Horn Island and the Islander: artist Walter Anderson

Windswept Horn Island dunes at sunset.

Nat and I began our eight-mile crossing of Mississippi Sound by kayak in late afternoon sunlight. Our destination—Horn Island, a 12-mile-long barrier island parallel to the Mississippi coast—was somewhere out of sight just beyond the horizon.

I paused a short distance from shore
to adjust our GPS, which was hard to see in its cumbersome waterproof case. But I didn’t want to end the day navigating in the dark, so I gave up fussing with equipment and we kicked into high gear, trusting that the island would soon come into sight and that the compass and large navigational chart folded in Nat’s waterproof map case would provide whatever backup guidance we needed.

Walter Anderson self-portrait, Horn Island crossing. Used with permission from the Walter Anderson Museum of Art, courtesy of the Family of Walter Anderson.

In another time—always alone, certainly without GPS, and in a small rowboat less seaworthy than our kayaks—the same crossing was made repeatedly in all seasons and every kind of weather by an artist named Walter Anderson. Using his overturned rowboat for shelter, Anderson spent weeks at a time on the island, where from the early 1940s to his death in 1965 he sought an intimate, ecstatic experience of nature that he captured in thousands of vibrant watercolors made on typing paper. He came to know the island as much on its own terms as he could bear. From his stories in the posthumously published and beautifully illustrated book, The Horn Island Logs of Water Inglis Anderson, he could bear a lot—including his endurance of a hurricane while lashed to a tree.

We could see the tip of Petis Bois ("little woods") Island, on the eastern horizon from our Horn Island campsite.

We had been looking forward to our own intimate encounter with a barrier island from the start of our journey. The string of islands that run parallel to the Mississippi coast about ten miles off shore, managed by the National Park Service as the Gulf Islands National Seashore, offered a highly recommended destination that we had admired from above in our coastal overflight (click here for a photo gallery from an earlier blog post). With our time winding down in bustling New Orleans, we set aside three days for our own barrier island retreat, approached at sea level.

As they have often done in past storms, the Mississippi Sound  barrier islands gave some protection to the mainland by absorbing the full brunt of hurricane Katrina. The force of that impact almost obliterated the Chandeleur Islands to our west, which suffered a direct hit, while Horn Island lost extensive stands of trees. This kind of destruction followed by slow regeneration, and the constant erosion and rebuilding of the islands as they’re swept by Gulf currents flowing from east to west, are part of the islands’ dynamic natural cycle. The insult of last year’s sludge from the BP oil spill was not. Also, cottages and condos found lining the beaches on most accessible barrier islands along the Gulf coast usually don’t take into account the dynamic forces of change that are essential to their nature. Common attempts to retain beaches where they happened to be when people built their dwellings are ultimately counterproductive (for more on this subject, see the Living with the Shore book series, edited by coastal authority Orrin Pilkey).

We were happy to find Horn Island beautiful and teaming with life. Osprey were nesting in the bare trees and shore birds, pelicans, and gulls populated beaches that had been scrubbed clean of oil. The dunes had plentiful shrubs, rabbits, and the sea oats and other grasses that make wonderful patterns in the fine-grained, snow-white sands when they’re blown by Gulf breezes. And, as Walter Anderson noted often, when the wind didn’t blow and in sheltered areas there were healthy populations of gnats and some mosquitoes. We didn’t come across the poisonous snakes and alligators he met with frequently.

Click here for a Horn Island photo gallery.

Based on our blissfully quiet three days on Horn Island, I would highly recommend a visit to one of the islands of the National Seashore, which are accessible via excursion boats as well as kayak (the helpful, friendly folks at South Coast Paddling offer guided trips), or rowboat. You should also visit the Walter Anderson Museum of Art in Ocean Springs to see what Horn Island inspired in one of the south’s most gifted and sensitive artists.

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Posted in BP Oil Spill, Gulf Culture, Natural Resources, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Mulch mania: Dean Wilson’s battle for the Atchafalaya cypress

Dean Wilson cookin up fish, and big trouble for illegal cypress loggers

On Saturday, Dean Wilson was frying a small mountain of fish in the kitchen of his tiny bayou-side house with its wood-burning stove and rusting tin roof. A few chickens and a rooster were pecking around outside beside his johnboat and trailer and among the hunting and fishing gear scattered about. A small cypress tree in his front yard was adorned with Spanish moss.

