Posts Tagged ‘Louisiana’

A Blind Eye to Flooding – No More Excuses

September 2, 2016

By Alison Jones, No Water No Life Director

NWNL sends our sympathies to those suffering from Hermine’s winds and rains. As this hurricane slashes its way north, we hope for the least amount of flood damage possible.

As 2012’s Superstorm Sandy and August’s Louisiana Floods showed, we have created a bad scenario along our waterways. Our approach to coastal development is probably as much to blame for flooding devastation as is the severe weather due to the warming of our atmosphere by climate change.

Ten days ago NWNL wrote a blog on the Louisiana flooding noting the critical need for green infrastructure in order to mitigate storm impacts. We also urged the adaptation of alternative energies to fossil fuels.

Andrew Revkin, renowned science and environmental journalist, retweeted our blog, saying:   “Super No Water No Life post on hazards with growth in a soggy state.”  Today Revkin’s  New York Times Dot Earth blog details how we’ve lost awareness of the reality and the raison d’etre of floodplains and wetlands.

Our coastlands and riverine corridors are meant to filter and absorb both floodwaters and their nutrients.  They are meant to be nutrient-rich ecosystems for flora and fauna, that in turn support human needs.   The water’s edge was never meant to be a platform for tipi’s, trailers, cottages or mansions.

Indigenous builders respected Nature’s rhythms and whims. Their homes were simply-built and often mobile. If destroyed, their ruin did not pollute land or water with masses of chemical or plastic debris. The French, who settled in Creole communities up and down the Lower Mississippi River 200 years ago, also paid attention to the realities of flooding rivers and deltas. They knew better than to rebuild time and time again in flood paths.

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Missouri: St Genevieve, the Creole Green Tree Tavern, surviving Mississippi River Flood of 1993.

This summer NWNL cruised New Jersey’s Sandy Hook inland waterway – the lovely Shrewsbury and Navasink Rivers. It was shocking to see that this spit of land, like so many, has been completely re-built since Sandy’s whiplash destruction.

Those of us on this NY/NJ Baykeeper cruise cringed to think what would happen when the lapping waters of August next jumped over relatively minimal breakwaters and seawalls. We are cringing again this weekend. If not this weekend, when?

A Nameless Louisiana Flood: Tragedy and Case Study

August 22, 2016

By Alison M. Jones

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No Water No Life’s thoughts are with all who’ve lost so much in Louisiana, particularly in eastern Baton Rouge. In our 5 watershed expeditions in the Lower Mississippi River Basin, we have learned much about flooding. This essay analyzes the history, causes and devastating effects of high-water events in Louisiana, and all floodplain areas. We believe the solutions involve us all.

FLOODPLAINS  Approximately 1/6th of Louisiana’s acreage is bayous, lakes, swamps and rivers. Southern Louisiana is a floodplain. As one sign says, “It’s called a floodplain because it’s plain that it floods.” It is perfect habitat for turtles, waterfowl and bald cypress trees.

Periodically, a rain-swollen Mississippi River or hurricanes bring floods. This month’s catastrophe was due to an “inland, sheared tropical depression.” Those most impacted  are not turtles, waterfowl or swamp cypress. They are humans.

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A RIVER TOWN  Baton Rouge, the first bluff north of the Mississippi River Delta, was settled circa 1,200-6,000 BC.  The Native American Mississippian  hunter-gatherers used the river and this flood-safe bluff to trade throughout the Mississippi and Ohio River Valleys. Europeans followed and established Baton Rouge in 1699. Since then, families, communities and industries on and around the bluff have both thrived and suffered because of water.

The Mississippi River has driven Baton Rouge’s economy since its busy steamboat days. River transport made Baton Rouge a major U.S. industrial and petro-chemical center. The Port of Greater Baton Rouge is the 10th largest port in shipped tonnage. Now this port is handling the new Panamax ships to carry even greater amounts of grain, crude oil, cars and containers.

