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November 2010 coastal scuttlebutt

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Figure 1. Spanish Lake graphic from Heinrich, 2009.

November 14

What’s the deal with Spanish Lake and Alligator Bayou?

Amy Wold wrote an article for today’s The Advocate on the status of a management study of the Spanish Lake Alligator Bayou swamp system that borders East Baton Rouge, Ascension and Iberville Parishes.

The study, long stalled and lacking funding, was undertaken by Ascension and Iberville Parishes, under the regulatory authority of the Corps of Engineers. East Baton Rouge Parish influences and benefits from the basin and should be a local co-sponsor of the study (as should Livingston Parish) but unfortunately, little neighborly coordination on drainage and flood issues, let alone environmental issues, exists between neighboring parishes.*

The Louisiana Geological Survey published a paper on the geological history of this area by Heinrich (2009) from which the above graphic shown in Figure 1 was taken.

Spanish Lake is a bowl of watery landscape just below the Pleistocene Terrace south of Baton Rouge that seems to have been encircled at least 6500 years ago by Bayou Manchac and a paleoriver at the eastern edge of the ancient meander belt of the lower Mississippi River. Figure 2 is a gorgeous map of the section of this meander belt from Port Girardeau, Missouri to Donaldsonville, Louisiana by Fisk (1944). See a link to this study here.

Figure 2. A portion of the ancient lower Mississippi River meander belt from Fisk, 1944.

Spanish Lake is a sump zone that flooded during the spring and partially dried each fall, providing ideal conditions for swamp and bottomland hardwood habitat. Until Europeans immigrants altered its plumbing the system was nourished by several connections to the Mississippi River, all of which have been severed. During historic times its primary source of river water was Bayou Manchac, which was dammed off in 1814.

This original insult was followed by the progressive tightening of a noose of incremental changes to the natural water flow in the basin, choking its life off with piecemeal projects, each designed to accommodate residential and industrial development.

The Spanish Lake basin is a dysfunctional artifact, a shadow of its former self. What is left survived, not because its functional and ecological value was appreciated by the powers that be, but because Section 404 of the Cleanwater Act made development in designated wetlands prohibitively expensive. The basin is urrounded by residents who demand flood protection above all else.

A remnant of the ecosystem could still be restored to health and function – if the political will existed – but the clock is running out.

*The state of Louisiana has no dog in this fight because, although the Spanish Lake Basin is undeniably a functional part of the coastal ecosystem, it lies outside the current official coastal zone. To my knowledge, no one from the office of Coastal Protection and Restoration or the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority has ever mentioned Alligator Bayou, leaving it to be carved up by local parishes and the corps.

November 13

Louisiana barely avoids another embarrassment over evolution

Will Sentell wrote an account for The Advocate that, during a review committee meeting yesterday, ‘controversial’ high school biology and environmental science textbooks were approved by a vote of 8-4, despite the fact that they refer – without apology – to that radical concept known as evolution.

Most concerning from the standpoint of coastal science education is that two key ‘nay’ votes were cast by Senate Education Committee Chairman Ben Nevers, D-Bogalusa and House Education Committee Vice-Chairman Frank Hoffmann, R-West Monroe. One wonders whether either gentleman has been told that the Mississippi River delta is at least 1,000 years older than the 6,000 year age of the Earth as claimed by Young Earth Creationists.

The Shaw Group and ethics issues

Shaw Group headquarters in Baton Rouge

Louisiana voters know very well that Governor Jindal portrays himself as a model of ethical purity and his administration as squeaky clean and transparent, despite his staunch and unflinching opposition to releasing his office records to public scrutiny. An editorial in today’s The Times-Picayune challenges the governor to explain what appear to be conflicts of interest with respect to The Shaw Group, the largest and most politically influential company in Louisiana. This Fortune 500 company has captured a huge array of coastal contracts since Katrina, including the billion dollar Pontchartrain hurricane surge barrier* under construction east of New Orleans.

The headline Make Shaw Group deliver on Hazard Mitigation Grant Program: An editorial made me assume (erroneously) that the editorial called into question the role of the Shaw Group in various coastal projects including lobbying for and participating in the infamous $360 million coastal sand berm deal that has generated so many media stories.

