Coastal Desk

Midwestern Farm Runoff Creates Headache For Louisiana Shrimpers

Nov 11, 2019

It’s only midmorning, but shrimper Thomas Olander is already calling it quits for the day in a small bayou in St. Mary Parish, on the central Louisiana coast.

There aren’t enough shrimp out there — especially the highly sought-after jumbo shrimp that fetch the highest prices at the market.

“It's just not worth it,” Olander said, of his morning burning fuel, supplies and time.

When corn and soybean farmer Kenny Reichard stopped plowing some of his fields in northern Missouri in 1982, other farmers told him that it was a terrible decision that would lower his yields. 

“I’ve been told many times that no-till doesn’t work,” said Reichard, 62, who farms north of Brunswick in Chariton County. 

More than three decades later, state programs and agriculture initiatives are trying to encourage farmers to adopt no-till and other practices that reduce fertilizer runoff that contributes to the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. While many farmers think such methods are expensive, they’re critical to cleaning up the Mississippi River basin. 

Michael Isaac Stein / The Lens

Have you ever read a story about climate change, and by the end of the article thought, ”Great, now what?” Or maybe, “What do I do with that information? I have questions!”

The Coastal Desk of WWNO and WRKF wants to answer your questions about living with climate change for an upcoming project.

CPRA

The state’s proposed sediment diversions could inject billions of dollars into the regional economy, according to a new study sponsored by an environmental group.

If built, the sediment diversions would funnel sediment-laden Mississippi River water into coastal wetlands to rebuild land. Both are currently in the design phase and have not yet received the necessary permits to start construction.

U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)

Crude oil production in the Gulf of Mexico saw its biggest drop in more than a decade due to the production shutdown ahead of Hurricane Barry earlier this summer, but most consumers likely didn't notice a difference at the gas pump.

As Hurricane Barry approached the Louisiana coast in July, companies evacuated workers and temporarily shut down many of their oil and gas platforms in the Gulf.

Tegan Wendland / WWNO

Louisiana alligators were once on the brink of extinction. Today, there are more than ever on the coast. Hunting alligator is a way of life for thousands of Louisianans. But it’s becoming less profitable, as foreign imports flood the market and drive down prices. Fewer hunters are heading out to the swamps each fall.

Tegan Wendland / WWNO

Seven parishes in coastal Louisiana have sued oil and gas companies to restore the coast. The suits say that nearly a hundred companies carved canals through the marshes over the years, and those canals worsened coastal land loss and made parishes more vulnerable to storms. Now, in the first settlement of its kind, one of those oil companies is settling.

To learn more about the case and its implications for the other suits, reporter Tegan Wendland talked with Christopher Dalbom, senior researcher at the Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy.

GNOF

As climate change brings more extreme temperatures, bigger storms and heavier rainfall, people of all backgrounds are affected. But research has shown that low-income people and people of color are disproportionately impacted. They often live in low-lying areas that flood more or in urban neighborhoods that become “heat islands." They often fall through the cracks when it comes to government disaster assistance.

On Monday city officials released a new plan to try to address those inequities. It’s a collaboration with the Greater New Orleans Foundation and the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice.

Tegan Wendland talked with Ramsey Green, Deputy CAO of Infrastructure and Chief Resilience Officer for the City of New Orleans, about what the plan entails.

IPCC

A new report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says sea levels are rising twice as fast as they used to. They’re also warming up and losing oxygen, meaning climate change will increasingly impact everything from coastal flooding to hurricanes to the number of fish in the sea.

According to the report, about 680 million people (10% of the global population) live in coastal regions less than 30 feet above sea level, and face increasing risks caused by sea level rise, storm intensification, and a host of other issues. Large swaths of coastal Louisiana and the Gulf Coast fall squarely into that category.

To better understand what the report suggests about the future of the Gulf Coast, WWNO’s Travis Lux spoke with Dr. Lisa Levin, an oceanographer at UC San Diego and one of the authors of the report.

nrdc.org

After big floods like those in 2016 that inundated many homes in the Baton Rouge-area and beyond, sometimes a home buyout is the right choice. People whose homes have flooded multiple times can get money from the federal government to relocate to safer ground. But a new report from an environmental advocacy group finds that those buyouts can take a long time.

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