A group of twenty or so hungry visitors (participants of a Bayou Sorrell
paddling tour that Dean just led) hung out on the tiny front porch and clustered around the dining-room table, beers in hand. Dean single-handedly breaded each morsel of fish and dropped it in the bubbling fry pan. I kept wondering why he didn’t just dump all the fish in the bowl of corn meal, stir them up, and be done with it. But he kept up his methodical pace, morsel by morsel, for several hours. Continually distracted from his work by friendly banter and a steady stream of questions from his guests, he persisted until the last of the group could eat no more.

Deans place, with chickens.

The way he breads his fish is pretty much the way Dean has gone about saving the cypress trees of the Atchafalaya Basin—with patient determination. It’s a remarkable David-and-Goliath story of an imperturbable, scrappy guy battling well funded, powerful corporate and political interests—a fight he has undertaken at some personal risk (his dog was poisoned and his wife and child live miles away due to the violent threats against him). It’s also a story that, for the moment, is turning out well for the trees and the remarkable ecological, social, and economic benefits they bestow.

Dean as Atchafalaya newcomer (courtesey, Dean Wilson)

Dean grew up in Spain, born to a Spanish mother and an American father (you can hear the Spanish accent, liberally spiced with Cajun). He came to the Atchafalaya at age 22 as a way to acclimatize himself to the “heat and bugs” before venturing into the Amazon where he wanted to work with an environmental group. Completely lacking wilderness skills, initially unwelcomed (threatened, actually) by his new neighbors, he took a liking to the place and never left.

He made ends meet as a commercial fisherman for 15 years, until in the early 1990s he became aware that logging of whole cypress trees for mulch was being encouraged by the state of Louisiana. Great mulch can be made from the rot-resistant wood of older cypress, a quality that also made the trees wonderful for lumber, which brought about the original clear-cutting of the swamps. Here’s a short clip from the 1920s, posted on YouTube by the Forest History Society, showing original harvesting methods:

Old-growth cypress, Bayou Sorrell

No large stands of virgin Louisiana cypress remain, though the clusters of individual trees, some over 1,000 years old, send the imagination soaring as to what Louisiana’s coastal swamps once looked like. For a tantalizing glimpse, check out this extraordinary photo gallery by photographer David Chauvin, who was also on our trip with Dean.

After the original harvest, a little less than half of the 2 million acres of virgin cypress regenerated in the swamps, where they have continued to provide ecological services that have been valued at some $6.6-billion annually. These include robust hurricane protection for coastal communities, habitat for birds that supports birding and ecotourism, and perpetuating ecological conditions in swamps that are important for commercial and sport fishing and hunting. The one-time value of the trees as mulch is about $3.3 billion. When logged today, most of the cypress won’t regenerate for several reasons, including overwhelming competition from the Chinese tallow tree, an invasive species that can grow as much as ten feet-per year.

Dean began leading swamp tours to raise awareness of the threat to the cypress, which really ramped up in the late 1990s. The logging was mostly on private lands and was legal, as long as road-building permits were sought. The permits required minimum impacts and mitigation for destruction of wetlands. Rather than incur these expenses, the loggers routinely didn’t seek permits and operated very quickly. Finding their operations in the dense swamps in time to stop them proved next to impossible.

Then Dean dug in. He formed an organization, the Atchafalaya Basinkeeper, affiliated with the Riverkeeper Alliance founded by Robert Kennedy Jr., which gave his efforts organizational strength. He also learned about a nonprofit group, Southwings, that organized the services of volunteer private pilots to provide aerial reconnaissance of environmentally threatened areas. Dean was able to find and document illegal aspects of logging operations through aerial photography. He also enlisted volunteers to follow logging trucks from harvest sites to mulching plants.

Deans photo evidence (from left): illegal logging road, product claims of sawmill byproduct, log being fed into mulcher

Over his fried fish, he told a sobering tale to our group about a photography outing to a mulching facility where he was able to get pictures of the operation, including mulch bags claiming the “sustainable” mulch was made from “sawmill by-product.” Though the workers gave him access to the plant, he eventually confronted a very angry security guard and escaped while being lead to a remote corner of the facility by to “answer a few questions.”

