This area does not yet contain any content.
Get Updates! and Search
No RSS feeds have been linked to this section.

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Entries in RESTORE the Gulf Coast Act (8)

Wednesday
Dec172014

Vanishing Paradise Champions Gulf Coast Restoration

The Gulf Coast was imperiled even before the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010.  

That’s because erosion and saltwater intrusion are destroying wetlands and marshes in the Mississippi River Delta and have been for decades, mostly because of manmade alterations and degradations. In 2009, that realization prompted the National Wildlife Federation and Ducks Unlimited to unite to awaken Congress and the nation to the crisis through the Vanishing Paradise (VP) coalition.

As a result of that serendipitous timing, fish, waterfowl, sportsmen, and coastal communities have a champion in their corner today as BP pays billions for damage inflicted upon the Gulf. With more than 800 fishing and hunting businesses and organizations supporting its mission, VP wants that money used to restore and enhance those wetlands and marshes, as well as mitigate the environmental damage done by the oil spill all along the coast.

“We engaged heavily to get anglers and hunters to Washington, D.C. to talk to their legislators and help pass important legislation,” said Steve Bender, VP director. “And it worked. We delivered the RESTORE Act.”

A volunteer Advisory Council and Conservation Pro Staff deserve much of the credit not only for passage of the act but for promoting the campaign and educating the public about the coastal crisis, he added.

The 2011 RESTORE the Gulf Coast Act allocates a portion of the funds equally to the five Gulf Coast states for ecological and economic recovery, and establishes the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council to develop and fund a plan for recovery. It also establishes an endowment that includes funding for fisheries stock assessments and ecosystem monitoring.

“Since then, we’ve been focusing on restoration,” Bender continued. “We’ve been asked to expand our scope (from the Delta) into the Gulf.

“Louisiana already had a master plan. And now that other states are receiving dollars, we are working on getting that money spent on coastal recovery and economic restoration. We have policy specialists in those states, and we’re going to expand angler and hunter outreach.”

Ground Zero for protection and restoration work, however, remains the Delta at the mouth of the Mississippi River on Louisiana’s coast. This vast wetlands area is critical as spawning and nursery grounds for fish and overwintering habitat for much of the nation’s waterfowl. And since the 1930s, an estimated 1,880 square miles of habitat has been lost.

“Given the importance of so many of south Louisiana’s natural assets --- its waterways, natural resources, and unique culture, and wetlands --- this land loss crisis is nothing short of a national emergency, one that takes a daily toll on the lives of coastal residents,” said the state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, which developed the 2012 Coastal Master Plan.

In Louisiana, what it all boils down to is trying to stop the destruction and implement a system that mimics, as much as possible,  the natural process interrupted by development --- a system that will restore wetlands and marshes for fish and wildlife, while providing protection for coastal communities from saltwater intrusion.

Why is this needed? The reasons are many, according to VP, but one of the most significant is that the Mississippi River “has been straitjacketed with huge levees as part of a national program to ‘control’ the river and protect communities and economic infrastructure from flooding.”

But wetlands were built and sustained by sediment delivered by the river, and cutting them off with levees stopped new growth, allowing for saltwater intrusion that kills them.

“Without land-building deposits from the river, the Delta is doomed to continue sinking beneath the water, endangering the people, wildlife, and jobs that depend on these healthy resources,” VP said.

According to the master plan, restoration and protection projects will focus on sediment diversion, marsh creation, bank stabilization, structural and shoreline protection, and hydrologic, barrier island, and ridge restoration. Unfortunately,  proposed diversions have generated opposition from some, who otherwise support the plan. That’s because sediment-carrying sediment, which will rebuild marshes, also will move saltwater species back toward the Gulf.

It’s easy to understand their point of view: They don’t want to surrender any of their fishing grounds, including those created by man’s interference with a natural system. But such a view is short-sighted, since the continued health of both freshwater and saltwater fisheries is dependent on freshwater and sediment. If saltwater continues to encroach, nearly all nursery habitat will be lost and redfish and trout will decline, along with bass and catfish.

“The problem in Louisiana is we’re addicted to salt because that salt brings tremendous benefits in fisheries,” explained Robert Twilley, a coastal scientist at Louisiana State University.

Every year, he cautioned, that artificial fishery moves closer to the river than nature ever intended.

Along the Mississippi at Buras, a stark contrast highlights the importance of using freshwater diversions, explained Ryan Lambert, a VP supporter and owner of Cajun Fishing Adventures. On the west side, which receives little to no freshwater, only open water and dead marsh grass remains. On the east side, where freshwater flows, the wetlands are alive and thriving.

In that area, he added, “bass fishermen and redfish fishermen go to the same place to catch fish. From Buras down to the mouth of the Mississippi is the best fishing in North America.

“You can’t just pump in sediment,” he said. “You have to have freshwater too (for sustained fisheries).”

Lambert pointed out that the Davis Pond Diversion, where Kevin VanDam won the 2011 Bassmaster Classic, is no longer a viable fishery because diversion flow has been reduced. “Saltwater has come in and killed the grass,” he said. “There are no bass, no brim, no crappie, no catfish, and no duck habitat. And it’s all because they want to grow oysters there.”

As work goes forward, Bender emphasized that the master plan is not just about diversion and VP wants to work with all stakeholders, including those who oppose that aspect. “We want to limit the impacts on folks who might be hurt,” he said. “We need to find a way to work together.

“But we also feel strongly that you have to let the river do what it does naturally.

“Gov. (Bobby) Jindal has been very supportive of restoration, and we’re hoping that the new governor coming in will be the same,” Bender said. “We have more partnerships on the horizon and a new campaign coming up in Louisiana soon.”

(This article appeared originally in Fishing Tackle Retailer.)

