Tag Archives: Gulf oil spill

The State of the Gulf Coast Wetlands—Two Years After the B.P. Oil Spill

Since the Deepwater Horizon spill of 2010, dolphin strandings have occurred at an unprecedented high level—over 500 stranded dolphins—one indicator that there is still a major problem in the Gulf (NOAA). Another strong indicator is the accelerated rate of coastal wetland loss in the Gulf as direct result from the impacts of the spill. Prior to the 2010 spill, the state of Louisiana already faced significant coastal wetland loss—about the area equivalent to a football field’s worth of wetlands every hour. Over 1,000 miles of coastal wetlands were contaminated by the oil spill, and despite restoration efforts, the rate of coastal wetland loss is now made more complex by the spill and clean-up process. Efforts to clean up the oil in the marshes, in some areas, depending on the extent of the contamination, have caused further damage to the wetlands. (NWF) A recent report by the National Wildlife Federation, “A Degraded Gulf of Mexico: Wildlife and Wetlands—Two Years into the Gulf OilDisaster” assesses the impacts to sea turtles, dolphins, pelicans, other wildlife and coastal wetlands affected by the B.P. oil spill.

NOAA announced this month that eight Gulf coast restoration projects will begin this year with $60 million earmarked for the work to create marshes, improve coastal dune habitat, restore oyster beds and reefs, and other projects related to the boat industry.  The first phase of the projects will take place in Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida. There is more information about these restoration projects atwww.gulfspillrestoration.noaa.gov and www.doi.gov/deepwaterhorizon

Specific project fact sheets on each restoration project involved in this first phase of the Gulf Coast Restoration, called “Early Restoration,” an effort to get the natural resources back to the state prior to the spill, are available on NOAA’s website.  To learn more about the Gulf Coast Early Restoration efforts underway, go to:http://www.gulfspill

As part of the response to the spill two years ago, a number of organizations and agencies have worked hard to address the critical needs of wildlife that depended on the coastal wetlands that were contaminated or destroyed by the spill. For example, a shorebird habitat enhancement project provided alternative habitat in Mississippi for waterfowl. A sea turtle project improved nesting and hatching on the Texas coast.

The Gulf coast’s diverse shoreline includes mangroves, cypress swamps, fresh and saltwater marshes and mudflats. What’s really at stake here? More than half of the coastal wetlands in the lower 48 states are located on the Gulf coast, which is also where the majority of coastal wetland loss has been occurring.  About 40% of these are in Louisiana. (NOAA) There is an important link between the healthy coastal marshes, their ecological role in serving as a nursery for invertebrates and small fish, and the larger fisheries and their health—which in turn, have a big impact on both the economy and well-being of people along the Gulf coast. In a healthy coastal marsh, the wetland soils and vegetation protect the land from storm surge, reduce flooding and improve water quality in the surrounding watershed. In a coastal marsh that has been contaminated by oil, the vegetation dies and the soil no longer has the ability to hold its position; it becomes more likely to erode during storms and even day-to-day tidal activity. Coastal wetlands are disappearing at an alarming rate, becoming open ocean.

One would think that cleaning up the oil during the response to the disaster would have solved the problem of contaminated marshes. But it doesn’t work that way. The vulnerable wetlands were threatened by the clean-up response methods intended to save them. The tools used to prevent oil from contaminating shorelands, including booms, got stuck in the wetlands.  Other techniques used to remove the oil disturbed and killed vegetation and other living things. Oily mats smothered mudflats and sand removal disturbed the beach habitat. These unintended impacts have been monitored and a number of contaminated marsh studies will help the response teams to evaluate these impacts and clean-up methods. For more information, see this Status Update: Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NOAA, April 2012).

Related blogs:

Gulf Restoration Network (includes photo slide show): Bird’s Eye View: An Earth Day Reflection In Photos Of The Last 2 Years Of The BP Drilling Disaster

Huffington Post blogs and videos of Gulf Oil Spill

Response & Restoration (NOAA) blog

8 Gulf coast restoration projects announced

Environmental Defense Fund blog: ASFPM Agrees: Some Gulf oil spill fines should go to Gulf restoration (Feb. 2012)

For background information on the impact of the oil spill on wetlands and related media over the past two years, visit ASWM’s Gulf Oil Spill Impact on Wetlands page I put together.

