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Small Stuff #60: Playing in the Mud March 8, 2010

Posted by dianehuhn in Coastal Restoration, Friends, Hurricanes.
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Small stuff that I am grateful for today: Playing in the mud.

Bonus: The Refuge team from Northern Illinois University/Immanual Lutheran Church of DeKalb, along with students from Viterbo University and BTNEP, were able to harvest 7,000 marsh plants for a restoration planting tomorrow at the Maratime Ridge in Port Fourchon. YOU GUYS ROCK!!!

For more images of our adventures at the Natural Resources Conservation Service Plant Materials Center in Galliano, LA, click here.

A Three Hour Tour… November 10, 2009

Posted by dianehuhn in Bayou Life, Coastal Restoration, Family, Friends, Hurricanes, Louisiana Wildlife.
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So I was worried that the weather was going to start getting rough and our tiny ships would be tossed, but lady luck was on our side over night. Thank goodness cause I absolutely, positively, did not want to have to don my shrimp boots and grab my shovel to start slinging mud. I’d much rather save that kind of activity for planting marsh plants. Anyway, hope Ida didn’t wreak too much havoc to our friends and neighbors to the east.

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So as I mentioned in my previous post, I was pretty excited to have had the opportunity to spend a bit of time with my MiddleSis, my favorite brother-in-law Tom (yep, he’s my only bro-in-law, but definitely my favorite even when he wasn’t the only one) and some pretty darn cool friends in New Orleans last week. I was even more excited that a few of these folks made their way over to Terrebonne for a few adventures on Friday.

Our first stop was at one of the local daycare centers that my co-worker John (aka Papa John) works with through our Project Learn program. Papa John works tirelessly to make sure “his kids” have what they need and does an outstanding job of promoting family literacy by providing computers, books, and every kind of educational material he can get his hands on.

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The purpose of our trip to the daycare was to see the outstanding work they’re doing in person and to deliver some very special stuffed animals and books. Kids from First Presbyterian of Plymouth, MI and First Presbyterian of Pontiac, MI spent some time this summer making the cutest stuffed turtles with very special messages tucked carefully inside for their friends in the bayous. The kids enjoyed receiving the turtles, but we had way more fun chatting and playing with the little ones. A big thanks to Papa John, Pam and her outstanding staff for the important work you do for our community.

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Keeping a careful eye on my watch, it was time to tear my friends away from their new friends and head on down the bayou for a little lunch at Schmoopy’s. YUM is all I got to say bout that! I wasn’t too sure we’d be able to pull Tom away from the kids however and might have to pick him up on the way back, but we enticed him with the promise of a delicious vegetarian grilled cheese sandwich.

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After lunch it was time hook up with Captain Wendy, board the Wetlandtours tooner, and head out on the water. And oh what a beautiful day it was for that. Lows 70s, perfectly sunny, and a nice bayou breeze to keep the bugs at bay.

We saw some bad and ugly…

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but thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful…

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and got a great education about wetland wildlife, plants, history, and culture.

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We also learned a lot about land loss, how we got to this point, how the bayou people are affected by it, and what we can do to fix it. We even had time to relax, explore and chat with some amazing scenery as our backdrop.

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And before we knew it, it was time to bid adieu, but we’re definitely looking forward to taking in some more sights on their next trip in March. But if you’re thinking about a trip down the bayou, don’t wait and be sure to give Captain Wendy a shout. Whether you’re looking to take in the sights, try your fishing line, or learn about bayou culture, you won’t be sorry.

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And unfortunately, this isn’t exactly the scene I wanted to see on my way back to my home on wheels…

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but such is the cycle of life in the Louisiana wetlands.

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Renewing Our Commitment to the Gulf Coast Region: How Coastal Erosion Contributes to Poverty June 22, 2009

Posted by dianehuhn in Coastal Restoration, Hurricanes, Relief Work.
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Here is an article that I co-wrote with Courtney Howell, Executive Director of Bayou Grace Community Services, for the Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity campaign.

Time For a New Federal Approach

Nearly four years after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, national attention on the region has dwindled even though poverty resulting from the storm’s effects persists. In partnership with the Equity and Inclusion Campaign, an initiative of the Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation, Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity will present a series of commentaries on the need to renew our national focus on the region’s recovery, with a focus on low-income and vulnerable communities.