But with these benefits of the river – and the rains that feed it – come floods. The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 affected 630,000 people. Herbert Hoover called it the “greatest peacetime calamity” in U.S. history. More devastating floods occurred in 1973, 1983 and 2011. The May 1995 Louisiana Flood dumped up to 20” of rain, causing over $3.1 million in damages. Each time, personal and economic damage has affected Louisiana and the U.S.

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SOGGY FOUNDATIONS and POOR PLANNING   For centuries, floods have swept away buildings, businesses, crops, and human lives. Whether a columned plantation or colorful trailer, the loss of a home entails the loss of investments, lifestyles and irreplaceable intangibles from family photos and holiday décor to BBQ patio moments.

Some say that everyone lives in a flood zone. Perhaps. But certainly flooding impacts are spreading wider. TV commentators of this 2016 Louisiana flood simply say the water has nowhere to go. Why?  New land development has created greater floods since construction has diverted natural runoff paths. As economies and populations grew, housing booms focused more on needs than risks. Developers covered wetlands and built on flood plains. Thus, urban and suburban development extended flooding beyond designated zones on FEMA maps.

Could that have been stopped? In the 1990’s and 2000’s Baton Rouge became one of the fastest-growing cities in the South. From 2000 to 2010 Baton Rouge’s population grew by about 33%. Ironically, in 2005 Hurricane Katrina flood refugees from New Orleans fled north, further causing Baton Rouge’s population to surge.

In hindsight, zoning regulations should have been stricter forty or fifty years ago. Wetlands should have been protected. Sprawl should have been addressed and discouraged.  These measures can still be instituted; and rebuilding on soggy ground can still be regulated.

FACING THE WEATHER  How can southern Louisiana and other low-lying regions mitigate, if not protect, impacts of future floods? Engineers, government, low-lying communities and all of us must face predictions of continued record-breaking rainfalls and increasingly high moisture levels in our atmosphere. Such extreme weather events used to be rare, often over 500 years apart. But since last May, eight similar, flood-producing heavy rainstorms have occurred in the U.S., according to meteorologist Eric Holthaus. If indeed this is a “classic signal of climate change, as claimed by Climate Nexus, we must implement immediate remedies.

PREVENTION  Possible solutions are big and small in scope. They can come from top-down and bottom-up efforts. We hear on TV that homes should be rebuilt on higher foundations. The reality is they should be rebuilt elsewhere. That’s the big solution: a complex and expensive remedy needing brave leadership and community commitment. It has been done. After severe floods in 2007 and 2008, Gays Mills, Wisconsin, is now moving its residences and commerce uphill from the Kickapoo River Floodplain. But Gays Mills is a much smaller community than eastern Baton Rouge, and it has taken almost a decade to accomplish and fund.

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MITIGATION  Louisiana and other floodplains can take steps smaller than relocation that will at least mitigate flooding effects. Small acts of sustainability really can lessen the impacts of flooding.

–Roads and parking areas can have porous surfaces, allowing water to seep through.

–Zoning can limit impermeable surfaces for renovated and new development.

–More trees can be planted so their deep roots can absorb excess waters.

–Rain gardens, bio-swales and other green elements can be implemented in residential, commercial, industrial and institutional settings to help absorb and divert run-off.

–Artificial wetlands can be built and existing wetlands saved so nature can again fulfill its role of storing floodwaters.

–Flood maps can be updated for today’s extreme weather.

These mitigations apply all across the country beyond already known flood regions! While global warming may seem like a slow climb up an endless ladder, its effects periodically pull that ladder right out from under us. Some of those moments have names like Katrina, Sandy and Irene. Some events are nameless but just as devastating, as Louisiana now knows.

