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200-Year Plan for Restoring Louisiana’s Mississippi Delta, Sept. 19

September 5, 2011

Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force's 6th public meeting in Biloxi, Mississippi

This show may be heard  following its broadcast date by clicking on the following link:  http://webtalkradio.net/shows/hoveys-outdoor-adventures/. If it is not the current show it is still  available as an archived show and on iTunes.

An exploration into re’alite’ politique explores the question, “Can one guy make a difference on an issue of national importance?” when Hovey Smith as a Geologist-Journalist proposes a 200-year plan for restoring Louisiana’s Mississippi River Delta.

  Previous version of this plan had been presented in writing in conjunction with hearings by the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force that were held in Pensacola, Florida, and Galveston, Texas, with no apparent  consequence. A final hearing was held in Biloxi, Mississippi, on  August 29, 2011, which was the last chance to present his thoughts and also hand out copies of  his written remarks (attached to this post). This was also the opportunity to make an hour-long radio show from this event, provided that sufficient entertainment value could be introduced to hopefully sustain listener interest during what is usually a  dull,  long-winded process.

  Immediate obstacles were that the “Listening Sessions” were to be held in break-out rooms and that these proceedings would not be recorded, as was done for the morning’s “General Sessions.”  During the morning seven people presented information about impact of the Deep Water Horiz0n’s  Oil Spill on Mississippi residents and the efforts that had been made to restore the health of the state’s wetlands. During this period Hovey recorded the introduction to the conference, had lunch with an EPA official of Vietnamese origin where he recorded materials for his cooking section (Vietnamese fish sauce and other interesting dishes) and got ready for his presentation.

Task Force pin awarded to author.

  Before his presentation he had the chance to write-up some of his points on a large easel-mounted tablet and made the decision that this was going to be delivered “in persona” as the Backyard Sportsman,  even though the document was written in formal English. This provided a little entertainment for the 40-odd people in the room while simultaneously presenting the key elements of his plan. In recognition of his work, he was awarded a pin by John Hankinson, The Task Force Director, who in a private conversation asked a series of follow-up questions.

  Two members of the Task Force had the opportunity to hear the presentation and commented favorably on it. Others will have the chance to hear it either on this radio show or as incorporated on a YouTube video available at: http://youtu.be/9k4yE6JTAd4.

  What happens next?

  The Task Force is to deliver its recommendations before the end of 2011 to President Obama. He  who then decide on future action, either as President or by attempting to have legislation introduced into Congress. If he can raise millions for presidential and congressional campaigns, perhaps he can also raise thousands for start-up operations for a non-profit group to restore the Louisiana Delta.

  In the meantime there are two significant wetlands restoration conferences that he need s to attend in Florida and Texas to publicize this program. He need financing to get there. There will be none from Federal, State or local sources. If you can help, contact Hovey at hoveysmith@yahoo.com. It may be that the committee will recommend the establishment of the non-profit NGO that I proposed.  If not, he will need additional legal,  professional and financial aid to get this started. Ultimately both paid staff and volunteers will be needed, but all of that is likely six months away, depending on what actions the Task Force recommends and the President takes.

Solar flashlight-recharger

  Other features of the show include an American-made solar-powered flashlight-recharger from the “Solar Gadget Guy” Rick Guffey. This 7-inch flashlight has a magnet base that allows it to be attached to any steel object, can re-charge most cell phones and other devices in two hours and also has interchangeable heads, including one for blood trailing. For more information visit his website: www.solargadgetguy.com.

Could you eat a Louisiana Nutra Burger or Nutra Runza? The exotic nutrias are damaging Louisiana's wetlands and could provide a low-fat substitute for beef while simultaneously helping the environment.

 The cooking section included nutria recipes from Chef John Folse’s Encyclopedia of Cajun and Creole Cuisine   which is a must-have item for anyone seriously interested in Louisiana cooking.  The following is taken from “Stuffed Nutria Hindquarters” which appears on page 572.

15 nutria hindquarters, 3 tbsps butter, 1/2-pound ground pork, 4 cups diced onions, 1/2 cup each diced bell and red peppers, 1 cup chicken stock, 1 10-oz. can of Cream of Mushroom soup, 2 cups crawfish tails, chopped, 2 cups Italian bread crumbs, salt, cayenne and Creole seasonings to taste.

 To make the stuffing, you brown the pork, onions  and seasonings in butter. When browned add the mushroom soup and crawfish tails. Cook 5 minutes. Take up and thicken with bread crumbs. Remove bones from nutria legs, pound, add stuffing roll and tie with cooking string. Roast in 350 degree oven for 1 1/2 hours or until tender. Uncover and brown.  

The formal text of the presentation at the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force is given below:

Wm. Hovey Smith, P.G.                                                                                            August 30, 2011

Public Comment

Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force

Biloxi, Mississippi

August 30, 2011

Designing a 200-year Plan for Louisiana Wetlands

Restoration and Management

 

  Although all of the nation’s coastal wetlands are important, those associated withLouisiana’s Mississippi River Delta are nationally significant because of their size, economic contribution, impact on transportation, wildlife resources, seafood production and as a protection for New Orleans and other up-river communities.