The communities of Coastal Louisiana, once exceedingly rich in resources and culture, now lie on the verge of collapse. A unique and remarkable environment that took thousands of years to create thanks to the abundant sediment and fresh water of the mighty Mississippi River has been nearly decimated in less than a century. Unfortunately, this natural disaster will also exacerbate poverty in a region already deeply afflicted by economic loss. Without action now to help address coastal erosion, an environmental problem will become a socioeconomic one.

Historically, healthy barrier islands and vast systems of marsh and wetlands helped block coastal communities from the intensity of hurricanes and tropical storms. They served as natural first and second lines of defense—slowing wind speeds and absorbing storm surge. Under healthy conditions, wetlands act as a colossal sponge, absorbing roughly one foot of storm surge for every 2.7 miles of healthy marsh. In addition to placing themselves between these protecting forces and the sea, early settlers built their communities in areas that provided a third line of defense—ridges, which served as natural levees.

But over the last 75-80 years, human intervention has so weakened these natural defenses – especially in the Barataria-Terrebonne Estuary which lays east of the Atchafalaya and west of the Mississippi Rivers – that families are now forced to rely almost solely on manmade levees for their protection. What was once the last line of defense is now quickly becoming the only line of defense. Even worse, far too many residents, particularly low-income Louisianans, live outside of levee systems, where there is almost no protection left at all.

Unnatural land loss and erosion have not only assaulted the physical landscape in which coastal Louisianans live, it has battered the financial landscape as well. The expense of repairing or rebuilding their homes and replacing their belongings has put a huge financial strain on so many, but a storm no longer needs to make landfall to put a burden on families’ pocketbooks. Due to the unnatural loss of natural protections, many communities can no longer offer shelter facilities close to home due to safety concerns. Families must often make difficult decisions about when and where to evacuate in order to ensure that they don’t become trapped with no way out.

In addition, living along coastal Louisiana requires that many residents elevate their homes – in excess of ten feet in some areas – a venture that can cost between $30,000-100,000. Insurance rarely covers the total cost after a storm, and even residents still able to afford insurance face higher deductibles with each passing storm. Home owners and flood insurance has quickly become unattainable for many residents, with policies that now cost between $5,000-8,000 a year, or more.

These costs only exacerbate financial insecurity in a region that has endured an economic downturn for some time now. Many people who traditionally have made their living along the coast as fishermen or workers in the oil field could at one time claim moderate incomes, but that is no longer the case. Even without the costly effects of hurricanes and other storms, a large percentage of people along the Louisiana coast are worse off than the previous generation. Many are just getting by, and like many Americans, are one pay check away from financial collapse. According to a Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries 2007 shrimp marketing survey, the average dockside price paid for shrimp in Louisiana has dropped from approximately $1.85 per pound in 1995 to approximately $0.98 per pound in 2006.

Despite these hardships, another costly environmental threat is on the horizon. Currently, there is just enough marsh left to provide food and nursery beds for shrimp, crab and other fisheries. However, if land loss is allowed to continue, the fishing industry is headed for collapse. And it is likely that it will not happen gradually. The collapse of the ecosystem will add stress to families already under great strain and who live in the most vulnerable areas.

Coastal Louisiana is at a critical juncture and in desperate need of comprehensive restoration and protection. This problem has been well documented for decades by both state and federal agencies. However, action and full commitment to restore and protect this area has moved slowly and the money needed to holistically implement restoration and protection projects that can reverse the tide have been minimal in light of what is required.

Some positive actions have occurred since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Louisiana’s Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast was approved in 2006 and is administrated through the newly created Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA). Federal funds from the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act (CWPPRA) of 1990, Coastal Impact Assistance Program (CIAP), oil and gas revenue sharing or state surplus funding that are dedicated to coastal restoration and protection are available through a competitive process under the CPRA.

Yet the CPRA is underfunded and in need of greater federal commitment. Funding available one year may be gone the next. In addition, because this is a competitive process due to resource constraints, coastal restoration and protection projects are often not well coordinated.

One of the biggest untapped opportunities would be for Congress to redirect the Army Corps of Engineers to help steward land management in the region.