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FOSSIL FUELS AND FLOODS   Beyond community-based mitigation, there is one major remedy that involves us all. Industrial emissions from across the globe – and even from Baton Rouge plants on the Mississippi River – contribute to climate disruption and the intensification of storms such as Louisiana’s 32-inch downpour this month. Ironically, Louisiana is a state known for its oil and gas industries – and for its floods. Fossil fuels and floods are co-joined in Louisiana, creating a cause-and-effect cycle.

Beyond Louisiana though, our national dependence on fossil fuels makes all of us partly responsible for the losses in Baton Rouge’s flood this summer. Our heavy use of cars and often-excessive consumption contribute to carbon emissions that indiscriminately hurt us all. We can cut back to essentials! Also you can join NWNL in following and sharing news of clean-energy technologies, including “Bladeless Wind Turbines” and solar highways producing crystal-powered energy.

OUR FUTURE   Today, we can all help Louisiana residents with gifts to Red Cross or LEAN – Louisiana Environmental Action Network, a local Baton Rouge organization NWNL has worked with.

Just as importantly, both today and tomorrow, we can all proactively support new, sustainable energy resources.  This will improve the future of existing flood-prone communities from Baton Rouge to Houston; from St Louis to Miami; West Virginia to South Carolina and worldwide.

By supporting measures to stop building in floodplains and efforts to lessen weather-related disasters, we say to Baton Rouge residents that we are one with them – and their children.

 

 

A Voice from the Mississippi River Delta

January 9, 2015

“No fishing. No gardening. No hunting. No land. No fresh water.” Jamie Dardar, in his 
Creole-Indian drawl, noted that below New Orleans, the Mississippi River’s delta is now
 losing one football field of land every hour. Maps are outdated with each wave.

In Jamie’s youth, gardens on Isle de Jean Charles spilled over with tomatoes, okra and
 vegetables galore. Fruit trees filled farmers’ bushel baskets. Wildlife, fish, crabs, shrimp 
and oysters provided the fare for feasts, sustenance and livelihoods.

As a young man Jamie left this paradise to drive 18-wheelers cross-country. But he
 quickly returned to the island’s bounty. Today he’s watching the sea-level rise and intense
 storms reduce his island to nothing. Land subsides as oil and gas extraction leave empty 
cavities. Abandoned drilling channels erode its shores. Oil spills and rusting rigs ruin local 
fisheries. Soil is too saline for crops or trees. From Minnesota on down,
 polluted waters pass dams and levees that retain floodplain sediment that could otherwise
 restore this delta.

The island’s residents now call their home “The Bathtub.” Jamie expects it will be under water 
in two years. He has re-applied to drive 18-wheelers along the Interstates.

“All I know is shrimping and changing gears.”

by Alison M. Jones, NWNL Director

USA:  Louisiana, Venice, Lower Mississippi River Basin, Gulf Coast, Mississippi River Delta, Pointe aux Chenes, shrimp fisherman's overalls hanging to dry

Mississippi River Delta, shrimp fisherman’s overalls hanging to dry

Shrimpin’ in Louisiana – a waning tradition?

October 29, 2014

Shrimp boats are a common sight, but shrimpers and oystermen in the Mississippi River Delta are struggling with decreased fisheries due to oil spills, and changes in water salinity and temperatures.

USA:  Louisiana, New Orleans, Gulf Coast, Mississippi River Delta, Shrimp boats in Buras

USA: Louisiana, New Orleans, Gulf Coast, Mississippi River Delta, Shrimp boats in Buras

Related reading: Louisiana oyster and shrimp industries in serious decline after BP oil spill

 

The Arkansas Delta

September 28, 2014
Waves on the Mississippi

Waves on the Mississippi

Birds in trees in river

Birds in trees in river

The Mississippi, Arkansas and White Rivers irrigate the flat, fertile lands of the Arkansas Delta, as do the many tributaries, bayous and irrigation ditches. Either muddy water or sandy, dry soil is underfoot – nothing in between. But it is the mix of the two that yields the state’s renowned crops of cotton, soy, corn, wheat and rice that is barged throughout the nation – and the world, thanks to the navigation channels of the Mississippi and its tributaries.

