Tag Archive for 'Mississippi river'

The Most Ambitious Environmental Lawsuit Ever

Photo retrieved from: www.nytimes.com

“In Louisiana, the most common way to visualize the state’s existential crisis is through the metaphor of football fields. The formulation, repeated in nearly every local newspaper article about the subject, goes like this: Each hour, Louisiana loses about a football field’s worth of land. Each day, the state loses nearly the accumulated acreage of every football stadium in the N.F.L. Were this rate of land loss applied to New York, Central Park would disappear in a month. Manhattan would vanish within a year and a half. The last of Brooklyn would dissolve four years later. New Yorkers would notice this kind of land loss. The world would notice this kind of land loss. But the hemorrhaging of Louisiana’s coastal wetlands has gone largely unremarked upon beyond state borders. This is surprising, because the wetlands, apart from their unique ecological significance and astounding beauty, buffer the impact of hurricanes that threaten not just New Orleans but also the port of South Louisiana, the nation’s largest; just under 10 percent of the country’s oil reserves; a quarter of its natural-gas supply; a fifth of its oil-refining capacity; and the gateway to its internal waterway system. The attenuation of Louisiana, like any environmental disaster carried beyond a certain point, is a national-security threat.

Where does it go, this vanishing land? It sinks into the sea. The Gulf of Mexico is encroaching northward, while the marshes are deteriorating from within, starved by a lack of river sediment and poisoned by seawater. Since 2011, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has delisted more than 30 place names from Plaquemines Parish alone. English Bay, Bay Jacquin, Cyprien Bay, Skipjack Bay and Bay Crapaud have merged like soap bubbles into a single amorphous body of water. The lowest section of the Mississippi River Delta looks like a maple leaf that has been devoured down to its veins by insects. The sea is rising along the southeast coast of Louisiana faster than it is anywhere else in the world.

The land loss is swiftly reversing the process by which the state was built. As the Mississippi shifted its course over the millenniums, spraying like a loose garden hose, it deposited sand and silt in a wide arc. This sediment first settled into marsh and later thickened into solid land. But what took 7,000 years to create has been nearly destroyed in the last 85. Dams built on the tributaries of the Mississippi, as far north as Montana, have reduced the sediment load by half. Levees penned the river in place, preventing the floods that are necessary to disperse sediment across the delta. The dredging of two major shipping routes, the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, invited saltwater into the wetlands’ atrophied heart.”

Read more: The New York Times

 

As Water Level Falls, Concerns About Mississippi River’s Barge Traffic Rise

Photo retrieved from: www.npr.org

“With a gauge at the tricky section of the Mississippi River near Thebes, Ill., already registering a remarkably low water level — and projections that it will fall further in coming days and weeks — trade groups are warning that barge traffic through that part of the river may have to halt completely as soon as next week.

The Army Corps of Engineers, as Marketplace Sustainability reports, continues to move and break up rocks in that stretch of the river in an effort to keep the shipping channel open for about 180 miles from St. Louis to Cairo, Ill., where the Mississippi meets the Ohio River. Traffic has already been slowed. Ships can only pass through at night, when the Army Corps isn’t working.

Reuters notes that the Corps has also “released water from a southern Illinois lake into the river to aid transportation.” But the ongoing drought across much of the nation’s midsection and ice upriver that is slowing water headed downstream mean the situation above Cairo is likely to only get worse.”

Read more: NPR

 

Drought lowering Mississippi River

Photo retrieved from: www.nationalgeographic.com

“At Natchez, Miss., about 60 miles downriver from Vicksburg, the Mississippi is at 12.72 feet, about 49 feet below what was the record high on May 19 of last year.

Mississippi’s Emergency Management Agency director,Robert Latham, said drought conditions are a part of what’s causing the low river level, but other factors also influence.

“When you look back at this past winter, one of the things that impacts us is the snow pack and the melt that causes the fluctuation in the river levels,” he said. “We didn’t have that snow pack that we had over a year ago.”

That snow pack to the west and north often dictates river levels as it melts because the ground at its source is saturated.

“Usually, this is the beginning of low water season, and we’re usually at about 20 (feet) right now,” said U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Kavanaugh Breazeale of the levels at Vicksburg.”