With evidence of illegal logging in hand, Dean then went to the big retailers who were selling the mulch. Walmart areed to stop selling Louisiana cypress mulch, while Lowes and Home Depot followed suit by agreeing not to sell cypress from coastal Lousiana. He also successfully made his case to the EPA and the industry group representing the mulching industry, which was displeased that it had been lied to by their own members as to the source and harvesting practices of their product. Subsequent law suits brought by the Atchafalaya Basinkeeper against the loggers have virtually shut down the practice—at least for now. Dean is quick to point out, however, that only a single logging operation—the only one that cooperated with the Government—has complied with restitution requirements. This places companies who try to make things right at a competitive disadvantage compared to their less ethical peers.

Dean knows the fight isn’t over, in part because he doesn’t expect the logging companies to give up. Also, his struggle is a battle in a larger war against other, even larger forces that threaten the incredible cypress forests of south Louisiana: subsidence (the natural sinking of the delta, made problematic by the levee system that starves the delta of land-building sediment from annual Mississippi River floods) and from salt water intrusion from rising seas and the labyrinth of canals criss-crossing the swamps to service gas and oil rigs. Increasing salinity of delta waters creates ecological havoc on the cypress and other key species.

We can each do our part by avoiding the purchase of cypress mulch—there are plenty of good alternatives. The Atchafalaya Basinkeeper also welcomes our membership support at http://www.basinkeeper.org.
Thankfully, Dean isn’t going anywhere, and he’s still clearly got plenty of fish to fry.

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‘Alligator mississippiensis’ and my reptilian brain

When I encountered our fiftieth alligator (give or take) my own reptilian brain woke up with a start.

It was three days ago, when Nat and I were kayaking Bayou LaBranch in golden late-afternoon sunshine.  The surrounding cypress trees had greened up nicely and were hung with silvery Spanish moss. Back-lit by the sinking sun, the trees were luminous—as were the palmetto and wild irises blooming along the banks. You’d never guess we were a half-hour’s drive west-northwest from downtown New Orleans, on a waterway about a mile from a huge petroleum refinery, traversing the dwindling swamplands between Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River. Where we were felt more like my fantasy of the Amazon.

We’d passed a few fisherman early on, but otherwise had this blissfully quiet, silty backwater all to ourselves—except for the extraordinary amount of life just below the surface.  Fish were jumping and making frantic ripples on the surface as they skittered away from us. The eyes and head of an occasional gator rose up from the murky waters to see what we were up to, and then sank out of sight. We were used to that.

We also were used to seeing gators sunning themselves on the banks—absolutely motionless. Their stillness was eerie, as if they were feigning death, or enlightenment (that sly, knowing smile…), or living somehow in geologic time—though we had witnessed a couple of seemingly comatose gators lurch with lightning quickness to snap up a passing snack. That was a little unnerving.

The half-dozen seasoned swamp paddlers we had spoken to assured us that gators rarely hurt humans. Still, there is that Wikipedia article: alligators have the “strongest laboratory bite of any living animal.” Males can grow to 15 feet and more than 1,000 pounds. Females defend their nests, aggressively. And then the kicker, “the alligator tail is a formidable weapon that can easily take a person down and break their bones.”

I was sidling up to the bank to take a picture of a plant growing from a dead cypress knee. Throughout the Mississippi Delta cypress are dying from salt-water intrusion caused by various human endeavors, including a rising sea level exacerbated by climate change, lack of sedimentation due to the extensive levee system, and the mazes of channels built for servicing oil and natural gas rigs (for more on cypress, see the earlier post, Beneath the Cypress Dome).

The back-lit leaves of a plant taking root in the knee of a dead tree that would have been capable of living for 1,000 years got my interest. In the moment, I forgot some good advice about paddling in gator country given by one of the seasoned paddlers we’d spoken to: approach the bank straight on rather than sideways.

When I was about a foot away from the muddy bank, something beneath my kayak surged to life. I never actually saw it, but as the gator scrambled to get away from me it gave the hull of my boat a good whack with its formidable weapon of a tale. My left hand was inches away from that all-powerful bite. Suppressing the urge to take flight, I took my picture and continued on down the bayou, heady with adrenaline, my heart racing, and more fully awake than I’d been in some time.