  This is a large geographic area that is subjected to adverse natural and man-made events that have occurred in the recent past and can be anticipated in the future. Some, such as the present record floods in the Mississippi River system have been managed to the extent that the major cities along the River have been protected and the levee system has kept some of the lower parishes dry, although large areas of the Mississippi and Missouri river valleys have been allowed to flood to reduce the danger to New Orleans and other cities.

  These Spring floods were a record event which resulted in wide-spread flooding of pre-designated areas. This event is remarkable in that adequate time was allowed for evacuation and few, if any, lives were lost. The system of engineered structures and levees held and the Corps of Engineers’ efforts can be considered successful. There were loses of crops and homes, but these were unavoidable consequences of living on and farming the very rich soils of the Mississippi Valley.

  Such things happen from time to time. The question is how to manage such events while minimizing losses to life and property while simultaneously fostering the ecological recovery and restoration of vital coastal wetlands?

   The options of doing nothing, restoring the Louisiana wetlands to the exact state they were at any time in the past or permitting unrestricted development are all impossible outcomes. Stabilizing and rebuilding the Mississippi Delta will require compromises and concessions to the ecological, economic, cultural, energy and transportation interests as well as continuing efforts though storm events, periodic failures and reversals. This can never be a build-it-and-leave-it response because of the dynamic nature of this huge natural system.

  Seen in the long view of geologic time, the present complex of coastal islands, waterways and marshes are but recent modifications of the last catastrophic event. Restoring the delta will be a continuing process of progressive, successive approximations which are somewhat predictable in their general result, but are subjected to too many variables to expect long-lived outcomes without continuous interventions. Practical examples are the needs for constant dredging to keep shipping channels to useable depths, levee repair and replacements, etc.     

PartI.Organizational attributes

  In order to successfully restoreLouisiana’s wetlands an optimum organization should have the following characteristics.

  A. Longevity. Restoration efforts are very long-term projects, and such an organization should have a 200-year mandate.

  B. Science. Several organizations such as the National Wetlands Research Center of the U.S. Geological Survey have been studying the hydrology, geography and biology of Louisiana wetlands for more than a quarter-century. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers utilizes some of this information in their design programs.

  C. Stakeholder input. Because any decision to alter the present wetlands will have both negative and positive impacts, governmental groups from the state, parishes and town should be involved along with NGOs to represent environmental and economic interests.

  D. Local management. This organization should have its resources and personnel close at hand and have its operational functions in Louisiana.

  E. Decision making authority. Because of the need to respond rapidly to take advantage of short-term conditions, or to respond to hurricanes and other disasters, this organization needs to have the authority to immediately act to implement pre-planned activities. These might include opening certain levees when river levels reach predetermined flow rates.

  F. Use existing natural system as a base for rebuilding the wetlands, but acknowledging that these are geologically transitory features that can never be “restored” in the strict meaning of the word.

  G. The abilities to call-in resources from other organizations in order to fulfill its mandate for wetlands restoration and respond to emergencies.

  H. Independent funding sources to continue centuries long, but “non-sexy,” engineering projects. Funding would most likely be derived from oil, gas, shipping, greenhouse gas capture and other potential revenues.       

  No existing organization has all of these attributes. In a previous statement I thought that perhaps the U.S. Geological Survey, if sufficiently augmented, might be most appropriate as they have on staff most of the scientific personnel to consider the geological, ecological, hydrological, geographical, environmental, economic and cultural impacts. Further research revealed that while the above is generally correct so far as personnel and activities are concerned, the U.S.G.S. does not have the engineering, management capabilities or congressional mandate to undertake a project of this magnitude, although they would be expected to make a continuing scientific contribution.

  Born when the nation was in the midst of a depression, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) appears to offer the best model for an organization that can have the above-listed attributes. Although this may not be politically possible at present, I firmly believe that a new TVA-like organization needs to be established with the mission of restoringLouisiana’s wetlands over the next 200 years.  

  Such an organization would have the following significant advantages over any existing organization or grouping of them.

  A. A central mission of wetlands restoration.

  B. Stable management that would not have to be re-trained every few years or replaced with each election.

  C. Independent sources of revenue.

  D. Have direct input from local governmental organizations, business interests and NGOs.

  E. Be equipped and capable of rapid response to emergencies according to pre-approved plans.

  F. Arrange for the continuing management of programs that will outlive anyone in the organization.

  G. Be able to make the tough decisions and trade-offs between competing interest for the best outcomes for wetlands restoration and the people whose livelihoods depend on this ecosystem and the natural resources on and under them.

About the author.

  Wm. Hovey Smith is a Professional Geologist (GA. no. 622) with degrees from the University of Georgia, University of  Alaska and with post-grad work at the universities of Arizona and Arkansas. He has been an  Army Engineer officer, newspaper writer, the author of 14 books, a radio producer-host, photographer, blogger, video producer, wild-game cook and playwright. His work is noted for being bold, inventive and wide-reaching in scope. Among his books are four of the first ever written on AIDS, popular works on local geology and architecture and more recently outdoor titles featuring hunting and bowfishing. His current radio show is “Hovey’s Outdoor Adventures” on WebTalkRadio.net. For more information go to his website: www.hoveysmith.com.

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