Involvement by the Shaw Group and dredging industry lobbyists in the planning and implementation of this highly controversial project may be totally legal but it smells at least as bad as contracts to elevate houses in south Louisiana. The governor should get behind restoring the authority of a truly independent inspector general.

BTW, I have friends both with Shaw and with large dredging companies in Louisiana.

*Since posting, a sharp-eyed reader corrected my estimate that the largest public works project ever overseen by the Corps of Engineers cost $1 billion. Apparently the estimate is a mere $0.696 billion. Let’s see what the completed cost rounds off to.

November 12

Woldenberg Park, upriver from a new stretch of pedestrian friendly riverbank

Riverfront development in New Orleans and what it symbolizes

Ever since moving to Louisiana in 1973 I have been amazed at how the urban centers of the state have turned their collective backs on the lower Mississippi River, which conveys from a quarter million to well over a million cubic feet of water each and every second past St. Francisville, Baton Rouge, Donaldsonville and New Orleans.

In my opinion, failure to exploit the visceral esthetic and educational value of urban riverfront along the banks of the largest river in North America reflects widespread ignorance among residents of southeast Louisiana re the functional role of the river in creating and sustaining each and every square inch of the landscape they take for granted.

Emilie Bahr is a grad student of urban planning at UNO, a journalist and a freelance writer who resides in New Orleans. She contributed an article for the latest issue of the magazine published by the Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans that may signal a change in attitude about the river. Ms. Bahr described significant progress on transforming a derelict six-mile stretch of riverfront downstream from the French Quarter into a pedestrian-friendly linear park.

LaCoastPost published a feature post in January 2009 on a controversy that temporarily stalled progress on the riverfront park concept. At that time the Port of New Orleans announced plans to develop an industrial frozen chicken processing plant at the Governor Nicholls dock at the foot of Elysian Fields Avenue – squarely in the middle of the prospective park. Public protests eventually convinced port officials to relent and the project is now proceeding, as envisioned by the impressive group of planners and architects who collaborated in its conception and design.

The paramount functional significance of the river was recognized by those who conceived of this park. Their success could help spark a much needed radical shift in the traditional perception of the river. This includes the need for massive changes in river management policy, necessary to save the delta. Hey, I can dream, can’t I?

November 11

Armistice Day/Veteran’s Day

November 11 marks Armistice Day, the end of WWI and the date now symbolizes the return of veterans from all wars. “Happy Veteran’s Day” hardly seems appropriate but if you’re a vet, thank you and have a good, memorable and safe day.

Old Gray Lady still finds Louisiana sand berms newsworthy

On November 4 John Collins Rudolf posted an article in The New York Times Green Blogs on Governor Jindal’s controversial sand berm barriers to block incoming oil. He quoted some of my thoughts about the governor’s announced move to reprogram about $141 million of BP funds to convert hastily constructed temporary sand berms into something more like natural barrier shorelines. It seems noteworthy that mainstream media outlets continue to discuss this concept.

Dodging hurricane bullets in 2010

The end of the 2010 hurricane season was noted yesterday by John Collins Rudolf in another article in The New York Times green blogs on the hurricane bullet that Louisiana and the other Gulf and Atlantic coastal states dodged this season. I doubt that the roughly ten miles of sand berms constructed since June to block invading oil would have survived a more typical storm season. Maybe Momma Nature figured that BP had already given us enough to contend with.

Gulf scientists met to discuss gulf oil impacts

Mark Schleifstein wrote an article for today’s The Times-Picayune on a colloquiem of ocean scientists that was held on November 9-10 at the Mote Marine Lab in Sarasota, Florida. The meeting was held to discuss ecological impacts of the massive oil release this summer.

November 10

Another perspective on saving south Louisiana

Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting with Barry Yeoman, a free lance journalist from North Carolina, who is writing a series of posts on coastal Louisiana for OnEarth.org. a blog produced by NRDC, the Natural Resources Defense Council, a highly respected environmental NGO.