I first heard the term “reptilian brain” from Robert Kennedy Jr.—a term he used to characterize humanity’s baser instincts.  He said civilization’s quest is to elevate us above short-sighted survival instincts—evolutionary holdovers—that direct us to fight or flight, and incline us to thoughtlessly spoil our own nests in the interest of narrow, short-term interests. He was speaking about the kind of thinking, and related bahavior, that took the alligator nearly to the brink of extinction in the 1960s due to overhunting and loss of habitat—the wetlands they call home. Despite the continued decline of southern wetlands, gators have made a comeback, and, like the brown pelican, Alligator mississippiensis is another species-recovery success story.

When I finish this post I’ll be getting ready for tomorrow’s paddle into Devil’s Swamp near the Pearl River along the Louisiana-Mississippi border. It’s reputedly one of the best remaining places to see what the Delta’s legendary swamps looked like not so long ago—a home of giant old tupelo trees and cypress and, I suppose, a good number of gators. I’ll be keeping my eyes open and doing my best to keep my wits about me.

That’s a story for another day. Meanwhile, here’s a video Nat and I posted earlier about an alligator hunt we undertook at the start of our adventure—before we had actually met any. Werner Herzog narrates:

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Louche New Orleans

After a couple of weeks staying here in the Crescent City, I stumbled on a word this morning that fits the place in several ways: louche. This, according to my dictionary, means “disreputable or sordid in a rakish or appealing way.” The word comes from the French (as does so much in New Orleans), where it orginally meant “squinting,” something you may find yourself doing in the bright spring sunshine of the delta, or in a smoky bar, like Cafe Negril on Frenchman Street, where the other night we heard an amazing, frenetic blues harp player blowing his heart out.

New Orleans also is highly improbable (a city built in a swamp), vulnerable (heard about Katrina?), decadent and derelict (from the “Tits and Whiskey” sign on Burbon Street to the constant threat of black mold), and offers a cultural/historical stew (“roux,” I guess I should say) unlike any other place I’ve been in America. Often it feels more like some lost corner of the Caribbean than the USA. As one resident put it after returning from a post-Katrina stint living in Atalanta for a few years, “they really should require a passport when you come here.”

Click here for a New Orleans photo gallery.

Helicopters at the ready, Port Fourchon

Our rich immersion experience has provided fodder for dozens of posts. We’ve toured the post-Katrina cityscape with Steve Nelson, a Tulane geologist who has studied in depth the disaster’s connections between human development, the delta’s complex formation, and the hydrology of surrounding waters. We’ve delved into subsidence (the sinking of the delta and disappearance of its wetlands) with University of New Orleans geologist Mark Kulp. We paddled the Barataria Preserve with two informative National Park Service guides (click here for a photo gallery of that trip). We walked the levee of Bayou Lafourche with its remarkable administrator and master planner, Cajun Windell Curole. We’ve witnessed inspiring wetland restoration work by dedicated school kids under teacher Barry Guillot’s leadership at Wetland Watchers Park. We’ve been up and down the delta with consummate guide Jimmy Delery, who led us on a winding path to Port Fourchon, a bizzare, other-worldly industrial complex serving oil and gas industries near Grand Isle at the very outer edge of the delta’s fast-disappearing salt marsh.

More on all that in the days to come—now the sun’s out and it’s time to go paddling.

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Posted in Coastal Development, Gulf Culture | Tagged | 2 Comments

An oil-spill warrior and a flight along the coast

Orange Beach, AL, with no tar in sight—for the time being, anyway.

For the past year Steve Jenkins has been thinking a lot about beaches. As slicks of BP oil began making their way across the Gulf toward the Alabama shore last April, the staff of his Field Operations Division of Alabama’s Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) went into high gear, and they haven’t stopped yet. No one knows when they will be able to ease up, because no one can predict when the threat of tar balls washing up on Alabama’s pristine beaches will finally be put to rest.

Nat and I caught up with Steve over dinner last week in New Orleans (Note: the long gap since the last post is due to my having spent several weeks back in the frozen north tending to CGEE business followed by some vacation). Steve has been flying to New Orleans in ADEM’s eight-seat Cessna with pilot William Johnston nearly every week to represent Alabama in meetings of the Unified Command, the group that coordinates plans for fighting the spill.  The next day, William took us up in the Cessna so that we could have a look at the coastline for ourselves.