The first thing Congress must do is guide the Corps to perform coastal restoration work in the name of hurricane protection. When policymakers determine the Corps’ budget for Louisiana, they tend to focus on the immediate primary Corps operations, which include: navigation, flood control and restoration.

While all the pieces are there, policymakers frequently overlook the interconnectedness of these goals. The truth, however, is that island enhancement and marsh restoration will reduce storm surge and storm intensity, thereby limiting the cost of flooding and devastation.

If policymakers took a more holistic approach to restoration, they would recognize that protecting the coast would reduce the constant need for federal dollars to rebuild communities. Redirecting the Army Corps of Engineers to undertake restoration work as a means of protecting coastal Louisiana would accomplish this.

The second thing Congress can do is allow the Corps to use the sediment that they dredge annually from the Mississippi River and its tributaries to be used in a beneficial way. Currently, the Corps dredges the Mississippi to maintain river depths for navigation. The Corps is directed to dispose of the sediment they dredge in the most cost-beneficial manner. Unfortunately, this usually means not returning the material to the Louisiana estuary. Instead, the Corps dumps the sediment off of the continental shelf.

If Congress were to redirect the Corps to put sediment into the estuary, it would be an easy, effective way to build marsh and land. New technology will help ensure dredged sediment can be used to stabilize the environment and help to rebuild the environment so that it can once again protect the area.

Finally, all related agencies – the CPRA, the Corps and other state and federal groups – need to work with nongovernmental organizations to educate the public not only on the effects of coastal land loss and erosion, but also why rebuilding the coast will help sustain the environment and protect people from future storms. If the public at large is not a part of the overall process of restoration and protection, no governmental efforts will succeed.

If coastal Louisiana is going to survive, then the multiple lines of defense – barrier island enhancement, marsh restoration and hurricane protection systems – must be implemented. Allowing the natural environment to falter will only exacerbate the severe deprivation already pervasive along coastal Louisiana. Congress can take the lead in protecting this vital part of our national environment and reduce Gulf Coast poverty at the same time.

Courtney Howell is Director and Diane Huhn is Volunteer Coordinator for Bayou Grace Community Services, which implements outreach, services, and advocacy that addresses the immediate needs of the 5 Bayou Communities of Terrebonne Parish, giving residents opportunity and renewed strength to advocate and work towards the environmental health of their community.

To read other articles in the Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity commentary series, click here.

To learn more about the Equity and Inclusion Campaign, click here.

Tenacity Over Tears June 1, 2009

Posted by dianehuhn in Bayou Life, Coastal Restoration, Friends, Hurricanes, Relief Work.
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I’ve decided to yield the blog floor again. This time to Captain Wendy Billiot, aka Bayou Woman. I had the honor of first meeting Wendy, long-time coastal restoration and protection advocate and all around way cool person, a couple of months ago and the delicious pleasure of having french press coffee with her yesterday morning. (And thanks to Wendy and the generous folks at Community Coffee, I am now the proud owner of my very own French Press with which I made some absolutely delectable java this morning and thoroughly enjoyed sipping away at while reading Wendy’s most recent blog post reprinted below.)

As I head to Washington, DC tomorrow for what I hope will be several days of successful coastal restoration and protection advocacy, I will carry these words with me and the desire in my heart to help make “Triumph over Trials” a reality. Thank you Wendy for your honesty, tenacity and eloquence.

Tenacity over Tears

“Tenacity over Tears” is a phrase I coined in reference to the repeated reaction of the Bayou People to the continued negative impact on their homes, culture, and way of life by coastal land loss and hurricane devastation.

While this phrase may not be the best title for the recent article I wrote for the Baton Rouge Advocate, it is a phrase I will continue to use and plaster across every mode of media possible.

Why?  Because I want the world to know the brave commitment the Bayou People display, despite all adversity and seeming lack of concern by most of the nation and the world.

Coastal Louisiana is valuable.  It is vital.  It is worth restoring.  It is worth protecting.

And I dare say that if another country came along and destroyed an area the size of Delaware,  America would be up in arms immediately.

Yet, this is what has happened with coastal Louisiana, and there has been no such outcry.  While we sit and watch the news and worry about the war in Iraq, the latest bailout, and a shaky economy, another football field of Bayou Land slips away.