One of Yeoman’s distinguished fellow contributors on the blog is film actor/director/producer and environmental activist Robert Redford. Here’s a link to the blog.

I’m not sure what Barry expected to hear from me about the prospects for saving the Mississippi River delta but I shared some fairly radical thoughts. He may hear more upbeat messages during this current swing through the coast, during which he’ll also be picking the brains of Dean Wilson with Atchafalaya Basinkeeper; Kerry St. Pe’ with the Barataria Terrebonne National Estuaries Program (BTNEP); David Muth with The US Park Service; and others.

November 9

Manganese nodules; a potential new gulf industry in the offing?

William J. Broad wrote an interesting article in yesterday’s The New York Times about the growing global interest in mining polymetallic nodules, usually called manganese nodules, from the seafloor.

These strange brown potato-sized masses scattered around the world oceans at depths of two miles or more have long been known to contain various metals but not in concentrations considered economic. As terrestrial sources of copper, nickel and rare earths dry up, however, the interest is growing. Currently Japan and Korea are ahead of other nations in developing the technology for commercial mining of manganese nodules. One wonders whether the extensive oil and gas and related petrochemical and industrial development along the northern gulf could give the area a leg up on early development of manganese nodule mining.

Science beginning to ‘man up’ to climate change deniers?

Neela Banerjee, with the Washington Bureau of the Los Angeles Times reported yesterday that 700 scientists, represented by the highly respected American Geophysical Union (AGU), are gearing up to fight back against the wave of right wing congressional climate change deniers. Go SNs, beat the IPs.*

*SNs (Science Nerds); IPs (Industry Pimps)

November 8

Dirty gulf oil apparently ‘laundered’ by microbes

Two important science reports are in the news today, both related to the impacts of the 4.9 million barrels of oil released following the Macondo well blowout on April 20, in what amounted to a gigantic. if inadvertent. experiment on the resilience of the gulf coast ecosystem.

1)   WRKF-FM broadcast the thoughts of LSU Coastal Science Professor Jim Cowan on the long term effects on gulf fishery production of the oil and dispersant.

2)   In today’s The Times-Picayune Mark Schleifstein described an important study, headed by William “Monty” Graham, senior scientist at Alabama’s Dauphin Island Sea Lab, in which most of the oil released seems to have been processed through microbes and detoxified, as shown by the powerful tool of carbon isotope analysis, long used to trace the pathways of various sources of organic carbon through coastal food webs.

Texas ‘seceding’ from EPA jurisdiction; will Louisiana be next?

Neela Banerjee with the Washington Bureau of the Los Angeles Times reported yesterday that the State of Texas is claiming de facto independence from EPA’s authority to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant. This position is led by Texas’ newly-reelected climate change denying and secessionist-prone Governor Rick Perry, a big Bobby Jindal booster. One can only assume that Rick and Bobby privately celebrate their states’ status as the nation’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases from power plants, industrial facilities and other so-called stationary sites (TX) and the largest emitter of just industrial gases (LA).

A rational outside observer would think that these neighboring states didn’t include let’s say a trillion dollars’ worth of oceanfront property and that Houston and New Orleans were immune to sea level rise. Arguably the nation’s most notorious and colorful climate change denying pol is ‘jovial’ Jim Inhofe but at least Senator Inhofe has the excuse of representing the hurricane-independent state of Oklahoma.

November 7

Climate change deniers fight to head House energy committee

Brad Johnson posted an article in grist.org profiling the four Republican congressmen who are vying to chair the House Energy Committee formerly headed by Henry Waxman (D-CA).

These four horsemen of the apocalypse are Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) and Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex). All of them vehemently oppose and want to bury the carbon cap-and-trade bill that Waxman and Nancy Pelosi succeeded in passing by a nose during the current, now lame duck Congress. Everyone with a strong opinion on climate change agrees: elections matter!