Alabama’s fine-grained, sugar-white beaches—a gift of eroding mica from the Appalachain Mountains—draw the tourists whose spending accounts for thirty percent of the state’s gross sales tax receipts.  This leads Steve to conclude that the economic impact of the spill has been greater on Alabama than even on Louisiana, where coastal wetlands and estuarine fishing areas soiled by BP oil have gotten more media attention. Steve is sure his counterpart from Louisiana would beg to differ.

Alabama's soiled beaches at their worst. Images provided by Steve Jenkins

Through ADEM’s Operation Deep Clean, which we documented earlier (see The Perils of Petrol), Steve’s team has been methodically removing the tar that has washed up on the beaches. As a result, in our own beachcombing and in views of the shoreline from above, the only evidence of the spill we could see were the small tar balls that continue to wash ashore along the breakline, and Steve is proud of the success to date of the monumental cleanup effort. But he continues to worry about the large mats of tar that he said are lurking near shore between sand bars that parallel the beach in many places. These, he said, could be stirred up by heavy storms and hurricanes and continue to tarnish beach sands. He also agrees with assessments that there are still large quantities of oil on the floor of the Gulf near the site of the Macondo wellhead, which is the source of the BP disaster (interestingly, the name Macondo is also that of a cursed town in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel One Hundred Years of Solitude).

While we saw no evidence of the oil spill, our coastal overflight revealed some of the myriad ways that human activities have altered environments along the shore. Patterns emerge that you’d never see from ground, of both the wonderful asymmetries and irregular shapes nature has created, and the striking geometries of human enterprise.

Click here for a gallery of coastal images from the air.

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The Whooping Cranes of Aransas: a Survival Story

To watch whooping cranes methodically pluck blue crabs from a salt marsh along the Texas Gulf coast with their long beaks is to stand close enough to the precipice of extinction that you could almost throw a rock into the void. The continuing plight of these supremely elegant, brilliantly white birds—the tallest in North America—offers an amazing tale of nature and society in tangled collision. Extraordinary efforts have so far saved them from ourselves, and if we continue to succeed in pulling this one off, we’ll really have something to celebrate.

By 1941, the entire species, whose population may have once numbered as high as 10,000, was reduced to an all-time low of 16 individuals, primarily due to habitat loss and hunting. The surviving birds included four females who funneled the species’ genetic stock to the 500-plus whoopers alive today, as a whole still the most endangered of the world’s 15 species of cranes. This lonely little flock migrated between summer nesting territory in Wood Buffalo National Park in far northern Canada (the exact location a mystery for decades) and their wintering grounds along the Intracoastal Waterway at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, just east of Corpus Christi, Texas.

Today, folks come to Aransas NWR from far and wide each winter to see the birds in their natural habitat. I made the trip last week, on a hiatus from my travels in the eastern Gulf, for the annual Whooping Crane Festival based in Port Aransas. I came to see some of the 281 whoopers spending the winter there, and to begin making plans and gathering images for a new whooping crane educational multimedia program.

Click here for a waterfowl and whooping crane photo gallery
from Port Aransas and the Aransas NWR.

The whooping crane has been pulled back from the brink through a determined and complex series of trial-and-error experiments in biology, ecology, land-use management, inter-species bonding, and the use of ultralight airplanes masquerading as migrating whoopers. The latter strategy, used successfully to reintroduce flocks of captive-raised whoopers in the eastern U.S. to a historic migratory route between Wisconsin and Florida, has received quite a bit of media attention. So did pioneering efforts by George Archibald, co-founder of Baraboo Wisconsin’s International Crane Foundation, to bond with a whooper named Tex so that she might become the first captive female to successfully reproduce.

A captive whooping crane at the International Crane Foundation

Archibald spent nearly three years in close daily proximity with Tex. He learned the steps of the whooping crane courting dance, performed his part when the time was right, and, with the help of artificial insemination, Tex was eventually wooed into fertility.  The night before Archibald was scheduled to appear on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in 1982 to tell his remarkable tale, Tex was killed by a racoon that got into her cage. Public support for the whoopers’ cause sharply increased when Archibald shared his poignant story with the viewing audience.

From the decks of the whooping crane tour boat we saw about 30 whoopers altogether, going about their business hunting for the main staple of their diet—blue crabs—and paying no attention to us or the occasional barge chugging along no more than 20 yards away.  At one point 18 whoopers came into view, and our seasoned naturalist guide declared excitedly that he’d “never seen so many whooping cranes in one place in his life!”