Thursday
Feb212013

Young Pro Staffer Speaks From the Heart for Gulf Restoration

Here’s a report from Vanishing Paradise about the testimony of its youngest pro staff member during a public meeting in New Orleans. He spoke on behalf of restoration for wetlands and other fisheries habitat on the Gulf Coast.  

Nine-year-old Sean Turner waited patiently for his turn to speak. When his name was called, he marched confidently to the microphone in a room packed wall-to-wall with over 200 policy makers, state and federal agency reps, reporters, scientists, and community leaders. His comments were simple and straightforward. 

"I love to fish in Louisiana and I've done it my entire life. It's important that we're able to fish because it means so much to all of us. This is a lot of money we are talking about. Don't mess this up. I want Louisiana's coast to stay here. I don't want to lose it because of some dumb oil spill."

As he uttered the last word of the simple message that came straight from his 9-year-old heart, the entire room BURST.... I mean literally BURST into riotous applause and shouts of support. People followed him out of the room clamoring to share words of thanks, support, and encouragement.

In a room of conservation, legal, scientific and policy professionals, Sean made the most honest and meaningful statement. Subsequent speakers cited his comments as they spoke to the RESTORE council representatives. "Sean said it best. We have to get this right. We have a responsibility to do everything we can to make sure that his generation has the opportunity to experience the Louisiana we love, and to share it with their children. We have to get this right"

I couldn't be more proud of Sean and his mother Marissa. They drove from their home an hour away, on their dime, to make their feelings know and to make a statement for future generations.
And Sean did it better than anyone in the room.

Go here to learn more.

Friday
Jun292012

Senate, House Reach Bipartisan Agreement on Important Fisheries, Conservation Legislation

Once in awhile, both political parties still can agree on something.

According to the American Sportfishing Association:

A bipartisan, bicameral agreement reached on the U.S. Transportation Bill reauthorization is drawing high praise from the nation’s sportfishing industry and the broader recreational fishing community.

The compromise reached by members of the Transportation Bill conference committee includes two measures, the RESTORE the Gulf Coast Act and reauthorization of the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund, that together will have a significant impact on fisheries conservation and habitat enhancement in the United States.

“The importance of this agreement to recreational fishing across the country, and in the Gulf of Mexico region in particular, cannot be overstated,” said American Sportfishing Association (ASA) Vice President Gordon Robertson. “We are extremely grateful that the members of the conference committee were able to reach a compromise that will benefit our nation’s fisheries resources and the anglers who enjoy them for years to come.”

Read the full story here.

Thursday
Mar292012

Shimano Joins Vanishing Paradise Campaign for Gulf Restoration

In signing a letter authored by Vanishing Paradise, Shimano has joined a growing list of notables urging the federal government to support restoration of the Mississippi River Delta.

“Sustainable recreational use by anglers of our natural resources relies on healthy fisheries and the habitat that supports them,” said Phil Morlock, director of environmental affairs for Shimano. “We are pleased to be able to support our friends in Louisiana through this effort.”

B.A.S.S., the Coastal Conservation Association, and the American Sportfishing Association are but a few of organizations on the list. They are joined by Mercury Marine, Lund Boats, Legend Boats, Pure Fishing, Pradco, Avery, Primos, Orvis, Yeti Coolers and many other businesses, as well as pro anglers Mike Iaconelli, Kevin VanDam, and Greg Hackney.

Focus of this campaign is Congressional passage of the RESTORE Act, which would direct 80 percent Water Act penalties from the 2010 Gulf oil spill for ecosystem and economic recovery on the Gulf Coast. Without this guarantee, some politicians would try to divert this money into the general fund, where it would disappear down a black hole of government waste and corruption.

Thus far, the measure has passed the Senate.

“Having Shimano, a household name in the fishing industry, sign this letter shows how much appreciation and understanding there is in the fishing and hunting community for Louisiana’s vital and productive—but rapidly vanishing—coastal habitats,” said Land Tawney, National Wildlife Federation’s senior manager for sportsmen leadership.

To learn more about Vanishing Paradise, Gulf Coast Restoration, and the RESTORE Act, go here.

Friday
Mar092012

Senate Approves Amendment to Help Restore Gulf

 

Ducks Unlimited photo

Great news! With U.S. Senate approval of an amendment, a huge second step has been taken to ensure that funds from the Clean Water Act and other penalties assessed following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill are used to pay for economic and environmental restoration projects in Gulf Coast states. (See Feb. 16 post: Your Help Needed to Ensure Gulf, Delta Restoration.)

In a bipartisan effort, the Senate passed the RESTORE the Gulf Coast States Act as an amendment to the Senate transportation bill. Previously, the House gave voice vote approval of a similar amendment.

"It is so good to see that an outstanding bipartisan boost for conservation can actually occur in this Congress, reaffirming the importance of healthy fish and wildlife resources across this nation,” said Noreen Clough, B.A.S.S. National Conservation Director.

“Senators Nelson, Landrieu, Shelby, and Baucus showed great leadership and stewardship in championing this legislation.  Every one of the more than 500,000 B.A.S.S. members should be celebrating this historic vote for fishing - for habitat restoration, access, infrastructure improvements, and especially for restoration of the ravaged Gulf of Mexico."

The Senate amendment also includes a much needed increase in funding for the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, which provides money to federal, state, and local authorities for acquisition of land and water to benefit conservation and recreation.

“This provision would double current funding levels for the fund to $700 for each of the next two years and reauthorize it until 2022, for a total of $1.4 billion,” the American Sportfishing Association said.

Taken together, if the transportation bill with the RESTORE amendment attached should win final passage, these two doses of conservation funding would represent, by some estimates, the largest boost in conservation funding in American history.”

To learn more, read these stories:

Keep America Fishing.

Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

Vanishing Paradise.

House approves.