Iconic New Orleans oyster business on the ropes

Brett Anderson wrote a poignant article for today’s The Times-Picayune on the current bleak situation for commercial oyster production in Louisiana, symbolized by the 135 year old P&J Oyster Company, owned by the Sunseri siblings, Al and Sal. They’re trying to hang on under the worst conditions they’ve faced since the Great Depression, the perfect storm of three factors – the closure of oyster growing areas from oil contamination; oyster harvesters working instead to clean up oil; and river water diversions that helped keep oil out of the marshes, reducing salinity in the areas where the Sunseri bros have long obtained their oysters.

November 6

Sinking deltas of the world

Graphic from Terradaily.com

I just discovered this 2009 article from Terradaily.com about a sobering study of the world’s deltas.

Although I attended only the final day of the recent Deltas2010: World Delta Dialogue conference in New Orleans I found the event particularly noteworthy for two primary reasons: (1) it characterized saving south Louisiana as a deltaic issue; and (2) it spotlighted anthropogenic climate change (ACC) and global warming as a fundamental issue in saving the great deltas of the world, including the Mississippi delta.

Typical coastal workshops and symposia that I’ve attended over two decades have tiptoed around these issues, treating them like political explosive devices (PEDs). I had intended to write a feature post on the conference but time has gotten the better of me.

At any rate, when I was a kid I dutifully attended summer vacation bible school at Melville Methodist-Episcopal (ME) Church in Elkridge, Maryland, where I still remember singing, “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world, red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world.”

Ironically, this was sung by us lilywhite kids, not far from an African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church with all black kids, who may have sung the same song, although probably with more syncopation.

I’d like to offer four additional stanzas as follows:

“Jesus loves the sinking deltas, all the deltas of the world; Chao Phraya and Mekong; ‘fore you know it they’ll be gone; Jesus loves the sinking deltas of the world.”

“Jesus loves the shrinking deltas, all the deltas of the world; Nile and Niger, Ganges, Rhone; they are sinking like a stone; Jesus loves the shrinking deltas of the world.”

“Jesus loves the dying deltas, all the deltas of the world; Yellow, Yangtze, Amazon, they may all too soon be gone; Jesus loves the dying deltas of the world.”

“Jesus loves the precious deltas, all the deltas of the world; Irrawaddy, Mississip, they’re disappearing drip by drip; Jesus loves the precious deltas of the world.”

Enjoy your weekend.

November 5

The Nucor site is perfectly positioned to provide a right of way for a conveyance channel to save the Maurepas swamps

Motiva donates land for people water; would their new neighbor Nucor donate land for swamp water?

The Advocate carries an article today that Motiva Enterprises in Convent has donated a small piece of property needed for the construction of a booster pump for drinking water for local residents. This reminded me that Motiva’s brand new neighbor, the Nucor iron processing plant, which is receiving a huge cash bonus and tax break from the state, would probably donate sufficient land to convey river water to the dying Maurepas swamps at their northeast fence line. Has anyone from the governor’s office approached them on this? See the September 22 feature post on this subject.

Gulf corals affected by oil?

Mark Schleifstein reported today in The Times-Picayune that dying corals have been discovered by an oceanographic research team seven miles from the Macondo well blowout site. Samples are being analyzed to determine whether a brown substance covering some of the corals contains oil residues related to the blowout.

Climate change legislation deader than ever in DC but still alive in California

The only coastal bright spot that I see in the environmental aftermath of the November 2 elections was the failure of Proposition 23 in California, which would have overturned that state’s new energy law that mandates significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. California has taken a courageous bi-partisan lead on this issue, which is great. On the other hand, if the future of US energy and climate change legislation necessary to slow sea level rise depends on state initiatives the coasts of Louisiana and Texas will be underwater before their respective state legislatures even recognize that sea level rise is connected to CO2 emissions.

November 4

CPRA meeting dominated by levee issues

In today’s The Times-Picayune Mark Schleifstein reported details of the status report on ‘Task Force Project Hope,’ the post-Katrina $15 billion upgrade of the hurricane surge protection system for Jefferson, Orleans, St. Bernard and St. Charles Parishes. This report by the Corps of Engineers was the first of two primary agenda items on yesterday’s meeting in Baton Rouge of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA).