Read more: USA TODAY

 

EPA Sued Over Pollution Petition

Photo retrieved from: www.treehugger.com

“Several environmental groups have filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency alleging the agency failed to approve a petition to lower pollution into the Mississippi River Basin and the northern Gulf of Mexico.

The groups claim that excessive nitrogen and phosphorous pollution into these waters have resulted in the largest North American “dead zone.”

Gulf Restoration Network, Missouri Coalition for the Environment, Iowa Environmental Council, Tennessee Clean Water Network, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, Sierra Club, Waterkeeper Alliance Inc., Prairie Rivers Network, Kentucky Waterways Alliance Environmental Law & Policy Center, and the Natural Resources Defense Council Inc. filed the lawsuit on March 13 in federal court in New Orleans.

The lawsuit concerns the EPA’s July 29, 2011, denial of a 2008 petition submitted pursuant to the Clean Water Act. The petition asked for revised or new state water quality standards and total maximum loads to address excessive nitrogen and phosphorous pollution in the waters of the Mississippi River Basin and the northern Gulf of Mexico.

According to the lawsuit, the excessive nutrient pollution in the waters causes or contributes to a massive low-oxygen “dead zone” in the Gulf and extensive water quality degradation.”

Read more: Legal Newsline

Keeping the Great Lakes great

Photo retrieved from: www.chicagotribune.com

“Biologists worried that the voracious creatures — brought to the U.S. as a means to enhance fish farming along the lower Mississippi River in the early 1970s — could escape from their ponds if floods breached the barriers holding them in place.

Sure enough, years later, the carp escaped and found the Mississippi River a paradise of ample food, ideal conditions for reproducing and few natural predators. At 100 pounds, they were big eaters and prolific breeders and they expanded their territory by moving north.

Now, Asian carp have moved up the Illinois River and are knocking at the door of Lake Michigan.

What is at risk? The Great Lakes contain a huge portion of the world’s fresh surface water — 20 percent. Thirty million Americans depend on the Great Lakes for their drinking water. The $7 billion fishing industry depends on a healthy ecosystem. And of course, there is the priceless enjoyment millions of us experience when we swim, boat, or simply walk near the lakes.”

Read more: Chicago Tribune

 

Raiding the Bread Basket: Use and Abuse of the Mississippi River Basin

Photo retrieved from: www.nationalgeographic.com

“A fleck of phosphorus fertilizer costs a farmer almost nothing. “But that half pinhead per gallon can cost society millions in lost recreational value and cleanup costs,” said Downing, an Iowa State University professor whose water-monitoring group tests 137 Iowa lakes.  “We don’t have lakes that we could point to and say: ‘Here is a pristine lake that has been unimpacted by people.’ ”

You wake up to cereal made from midwestern corn. You slip on cotton clothes, get into a vehicle fueled partly by ethanol and dine later on chicken and rice—all made possible by crops from the Mississippi River Basin, a vast area that stretches from Montana to New York and drains all or parts of 31 states.

The part of the basin east of the Mississippi River largely relies on rain to grow crops; farmers on the west side irrigate much, much more. All told, it’s among the most productive farming regions in the world.

Trouble is, fertilizer that flows from fields (and cities) takes a toll on local waters and eventually reaches the Mississippi River and the economically important fisheries of the Gulf of Mexico, where nitrogen and phosphorus pollution suffocates marine life and has led to a dead zone larger than the state of Connecticut.

What’s Grown

Nearly four out of 10 ears of corn grown in the world come from the Mississippi River watershed. So much corn, soy, and wheat grow here that some communities claim superlatives—Decatur, Illinois, “Soybean Capital of the World;” Sumner County, Kansas, “Wheat Capital of the World;” and Iowa, “Food Capital of the World.” The lion’s share of the country’s corn, grain, livestock, poultry, cotton, sorghum, and soy is grown in the Mississippi basin.”

Read more: National Geographic

 

Zombie Water Projects (Just when you thought they were really dead…)

Retrieved from: www.ducks.org

“But not all zombies are fictional, and some are potentially really dangerous – at least to our pocketbooks and environment. These include zombie water projects: large, costly water projects that are proposed, killed for one reason or another, and are brought back to life, even if the project itself is socially, politically, economically, and environmentally unjustified.