Throughout the month of September NWNL will be visiting the Lower Mississippi River Basin and tributaries with a focus on urban and rural resiliency to climate change. Read more about this Lower Mississippi expedition and see more NWNL photos from the Louisiana segment of this expedition depicting Isle de Jean Charles and Parish of St. John the Baptist.

NWNL will be posting more photos from this expedition in the coming weeks on nowater-nolife.org.

Fishing on the Arkansas River

Fishing on the Arkansas River

Cotton field

Cotton field

Brain-eating amoeba in Louisiana’s water

September 26, 2014
Parish of St. John the Baptist, Louisiana

Parish of St. John the Baptist

Naegleria fowleri  (also known as the “brain-eating amoeba”) is a free-living, thermophilic excavate form of protist typically found in warm bodies of fresh water, such as ponds, lakes, rivers, and hot springs. It is also found in soil, near warm-water discharges of industrial plants, and in poorly chlorinated, or unchlorinated swimming pools….

N. fowleri can invade and attack the human nervous system and brain, causing primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM). Although this occurs rarely, such an infection nearly always results in the death of the victim.  The case fatality rate is greater than 95%. [Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naegleria_fowleri]

This parish is like so many other towns we all live in…  Except that in southern Louisiana in September the weather is wicked hot and humid – and there is lots of industry responsible for creating fence-line communities.

New Orleans, Lower Mississippi River Basin, "Petro-Chemical Alley"

New Orleans, Lower Mississippi River Basin, “Petro-Chemical Alley”

(“Fence-line” refers to communities with refineries, gas compression stations and other kinds of industrial operations. These plants put up high wire mesh fences to keep people out of their premises, but those fences don’t stop toxins from entering the air and water of those communities. The term is used by agencies trying to address the resulting health issues occurring due to such toxins.)

New Orleans, Lower Mississippi River Basin, "Petro-Chemical Alley"

New Orleans, Lower Mississippi River Basin, “Petro-Chemical Alley”

The parish government has implemented “chlorine burns” to disinfect the Lions system, which serves over 12,000 people. The School Board has declared an emergency, taking school water fountains offline and putting water coolers in place. The deadly amoeba infiltrates via water vapor in the nose, and spreads to the brain causing severe damage. Residents are getting home water tests and taking precautions when swimming or bathing. Town meetings have drawn large crowds to discuss what can be done in their communities.

Parish of St John the Baptist school sign "Better Schools, Better Futures"

St John the Baptist Parish school sign “Better Schools. Better Futures.”

Related news : http://abcnews.go.com/Health/brain-eating-amoeba-found-louisiana-water-supply/story?id=25160247

http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2014/09/brain-eating_amoeba_in_st_john_1.html

– Posted by Jasmine Graf, NWNL Associate Director

America’s energy leftovers makes its mark

September 19, 2014
USA:  Louisiana, New Orleans, Lower Mississippi River Basin, flight over coastal wetlands south of New Orleans, aerial view of barge carrying uncovered coal, spilling into the Mississippi River

USA: Louisiana, New Orleans, Lower Mississippi River Basin, flight over coastal wetlands south of New Orleans, aerial view of barge carrying uncovered coal, spilling into the Mississippi River

The world’s largest deposits of
“recoverable” coal are in the U.S.

Will we always be exporting coal?

– Posted by Jasmine Graf, NWNL Associate Director

Coal exports threaten human health, aquatic life and degrade natural resources

September 17, 2014

USACE is pulling out of its study of the coal terminal in Portland, Oregon since tribal fishing rights are stopping the process. This is great news, as the Columbia Riverkeeper notes, for the health of the anadromous fish populations as well as human communities in the Lower Columbia River Basin.

