th annual Coastal Stewardship Awards Program on Friday, April 13, 2012 at the Hilton Baton Rouge Capitol Center.
Coastal Stewardship Awards recognize the contributions of individuals and groups who demonstrate outstanding commitment to preserving and restoring Louisiana’s coastal wetlands. CRCL is proud to honor these leaders in coastal restoration, who share our vision of a sustainable coast for future generations.
Nominations are now being accepted for the Lifetime Achievement Award, Distinguished Achievement Award and the Coastal Stewardship Award. Please consider nominating an individual or group who has made an exceptional contribution to protecting and restoring Louisiana’s wetlands.
To nominate a person or organization for a Coastal Stewardship Award, visit www.CRCL.org. For more information, contact CRCL at 1-888-LACOAST (1-888-522-6278).
All nominations must be received by February 3, 2012.No Comments
By Amanda Moore, National Wildlife Federation
Nutria. Marsh-muncher. Coypu. Swamp rat. “That critter with the big orange teeth.” Call it what you want, but this invasive, semi-aquatic rodent has been dining on Louisiana's precious wetlands since the 1930s. And although the State of Louisiana pays a bounty of five dollars per tail, nutria still managed to destroy over 6,000 acres of Louisiana wetlands last year alone.
So on November 5th, Righteous Fur celebrated its 3rd annual "Nutria-Palooza! on the Bayou” in Lafayette, where fun-loving folks dined on nutria and stocked their closets with furry wear. A main purpose of the event—besides helping to control an invasive species—is to raise awareness about the need to restore Louisiana’s coast.
Michael Massimi of the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program (the organization receives a portion of all proceeds from the sale of Righteous Fur) gave an opening presentation on the swamp rat, and then we let the good times roll with local musicians—including MC Sweet Tea—and the highlight of the night: a nutria fur fashion show!
Eighteen designers dazzled the crowd of 100 with numerous one-of-a-kind furry ensembles. A silent auction closed out the night, at which National Wildlife Federation’s Alisha Renfro added a fur hat to her wardrobe, and Coalition the Restore Coastal Louisiana’s Morgan Crutcher bought a nutria-trimmed dress that will win any Mardi Gras costume contest.
"If you can't eat 'em, wear 'em!” said Crutcher. “Since we began measuring in 1998, the number of observed acreage damaged or destroyed by nutria peaked in 1999 at 27,356, or 43 square miles. That's just the observed figure—these little guys can do a lot of damage!"
To see more photos from the fashion show and to find out how you, too, can wear nutria fur and help save Louisiana’s wetlands, check out www.RighteousFur.com!1 Comment
Jim Wyerman joined the Mississippi River Delta Restoration Campaign in April as Director of Strategic Partnerships and Communications for Environmental Defense Fund. His role is to provide strategic direction in developing communications plans, engaging high-influence individuals to support the RESTORE Act and building long-term support for coastal restoration from key business sectors. He is currently leading a project to inform and engage the navigation sector in long-term solutions.
Jim brings 25 years experience in senior leadership at national conservation organizations, where he has led campaigns and managed multi-disciplinary teams. Most recently, he was Chief Program Officer at Carbonfund.org and VP of Communications for the American Forest Foundation. Previously, he directed development and communications for the Land Trust Alliance and was VP of Programs at Defenders of Wildlife. He also served as Executive Director of Maryland PIRG and the grassroots group 2020 Vision.
"What attracted me to Environmental Defense Fund was their reputation for achieving large-scale structural change through market-driven solutions," said Jim. "While grassroots, communications and policy advocacy are all essential parts of a successful campaign, the missing piece is often the economic one: How do we shape the conservation goal as a smart business goal?" That is what the Partnerships Committee of the Campaign is working to do. "We want to make it a little easier for businesses to do the right thing for the wetlands and communities that depend on a healthy Gulf ecosystem."
Since he first went to New Orleans for Mardi Gras 30 years ago, Jim says he fell in love with the culture, food, music and people of Southern Louisiana. If he's in town on a Thursday night, look for Jim at Rock 'n' Bowl for a zydeco dance.No Comments
G. Paul Kemp, Ph.D., brings an extensive background in coastal restoration and policy to Audubon’s Louisiana Coastal Initiative office in Baton Rouge. Before coming to Audubon in January 2007, Dr. Kemp was an associate research professor in Louisiana State University’s School of the Coast and Environment. He also has been affiliated with the school’s Center for the Study of Public Health Impacts of Hurricanes.
In the early 1990s, he served as the first executive director of the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, a nonprofit organization dedicated to returning Louisiana’s Mississippi River Delta to environmental and economic sustainability.