Here are four kinds of zombie water projects that have been repeatedly beaten down for a variety of reasons but that keep rearing their ugly heads. Keep those chainsaws lubed and fueled:

1. Water transfers from the Great Lakes or the Mississippi River or Alaska and Canada to the arid southwestern U.S.

These are perennial favorites: people look at the vast amount of water in the Great Lakes, or flowing down the Mississippi River, or flowing north to the Arctic Ocean and think, gee, what could make more sense than to take that water and move it to where we really need it, like California or Arizona or Las Vegas. After all, we’ve been moving water around since the beautifully designed Roman aqueducts, and even earlier. But most of these mega-projects are zombies – killed off years ago, only to linger, undead.”

Read more: Circle of Blue

 

NOAA predicts biggest dead zone yet for areas of Gulf

Photo retrieved from: www.sunherald.com

“NOAA is predicting a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico along the coasts of Louisiana and Texas this summer larger than any on record, based on the amount of pollution coming down the Mississippi River this spring.

The dead zone has been in existence since the 1970s. It is caused when farm fertilizer and animal waste, washed into the river and flow downstream into the Gulf.

The nutrients feed algae that overgrow, and use up oxygen in the water at the bottom of the Gulf. Starved for oxygen, marine animals either move or die.

It’s an area that has been growing over the years. And federal agencies have made little progress in curbing the amount of nitrogen or phosphorus entering the river.

This year, with twice as much nutrient-filled water coming down the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers, NOAA is predicting a dead zone the size of New Hampshire or New Jersey — 8,500 to 9,400 square miles along Louisiana and Texas.

A zone of our own

But this year, with the opening of the Bonnet Carre spillway, the water of the Gulf south of Mississippi is expected to have a dead zone of its own.”

Read more: Sun Herald

 

 

 

Satellite Images Show Large Sediment Plumes From Flooding

Satellite image shows the large amount of sediment that has been deposited along the coastline and wetlands of Louisiana. Retrieved from: www.cnn.com

“Dramatic satellite images show large deposits of sediment in coastal Louisiana, the receiving end of the massive flooding on the Mississippi River.

The sediment gush has a down and up side in region known for its seafood and delicate wetlands, a federal official said Friday.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and NASA recently provided the stark imagery of the sediment plumes to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Louisiana to assist them with flood response.

“We live in historic times,” said Phil Turnipseed, director of the USGS’s National Wetlands Research Center in Lafayette, Louisiana.

The tan and brown plumes resulted from millions of gallons of sediment-laden freshwater rushing to the Gulf through spillways, river channels and levees.

See flooding map from USGS

A map on the USGS website allows users to call up the plumes and see flood data collected by government agencies.

The opening of the Bonnet Carre spillway caused a sediment plume in Lake Pontchartrain above New Orleans. Another plume resulted from the opening of the Morganza Spillway and flooding on the Atchafalaya River. The third is where the Mississippi River meets the Gulf of Mexico.”

Read more: CNN

 

River crests in Memphis; states downstream prepare

Photo retrieved from: www.ap.org

“The Mississippi crest rolled past Memphis on Tuesday, going easy on much of the city, yet downriver in the mostly poor, fertile Delta region, floodwaters washed away crops, damaged hundreds of homes and closed casinos key to the state’s economy.

In Vicksburg, home of a pivotal Civil War battle, the river was forecast to peak slightly above the record level set during the flood of 1927. Some places were already several feet underwater and the river wasn’t expected to peak here until Saturday.

Wearing rubber boots and watching fish swim up and down his street, William Jefferson stood on a high spot in his neighborhood. He said hasn’t had a hot meal since water started coming into his house a few days ago.

Now, it’s inundated with at least three feet water, as are dozens of other homes in the neighborhood. Nearby, his brother Milton cast a fishing rod.

“At least we can catch something fresh to eat, because we ain’t got no icebox or electricity,” he said with a smile. Then the pair playfully debated about whether they would actually eat anything caught in the filthy floodwaters.

“If you eat a fish right now, you won’t live to see the water go down,” William Jefferson said.

Nearly 600 households had suffered water damage, some more extensive than others, said Greg Flynn, a spokesman for the state emergency management agency. The residences ranged from run-down farmhouses to modest, one-story homes.”

Read more: Taunton Daily Gazette