The biggest threat to the whoopers at Aransas is an exact parallel to the situation facing the oysters of Apalachicola Bay: insufficient fresh water entering the estuary. Reduced freshwater flows due primarily to upstream human consumption diminishes the crab population, especially during drought years. Whoopers who don’t get enough nutritious crab to eat are less healthy for their long spring migration northward and less likely to reproduce.

Our guide shared another concern that worried him: many of the barges that cruise through the cranes’ wintering grounds on a narrow Intracoastal Waterway channel carry petrochemicals. A bad spill at the wrong time and place could be disastrous. Also, projected sea-level rise due to climate change poses a threat to the coastal wetlands that the whoopers occupy each winter.

There are many more parts of the whooper’s story worth hearing. For now, I’ll close with the irony that their extreme rarity coincides with the burgeoning population of North America’s other crane species, the sandhill crane. Sandhills, which have been used as surrogate parents in efforts to bring back the whooper, are the world’s most populous cranes. You can see astounding numbers of them each spring along a 60-mile stretch of the North Platte River in central Nebraska—where the occasional whooper can also be spotted—in one of the world’s great migration spectacles. Here’s a short video made from two visits to the Audubon Society’s Rowe Sanctuary near Kearney, Nebraska, celebrating that unequalled event:

On March 11 I’ll be headed to the Mississippi River delta for the next phase of the 3rd Coast Connect adventure. One event I will be looking forward to is the planned release of a new flock of whooping cranes at the White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area west of New Orleans. These birds will be reclaiming habitat where a non-migratory flock of Louisiana whoopers once made their home. Hunting and other human encroachments on their territory dwindled their numbers to the point that a hurricane wiped out the last of them in the 1950s. It will be good to have them back.

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The Apalachicola Water War

As they say out West, “whiskey’s for drinkin’ and water’s for fightin’.” Well, the same folk wisdom has applied in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) river system since the 1980s, when the upstream neighbor, Georgia, wanted to start taking even more water from a heavily used river system that is important to downstream communities and the ecologically significant Apalachicola Bay.

Apalachicola Bay, at the downstream end of water conflicts between Georgia, Alabama, and Florida.

The ACF water war raises interesting questions about fairness between people, the importance of ecological services for humans, and the value of natural systems in their own right. This is ground we covered in 2004 in the Waters to the Sea: Chattahoochee River multimedia learning program. On this trip, our interview with Dave McLain of the Apalachicola Riverkeeper shed light on how, since 2008, grass-roots stakeholders have been finding common ground for bringing about equitable solutions. This offers new hope to a beleaguered process that has the three state governments in litigious gridlock.

For background, here is a short video from Waters to the Sea about the dams of the Chattahoochee River, which control how much water is allowed to flow downstream:

The main friction points over water in the ACF basin could be summarized like this: at the upstream end, Atlanta’s growing population of nearly four million gets most of its water from the Chattahoochee. The river forms the Georgia-Alabama border farther downstream, where municipalities and farmers want to assure that upstream use leaves enough water for human consumption, industry, and agriculture. The 350-mile Flint River, which joins the Chattahoochee just above the Florida state line, flows through an agricultural basin where groundwater is heavily tapped for irrigation. The Apalachicola River, formed by the merged Chattahoochee and Flint rivers, meanders 100 miles across the Florida panhandle through a sparsely populated watershed in a channel that was managed by the Corps for many years to allow commercial boat traffic. Dredging operations to keep the channel open have damaged spawning grounds for migratory fish. Finally, in Apalachicola Bay, oysters and other species need regular pulses of fresh water from the river, which have been disrupted by water uses upstream—this being the most critical issue impacting the ecological health of the bay.

Audio clip from interview with Dave McLain
In the following clip, McLain talks about the progress that has been made by key constituencies up and down the ACF basin through the grassroots ACF Stakeholders group, which is working to find sustainable solutions that balance “economic, ecological, and social values.”

In talking with McLain and others, certain persistent questions kept bubbling up to the surface:

  • Is access to fresh water a basic human right, as is the air we breathe?
  • How should the quantity of water in a river be divided between upstream and downstream communities and what are the best ways of working out these arrangements?
  • How should water be allocated to support the natural communities within a river’s reach?

What do you think are the best ways to approach these timeless questions?

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Posted in Water Issues | 2 Comments