But this news puts more pressure on a proposal for a new international coal terminal at the end of the Mississippi River in its Delta where air and water pollution from coal already being exported degrades the lives of those nearby. Unfortunately, Louisiana is one of the states that doesn’t require coal cars or coal piles to be covered. Thus wind blows coal ash off open train cars, conveyer belts and large storage piles in all directions. The levees around the stored piles waiting for transfer onto barges are low and simple earthen structures that are easily breached in big storms….

There are many fewer people to be affected in the Mississippi Delta than in Portland and surrounding communities on the Columbia. So, it’s not likely there can be the coordinated, strong protest that has been ongoing in the Columbia River Basin. Nor are there tribal fishing rights that stand up in court. In the Mississippi River Delta it falls to local shrimpers and oyster fishermen to prove that coal ash in the water affects the health of the fin fish and shellfish populations.

Interesting how what happens in one NWNL watershed affects and relates to another.

USA:  Louisiana, New Orleans, Lower Mississippi River Basin, Gulf Coast, Mississippi River Delta, coal being prepared for export

USA: Louisiana, New Orleans, Lower Mississippi River Basin, Gulf Coast, Mississippi River Delta, coal being prepared for export

 

“They think we’re all gonna drown down here. But we ain’t going nowhere.” – Hushpuppy

September 9, 2014
Isle de Jean Charles

Isle de Jean Charles

NWNL is headed to the “Bathtub!” – The geographic inspiration for the movie, Beasts of the Southern Wild.” As director, Benh Zeitlin put it, “This is the edge of the world.”

Isle de Jean Charles is a sliver of marshland, deep in the bayous of Louisiana – also ground zero for climate change in the US. It is home to Native Americans that live off the land and water, a place of extraordinary biodiversity and beauty, but the Isle de Jean Charles is rapidly disappearing. The environment, history and culture of this coastal region is truly fascinating – Read more about it here.

Keep your fingers crossed that Island Rd ain’t flooded!

I’ll leave you with some Hushpuppy wisdom….

“Sometimes you can break something so bad, that it can’t get put back together.”

“The whole universe depends on everything fitting together just right. If one piece busts, even the smallest piece… the entire universe will get busted.”

“I see that I am a little piece of a big, big universe, and that makes it right.”

Crabbing on the causeway

Crabbing on the causeway

– Posted by Jasmine Graf, NWNL Associate Director

Our 20th Expedition!

August 26, 2014

Please Help Fund the NWNL
Lower Mississippi River Expedition

September 2 – 30, 2014

Baton Rouge Industry on the Mississippi River

Baton Rouge Industry on the Mississippi River

Expedition Route

NWNL will visit the Lower Mississippi River Basin including: New Orleans, The Delta, Baton Rouge, Natchez, Vicksburg, Clarksdale, Memphis and small river towns en route.

Expedition Focus

• Urban and Rural Resiliency to Climate Change.

• Coastal Erosion and Changes in Sediment Loads.

• The Value of Mississippi River Transportation.

• Pollution from Industrial, Agricultural and Urban Runoff.

• Protection of Migratory Birds and Watershed Biodiversity.

• Loss of Cypress, Hardwood Forests and Wetlands.

• Effectiveness of Levees, Locks and Dams, and Floodways.

• Green Infrastructure and Sustainable Resource Management.

Why support a No Water No Life expedition?

NWNL expeditions help raise global awareness of freshwater availability, quality and usage. For eight years, NWNL has returned with interviews, still photos and video imagery from our six case-study watersheds in North America and Africa. This documentation informs and inspires actions that will help insure…
fresh water, for everyone, forever.

Donations to NWNL

Cotton plantation tractor

Cotton plantation tractor

Donations can be made via Pay Pal,
or checks made out to
“No Water No Life”

(to be sent to:

Alison Jones
No Water No Life
330 East 79th Street
New York, NY 10075)

Your support and contributions would be greatly appreciated!

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