And the really maddening part is that the Army Corps of Engineers are the Wizards of Wetland Restoration, because they hold in their hands the magical power to help the coast or hurt the coast, with the latter seeming the prevailing choice.  It’s just a matter of saying “yes” to the implementation of restoration projects that strain like racehorses at the starting gate.

These things weigh heavy on the minds of Bayou People this time of year, as June 1 marks the beginning of hurricane season.  We enter the season knowing that there was not enough marsh to protect us from the flooding of Ike last year–and even less marshland to protect us now as a result.

We enter the season with unspoken fears that another large storm will make landfall to the west of our coastline, while our homes and property sit like a defenseless nation at war without weapons.  Our weapons, the barrier islands and the marshes which once protected us, are gone.

We could give up, hang our heads, and cry.  We could sell out for pennies on the dollar and move.  Or could we? Where else could we go with our pennies and rebuild our fishing communities?  Where else is there an estuary system productive enough to support us?

There is only one Mississippi River Delta, the boundaries of which are moving further and further inland.  At the current rate of loss and the added loss caused by storm surge, this writer believes that if the Army Corp does not wave its magic wand soon, the Bayou People will have no choice but to cry, for they will have lost it all–homes, culture, and way of life.

As our potential enemies are forming up off the coast of Africa, it is my hope while we face this storm season, defenseless, that this nation will join their prayers with ours for mercy from our enemies.

And one day, with enough hope and the wave of a magic wand, Tenacity over Tears will be replaced by Triumph over Trials.

We can only hope.

Bayou Woman

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Farewell Shrimp? May 30, 2009

Posted by dianehuhn in Bayou Life, Coastal Restoration, Hurricanes, Louisiana Wildlife, Relief Work.
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So I had to go to Baton Rouge today for a meeting about some emergency grant funding that we received after Gustav and Ike from the Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation which has just ben an amazing and outstanding success story in the post-Katrina world. But I’m rather tired and am trying to get geared up to stop by the Jolly Inn to give a proper send off to a wonderful team of people from Ontario, Canada that have been working on Miss Margaret’s home this week. Thanks to their efforts and Miss Margaret’s tenacity she should be back at home by the end of the weekend.

I’ve been talking a little bit lately about the plentiful shrimp that can be found on the bayou and have decided to forgo the photo of the day and instead post this article written by Matthew Pleasant that appeared in today’s Houma Courier. Unfortunately, what many of us have known for a while is that as our wetlands disappear at an alarming rate, eventually if something is not done to reverse this tend, so too will those wonderfully delicious shrimp and end the livelihood of so many good bayou folks.

Shrimpers Cope with Worsening Land Loss

HOUMA — David Barrios began his fitful, start-stop career in commercial fishing when a neighbor loaned him a trawler just long enough to catch a few coolers worth of shrimp.

Since then, Barrios, 51, has spent much of his career equipping boats with nets and repairing the vessels after increasingly worse storms, he said. He stopped trawling after the 2005 hurricanes, when a telephone pole speared a pontoon on his boat. Combined with other fishing costs, it was enough to force him to finally move on.

“You can’t make it,” he said.

Though Barrios blames high fuel costs and low shrimp prices for his decision, he also says hurricanes seem to become an increasing threat to fishermen as coastal land loss worsens. And small but noticeable changes in shrimp catches he links to land loss are also becoming apparent, Barrios said, who still sells shrimp on the roadside.

“It looks like the land is just floating away. It’s not just after a hurricane,” he said. “It can be a hard rain or the tide coming up. The land is changing every day.”

Fishermen who make money on shrimp and oysters are among those most intimately aware of changes in landscape by wetland loss. Experts say the land loss could soon bring a sharp decline in shrimp populations and, some believe, their eventual end.

The wetlands are habitats to shrimp at critical points in their lives, said Martin Bourgeois, a marine fisheries biologist with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. Without them, shrimp are exposed to predators early in their development.

“Habitat loss is the single biggest loss to the fishery,” he said.

With wetlands steadily breaking up and allowing saltwater to intrude, the decline in the number shrimp fishermen catch in a season is expected to decline in coming years.