Among other activities, Dr. Kemp led a multidisciplinary effort to characterize Louisiana’s Barataria and Terrebonne estuaries, worked with the Louisiana Governor’s Office to help shape coastal restoration policy and served as a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration fellow on the staff of U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts.No Comments
This piece was originally posted on the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana's Coast Currents blog.
By Scott Madere, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana
The first clue that things were going to be different today was the blue rectangle under the "No Parking" sign at the boat launch. "Beware of Bears," it read. I’ve lived my whole life in Louisiana and I’ve never seen one of those. But it was only one of many firsts for me as we headed into the Wax Lake Delta that morning, to discover one of Louisiana’s most pristine paradises… and possibly the key to saving Louisiana’s coastal wetlands.
With me on the excursion were about 30 companions from the National Audubon Society, the Environmental Defense Fund, National Wildlife Federation and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. While many of us were locals, there were plenty of explorers from Washington, D.C., some of whom had never been in a Louisiana marsh before.
It was only fitting, then, that their first experience should begin with a short trip through the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, the shipping highway that unites the entire Louisiana coast, and the path to our destination, the Wax Lake Outlet. Our party traveled in five boats on calm waters, past barges and fishermen, the usual signs of activity on the Intracoastal. I found myself thinking ahead to what I would find in the Delta, almost missing something truly extraordinary happening on the bank to my right.
"Look… it's an eagle," said one of my boat companions.
Sure enough, a sight that had eluded me for many years appeared in the distance. A juvenile bald eagle, in flight, came in for a landing on the bank. As I captured his slow descent with my camera, a mature bald eagle emerged from the irises nearby. I was stunned. I had never seen a bald eagle in the wild before, and within a span of seconds, I had seen two. It was an experience that reminded me that there never really is anything routine about the Louisiana marsh. It's a unique wonder each time you visit.
Before long we reached the intersection with the Wax Lake Outlet, turning south toward Atchafalaya Bay. The outlet was created in 1942 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to divert the waters of the Atchafalaya River from possibly flooding Morgan City. The outlet itself is a lot like the Intracoastal Waterway, deep, straight and wide. But the interesting part of what’s happening in the Wax Lake Outlet is where it ends, in Atchafalaya Bay. That's what everyone on this trip was there to see. That's where we encountered the Wax Lake Delta, a rapidly building land mass… an unforeseen benefit of diverting the Atchafalaya River.
The delta forming at the bottom of the outlet wasn’t noticed until the early 1970's. As it happened, decades of sand and fine silt moving from the Atchafalaya River into the Wax Lake Outlet began to accumulate at the outlet's mouth. Before long, channelization occurred and lobes of land began to arise where no land had been before. Louisiana is not losing land in this section of the coast. It is building land, and building it quickly (geologically speaking, of course).
For this reason, the Wax Lake Delta serves as one of the best hopes that coastal researchers have for making the case that river diversions work, and that these diversions can be made elsewhere along the coast, rebuilding and restoring coastal wetlands.
When our squadron of boats reached one of the Delta's landmasses, the proof was right there for all to see. New land, rising from the Gulf of Mexico. Covered in lotus plants gone to seed, the soil was firm and claylike underfoot. It was not like swamp mud. This felt like land that was built to last.
The enthusiasm for what we were seeing spread across our entire party. To see the Wax Lake Delta firsthand is to see what Louisiana once was and what it could once again be. Everywhere I looked, I saw shorebirds, grasses, flowering plants, lilies, fish jumping and swirling. This was a real and thriving ecosystem, nourished by a steady flow of fresh water and silt from a river determined to reconnect with the marsh.
As we boated south into the Atchafalaya bay, honestly, I began to wonder why we were heading into open water. That's when the boats slowed and one of my companions hopped out into the bay. He landed in water that was a little less than knee-deep. That’s when it hit me. We were not looking at today's land, but rather, tomorrow's. In a few years, this open area of the bay will be solid ground, as more sediment is deposited and plants begin to root. Already, aquatic plants can be seen just below the surface, forming anchors to trap the fine silt suspended in the gentle waves from the Wax Lake Outlet.
Many in our party spent half an hour wading through the shallow water, all smiles as brown pelicans circled overhead. It struck me that we were the very first people to stand on this new part of Louisiana.
A trip into Wax Lake Delta is invigorating to those who are committed to the future of our coast. It represents a victory in the effort to bring vitality and hope back to our wetlands. If 25 square miles worth of new land can be created accidentally by the Wax Lake Outlet, imagine what could be done purposefully, with proper planning, good science and willpower to make it happen.