The second agenda item involved the highly controversial Morganza-to-the-Gulf project designed to protect lower Terrebonne Parish, a 72 mile long system of levees and gates, which will enclose and damage large areas of vital coastal wetlands. The issue, as described by Amy Wold in today’s The Advocate, was the approval by CPRA of a $6 million dedicated installment of $100 million for so-called wetland mitigation projects, presumably to offset ecosystem impacts of wetlands damaged or destroyed by the project. Wetland mitigation is highly problematic and discredited by many technical authorities. It’s extremely hard to recreate what Mother Nature does best.

Gulf ‘algae not oil’ message hasn’t sunk in to Greenpeace and Huffpost

Faux oil

I found this highly misleading piece in Huffingtonpost continuing the myth that the massive floating brown material discovered in waters near the mouth of the river consisted of weathered oil residues from the Macondo well blowout. This was posted at least a week after the ‘oil’ was shown to be an algal bloom.

The following caption for this photo does not enhance the credibility of either HuffingtonPost or Greenpeace (both of which I normally respect).

Ribbons of weathered oil sit on the surface of the water in West Bay near the mouth of the Mississippi River off the coast of Louisiana October 23, 2010. Nearly six-months after the British Petroleum Deepwater Horizon disaster and just days after the Coast Guard admiral in charge of the oil spill clean up declared little recoverable surface oil remained, these mile long strings of weathered oil floated toward fragile marshes on the river delta. Photo by Tim Aubry/Greenpeace

First Gulf Ecosystem Restoration meeting

The Gulf ecosystem restoration commission established by President Obama will hold its first meeting in Pensacola on Monday November 8. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson chairs the commission. I’ll be anxious to attend the meeting when it’s held in New Orleans and I wonder how the midterm election outcome will affect the performance of this commission.

November 3

What would the GPS voice advise here?

My decision to stay up until after 1:00 AM did not change the outcome of the election, which leaves the nation in absolute gridlock and portends even bleaker prospects for a serious national investment in gulf coast restoration.

The gulf states are now redder and even more partisan, as exemplified by the ouster of Blue Dog Democratic Congressman Gene Taylor in Mississippi. I’m truly perplexed at how the 57% of Louisiana’s Vitter voters can rationalize re-electing the sworn enemy of the first occupant of the White House to support restoring the gulf coast.

The above photograph aptly captures my sense of the situation.

November 2

Election Day

Vote early and often.

Sand berms being transmogrified!

The big coastal news du jour is that, at a Kumbaya meeting yesterday at the Acme Oyster House in the French Quarter, BP agreed to pay $218 million for coastal related projects…including converting the infamous and incomplete sand berms already under construction into barrier islands! Here’s the title and a summary quote from the press release from the governor’s office:

Governor Jindal Announces Agreement with BP for Seafood Safety, Coastal Restoration & Tourism Funding.

Specifically, the BP agreement includes $48 million for seafood safety and testing efforts, $140 million for sand berm and barrier island restoration work, and $30 million to help Louisiana’s tourism industry.

Mark Schleifstein described the meeting in an article in today’s The Times-Picayune. Only $74 million of the $218 million is new money, however. The deal primarily allows the state to reprogram the $140 million still left in the $360 million sand berm kitty.

The overpriced and unjustified sand berm fantasy promoted by Governor Jindal was still generating negative publicity far beyond Louisiana as recently as a week ago.  Here’s an article by John Collins Rudolf in the Gainesville Sun from October 22.

Alone among sand berm critics Collins quotes Garret Graves with the governor’s office as stubbornly justifying the project…without a whisper about the new announcement to convert sand berms into barrier shorelines! This conversion will be the subject of a feature post planned for November 5.

CPRA Meeting tomorrow

The November meeting of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) will take place tomorrow in Baton Rouge. Details on the meeting can be found here. A scheduling conflict precludes my attendance, unfortunately, so I’ll be reading what Amy Wold and Mark Schleifstein have to say about it in The Advocate and The Times-Picayune, respectively.