Pearl Jam – 20 Years of Environmental Activism (and my Soul Band)

Climbing on a mountain
Floating out on the sea
Far from lights of a city
The elements they speak to me…

Whispering that life
Existed long before greed…
Balancing the world
On its knee…
-1/2 Full, Pearl Jam (Eddie Vedder, lyrics)

The 20th anniversary Pearl Jam album comes out this month. I’ve been listening to Pearl Jam since 1992. In the band’s early days, it premiered at the New York City club, Wetlands Preserved, a music venue that featured performances by activist bands, many with an environmental agenda. Wetlands Preserved served as an environmental activism center from 1989 to 2001. It raised money for local wetland restoration and protection projects in New York. The club was known as a home to activist rock bands, including Pearl Jam, Ani DiFranco, Dave Matthews Band, Blues Traveler and Phish. http://www.wetlandspreserved.com/ Prior to that, so-called “eco-saloons” were unusual. Wetlands Preserved gave many activist bands their start and simultaneously raised awareness about environmental issues. A documentary about the club was released in 2007, directed by Dean Budnick: http://www.brooklynvegan.com/archives/2008/03/wetlands_preser_1.html

Pearl Jam continued to stand up for environmental issues over the last 20 years, most recently, wetland restoration in the Gulf and the B.P. oil spill. They performed in a concert to raise money and awareness about the B.P. oil spill and wetlands restoration in the Gulf, along with about a hundred other activist bands. http://thehill.com/blogs/e2-wire/677-e2-wire/130137-ozzy-pearl-jam-to-obama-stay-focused-on-gulf-restorationThey launched their Oceans campaign, and partnered with the Gulf Restoration Network, with the music video for their song, “Amongst the Waves”http://www.ascap.com/playback/2010/08/Green_Room/PearlJam.aspx The video can be seen here: http://pearljam.com/oceans/ Their campaign calls for fans to clean up beaches, eat fish that has been caught sustainably, to support the Gulf Restoration Network’s work in wetlands, and to rethink dependence on oil by using renewable sources.

Like many activist bands, Pearl Jam’s lyrics speak to social and environmental issues, politics and the human experience. For example their song, “Oceans,” on their album Ten, is a love song with the lyrics: “The sea will rise / please stand by the shore.” The five members of the band are each devoted to environmental causes, especially climate change, deforestation and renewable energy, but other issues, including wetlands. Their Carbon Strategy portfolio lists 9 organizations the band identified as doing innovative work in these areas and the band donated $100,000 to environmental groups in recent years.http://www.suite101.com/content/pearl-jam-environmental-issues-a76811 Pearl Jam’s environmental philanthropy is known internationally and they work closely with EarthCorps and Conservation International, two groups active in over 40 countries.http://www.suite101.com/
 The band also promotes “green touring,” which means they off-set their carbon footprint while on tour. They have been a role model to other bands on how to be a “carbon neutral” rock band.  Here one of the band members, Stone Gossard, discusses this role:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P2W_G07Jv-w Gossard is on the board at the Wild Salmon Center in Portland, OR. http://www.wildsalmoncenter.org/index.php In 2003, the band worked with the Wildlife Conservation Society to protect rainforests in Madagascar.http://www.conservation.org/discover/partnership/corporate/Pages/pearl_jam.aspxThe band also got the Environmentalist of the Year Award in 2007http://www.surfexpo.com/

Their most recent album, “Backspacer,” was named after the turtle they sponsored in the Great Turtle Race of 2009. The female leatherback won the race (she was called “Backspacer”). I had been waiting nearly 20 years for Pearl Jam to perform a mermaid song and I got my wish on this album with the song, “Force of Nature.” The lead singer, Eddie Vedder, is a soul surfer, and he often sings songs about the nature of the sea and our connection to it. For more information about Pearl Jam, visit the band’s website:http://pearljam.com/

There are many other activist bands that carry an environmental message in their music. For a blog on environmental songs, go to:
http://songs-for-ee.blogspot.com/2009/08/environmental-songsa-newscollection.html.  A high school student from southern Maine started the Emission Commission and launched a blog and top-ten list of environmental songs in 2009, including the bands Crosby, Stills and Nash, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and R.E.M.http://planetgreen.discovery.com/tech-transport/emission-commission-environmental-songs.html

A documentary about Pearl Jam will be featured on PBS’s program, American Masters, debuting on October 21, 2011. For the story behind this documentary, go to:http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/05/16/flannel-surfing-pearl-jam-documentary-by-cameron-crowe-gets-pbs-debut/?src=tptw

For the eco-rock video for Pearl Jam’s “Amongst the Waves,” go to:http://www.trendhunter.com/trends/pearl-jam-amongst-the-waves

I waited almost 20 years for PJ to come out with a mermaid song… and they came through with “Force of Nature.”

Hurricane has the trade winds blowin’
A gale force shakin’ the windows in the storm
Shipwreck on the rock that he calls home
With one light on…

Somewhere there’s a siren singin’
A song only he hears
All the strength that you might think
Would disappear, resolving

One man stands alone, awaitin’
For her to come home
Eyes upon the horizon
In dark before the darkness meets the dawn

-Force of Nature, Pearl Jam