It was very hard to leave the Wax Lake Delta behind. I've rarely felt happier out in the Louisiana marsh. The only thing that would have made the day better would have been to see one of those bears the little blue sign warned me about. But there’s always next time. And at the rate that I’m seeing wonders in this delta, I would judge that possibility likely.No Comments
By Chris Pulaski, National Wildlife Federation
Next in our Faces of the Delta series, you will meet Father Roch Naquin: Isle de Jean Charles native and current resident, priest and coastal restoration advocate.
Name: Father Roch Naquin
Location: Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana
Tell me about your connection to south Louisiana. I was born and raised about 100 feet from my current home in Isle de Jean Charles, La. I was born at 2:00 am on September 25, 1932 to Joseph and Irena Naquin, number four of six children (three boys and three girls). I joined the St. Joseph Seminary in St. Benedict/Covington area north of New Orleans and was there until 1962. I then served across southeast Louisiana until my retirement in 1997.
What does south Louisiana mean to you? It means home. It is the place where I grew up and the place to stay. It’s special because I learned to appreciate everything the area has to offer: livelihood, peace, food and outdoor opportunities (fishing, trapping, hunting and the ability to grow our own crops). Before the road to the island was built and before the television existed, there was more of a family sense of closeness. On Sundays, you would go from house to house to visit. Trips into town were rare and involved taking a pirogue to the highway and a bus from there to Houma.
What are your favorite things about the area? I still love the opportunities that the area has to offer, although it is a bit different now that you are required to have a license to hunt and fish. I love the sense of community and oneness of the community, the sense of quaintness that the island has (although not as much now that there are a lot of camps and marinas in the area) and the natural beauty of the island.
Why do you think coastal restoration efforts are important and what obstacles do you see hindering restoration? The Gulf is determined to expand. It will take over anything in its way unless there is real interference. It is doing its job. It is doing what it does best which is to destroy. The existing levees cut off sustenance so the marsh can't be nourished. So we are left at the mercy of the Gulf. Manmade canals provide access for saltwater and storm surge to travel further into the marsh, so the storms do not have to be as strong to destroy. The area used to not flood.
The needed sediment for restoration is in the river. We need to pipe or barge it to where it's needed. We need barriers closer to the big lakes. Unless that happens, the inland areas we are protecting now will one day become coast.
What do you fear losing if we don’t take action to restore coastal Louisiana? Seafood. The oil industry. The state and national organizations working on coastal restoration need to help paint the picture for the rest of the nation.
What should people around the country know about efforts to protect this area from another powerful storm that they don’t already know? A Category 5 storm would carry everything to higher land and put us on the beach. There is no stability in the areas.
How do you feel about the suggestion that the people of Isle de Jean Charles move? People don't realize what it means to uproot.
How do you think restoring the wetlands will help the people and economy of the Mississippi River Delta? Areas like the island could begin farming and trapping again. The fur industry could be rebuilt (raccoons and otters, not nutria). The fishing could be improved through increased health in the estuaries.No Comments
Whitford (Whit) Remer is the new policy analyst for Environmental Defense Fund’s Mississippi River Delta Restoration project. In this role, Whit works to advance EDF’s federal coastal restoration policy goals. His key responsibilities include monitoring and responding to congressional developments, securing adequate funding for restoration efforts and preparing research to help increase public and decision-maker awareness of restoration efforts.
Whit comes to Washington, D.C. by way of New Orleans, where he'd lived since Hurricane Katrina. During his time in New Orleans, Whit was engaged in numerous recovery efforts in city, state and coastal realms. He was recognized by former Mayor Ray Nagin for his work on the New Orleans Master Plan and Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance, served as a member of a water management think-tank and was a lead staffer on dozens of post-Katrina conferences and symposiums.
Whit holds a B.S. in Geography and Political Science from Florida State University, an M.U.R.P. (Master’s in Urban and Regional Planning) from the University of New Orleans and a J.D. with an Environmental Certificate from Loyola University New Orleans College of Law. To Whit, the choice to pursue advanced degrees in New Orleans following the storm just made sense. “I knew after finishing my undergraduate studies, I wanted to elevate those degrees to the next level,” says Whit. “I thought to myself, ‘what better place to study environmental law than the Gulf Coast and urban planning in post-Katrina New Orleans?’ ” Little did Whit know that in his last year of law school, the Gulf Coast would witness the worst environmental disaster in the history of the nation–the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. “It’s really quite interesting; I was packing up my things in New Orleans, heading for D.C. to work for the EPA when the spill happened. To be able to experience the impact of the spill in New Orleans, but then turn around and have the opportunity in D.C. to help repair some of that damage is very rewarding.”
Whit is excited to join EDF and the rest of the Mississippi River Delta Restoration team!No Comments