November 1

Balancing oysters and coastal restoration

Today’s The Times-Picayune carries a very good summary by Chris Kirkham of the long-term dynamic balance between oyster production in south Louisiana and the health of the Mississippi River delta. Coastal ecologists (including yours truly) long ago identified the American oyster* as a keystone estuarine species, in other words, an animal that plays a functional role far beyond its importance as a commercial fishery.

Oysters have been around essentially unchanged for hundreds of millions of years. Compare this venerable time span to the relatively paltry six million year age of our pre-human roots and the 200 thousand year age of our species.

Ancestors of the oysters served at Acme, Casamentos and countless other hangouts for oyster lovers in Louisiana played a huge, but largely unexamined, role in the 7,000 year evolution of the Mississippi River delta. Despite the rapid decline of this delta oysters are in danger, not so much from rising sea levels and wetland loss, as from the growing acidification of ocean water related to the still growing human addiction to burning fossil fuel. None of the oyster interests quoted in Kirkham’s article mentioned this threat.

Kirkham’s article summarizes the decades old love-hate relationship between oyster fishers and state officials concerned with trying to improve the overall health of south Louisiana by reconnecting the river to its delta. This is definitely worth reading.

*A comprehensive summary of the biology of the American oyster (Crassostrea virginica) by Richard Fox can be found here.

Election predictions

Jan Moller and Jonathan Tilove wrote an article for The Times-Picayune on the likely outcome of voting results in Louisiana on Tuesday. Your vote could help raise the expected 33% of voters who actually cast ballots and influence the ultimate outcome. Vote for the coast!

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  1. I was thinking of publishing or posting online some of my articles I’ve written for school but can’t afford to copyright them. If they are in my school paper, do I hold any ownership over them or are they protected by law?.

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  6. The lack of interest by EBR Parish in Alligator Bayou and Spanish Lake can be explained by one word: LOOP. The owners of Alligator Bayou Nature Park were standing squarely in the way of plans to route the proposed Baton Rouge Interstate Loop through Ascension Parish. So, despite the value of the site for environmental education across several parishes, EBR did nothing to help resolve the water dispute that helped sink the Alligator Bayou operation. As for the state’s interest, then-Congressman Jindal made a verbal promise several years ago to help protect the Spanish Lake basin, which no doubt he’d like to forget. A natural gem has become an orphan due to short-term priorities.

  7. Uh, the largest civil works project ever overseen/undertaken by the US Army Corps of Engineers is the 14.7 billion dollar New Orleans Hurricane Risk Reduction System project.

  8. Editor
    I second your observation.

    I think that the general public would better understand all natural landscapes of Louisiana if they could gain access to them and the knowledge of how these landscapes came to exist. People need to know how fragile landscape are to the activities of mankind. But they also must know that though science and design, we have the knowledge to rebuild landscapes to preserve them and protect them.

    Landscape architecture is largely about teaching people about the landscape by designing access and settings in which people can see how important, beautiful and productive our land can be.
    Buck Abbey
    School of Landscape Architecture
    LSU

  9. Bob Carney says:

    Nodule Mining
    There are definitely technology links between deep drilling and deep nodule mining. The nodule fields of commercial interest, however, are in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Of greater interest right now is polymetallic sulfide mining (gold included) at hydrothermal vents. The Gulf lacks these as well.

  10. Torbjorn Tornqvist says:

    A quick note regarding the LA Times story about AGU action on climate change… it turns out that the story is inaccurate. AGU put out a press release to set the record straight: http://www.agu.org/news/press/pr_archives/2010/2010-37.shtml.

  11. Texas is the one of the largest (if not the largest) recipients of federal money among the states – the country should demand a refund. Of course, he says he wants to secede from the Social Security system too (on the fictional supposition that it’s “broke”) – how nice to consult Texas residents about that. Go, Rick, go… Election of clowns is one more step down the road to ruin. Ordinarily La wouldn’t be far behind Texas in this kind of game, but our politicos benefit too much from the fiction that we’ll be getting big federal bucks for the coast, so they’ll milk that for as long as they can.

  12. Kelly Haggar says:

    Delta losses

    Thurs 4th heard Jindal’s acting general counsel at a legal seminar. BP consultants’ opening position in the Natural Resources Damage Assessment process is that the Gulf was in a “stressed” condition prior to the spill. That means the baseline to which BP would have to restore is of a lower quality than a healthy coast.

    In fact, given that the coast has been in a decline for decades, could BP argue that its restoration effort should be no more than to ensure that the coast does not disappear at any higher rate post-spill than pre-spill?

    Thus, if we were losing a football field every 30 minutes pre-spill and if La could show that the spill increased the rate to a football field every 28 minutes, would the measure of BP’s debt be to reduce the loss rate back to every 30 minutes?

    • How much does it cost to restore the rate?
      How do you calculate that cost?

      • Kelly Haggar says:

        As i appreciate the Natural Resources Damage Assessment (NRDA) process, the Trustees (Garret Graves for La) supervise the assessment and agree to the proposed restoration action. The Responsible Party pays whatever it takes to execute the plan, allowing for the limits of the Oil Pollution Act. Note that the NRDA system applies only to natural resources; waters and public values owned by a government. Priavte claims (my shrip boat sat idle; my hotel rooms are empty) are not in the NRDA system. That’s Feinberg or a tort suit. Frankly I have downloaded but not yet read all the materials from the May 10 law symposium in New Orleans. (There’s another 2 day seminar in Jan in Fla but I’m skipping that one.)

        The part of this mess which interests me is how one could calculate a baseline for a declining system. BP and its co-defendants are not responsible for anything except the damage they caused. They have no duty to turn back the clock and recreate anything in the coast which was already gone before the explosion. Perhaps the best model would be the “loss of chance of survival” in wrongful death actions? The plaintiff was highly likely to die from the injuries anyway but say a medical malpractice reduced the chance of living from 30% to 15%. The children bringing the suit are trying to recover what the deceased could have recovered (a “survival action”) which is independent of the wrongful death claim.

        Tricky problem. In a stable system, you just put it back to its pre-accident condition. But, in a sinking system, how do you factor out what would have died/sunk/gone to open water anyway from what the spill caused to die/open up?

        • YIKES
          I wonder if vegas is offering odds on how many years it will take to completly litigate this?

        • They will likely need to follwow the federal planning process which would look at the conditions at the time of the action and then try and predict the conditions over the next 50 or 100 years, this without project conditions. Then they would look at the with project conditions predicted out over next 50 to 100 years. I.e. the day of the incident.

          The difference in the two predictions then can be attributed to the incident. Costs would then need to be applied to that difference to calculate the fine.

          Likely take about 5 to 10 years to determine this cost if everyone plays nice. Could be decades if any of the parties try to manipulate the process.

          Which is why the state should stop counting thier coastal restoration monies until a number is agreed upon. Going to be awhile before any fines are paid.

          State acts like they are going to get federal government to agree tomorrow to give them the majority of the fines. Federal government will likely not even take up the issue until fines are determined.

  13. Kelly Haggar says:

    “I’m truly perplexed at how the 57% of Louisiana’s Vitter voters can rationalize re-electing the sworn enemy of the first occupant of the White House to support restoring the gulf coast.”

    Can any of these theories explain the results?

    1. The state as a whole is less interested in the coast than you & I are.

    2. The state as a whole is less persuaded of the degree of the White House’s support of the coast than you are.

    3. The state as a whole is more concerned with the “right track/wrong track” overall state of the nation than with the particulars of Louisiana.

  14. Dr. Houck, there you go again with the reality-based considerations – this is about politics and political narratives. By the time the real processes you’re talking about play out, the Governor’s political career will be over and the public will never know what hit them, because there will be another political operative in place to make sure that the myth is what gets out to the media and citizens. We’ve left reality behind in La (and the US), but reality/nature will still bat last, even if we may stay wrapped in a cocoon of myth…

  15. Oliver Houck says:

    Not only did the TP overlook the long term effects of acidification, it also overlooked the near term problem of excess nutrification, which may have occurred when we opened the diversions? Not gainsaying the openings, but it would be nice for this issue to get a little traction from the state with, as with climate change, the most to lose.

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