“We’ll always have commercial shrimp fisheries,” Bourgeois said. “It may not be as productive as it once was. But open water habitats can serve as habitats. Not a very promising outlook, but that’s where we are.”

Others say the situation is more dire.

The amount of shrimp caught season to season fluctuates depending on water temperatures and salt levels, making it hard to track trends, said Kerry St. Pe’, director of the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program. But the catches seem to be leveling-off.

Shrimpers can expect a sharp decrease as wetlands deteriorate and part of their habitat is destroyed, he said.

“We all know that we’re expecting to see a drastic and quick collapse once all these smaller pieces of marsh turn to open water,” St. Pe’ said. “We’ve just lost so much wetlands that it is expected to go any year now.”

Between now and the predicted collapse, some shrimpers might notice bigger catches, St. Pe’ said. Barrios, who has begun purchasing shrimp and selling it on the roadside, said and large, white shrimp are unusually plentiful in the midst of brown shrimp season.

“They’re starting to take over the brown shrimp territory,” he said.

The spike in white shrimp could be attributed to other factors, St. Pe’ said, but, on the brink of a predicted decline, shrimpers have already seen large catches.

The reason for the increases may be because as wetlands break apart, more grassy areas where shrimp can find plankton are created, St. Pe’ said.

The increased food source is only temporary as wetlands deteriorate.

“That’s one of the ironies of wetland loss,” he said. “It can actually produce more shrimp and fisheries while it is happening. But once it is gone, it will be gone.”

Many shrimpers are aware of the issue but “feel powerless when it comes to environmental factors,” he said. “It becomes so complicated to them it seems as if there is nothing they can do to stop it.”

Myron Prosperie, a fisherman who lives in Houma, said he doubts anything will be done within his lifetime to stop the wetlands from eroding into the Gulf of Mexico.

At 59, he says he has been hearing about land loss since he was a teenager. He is less worried for himself than for those just getting into the business.

“I care about it for the future, for the younger generation,” he said. “If it is something I can’t do anything about, I don’t worry about it. When I’m gone, I’m gone.”

He hasn’t noticed changes in the catches in recent years but said salt water has ruined his oysters.

As early as 2002, he noticed his oysters would pop open and die when they are about the size of a 50-cent piece.

If there’s a solution, he is ready for it.

“Maybe they have something up their sleeve,” Prosperie said. “But they are sure taking their time about it.”

Staff Writer Matthew Pleasant can be reached at 857-2202 or matthew.pleasant@houmatoday.com.

Out of Chaos, Hope May 27, 2009

Posted by dianehuhn in Hurricanes, Relief Work, Travels.
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So I had to head over to Biloxi today for a training session with members of the Equity and Inclusion Campaign in preparation for an advocacy trip we are taking to DC next week. And since I’m almost always early for these kind of things, I decided I had plenty of time to hop off the interstate and follow the Mississippi Gulf Coast via US-90. From Bay St. Louis to Pass Christian to Long Beach to Gulfport and on to Biloxi, it was wonderful to see all of rebuilding efforts that have taken place since Katrina–colorful new homes and ocean view hotels and interesting shops and restaurants and marinas full of shrimp boats and fishing piers stretching far in to the bay and beach umbrella stands offering crispy tourists shade from the sun by day and of course mammoth casinos to take their money by night. But it’s a bittersweet journey along the beautiful white sandy beaches. One can’t help but think of those that will never come home and of the history lost. Even on a beautiful sunny Spring day like today, you can feel the presence of an unseen shadow. For every big, beautiful new home you pass, it seems that you pass an empty lot. It’s an odd landscape. Overgrown lots with crumbling foundations. Front steps to nowhere. And you can’t help but wonder what the landscape looks like a block from the beach, or 5 blocks from the beach, or 20 blocks from the beach. But you’re just enjoying the view of the sun glistening on gulf waters and today you just want to keep your gaze to the south and soak it all in.

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Change the Tide April 28, 2009

Posted by dianehuhn in Bayou Life, Coastal Restoration, Hurricanes.
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So I went to Jazz Fest yesterday and it was amazing, but didn’t post anything last night since it was fairly late when I got home and I needed to get up early to meet a team up at the PDA camp to begin a gutting project down in Point-aux-Chenes. On my way home today, I was getting kind of excited to take a look at the shots I took and was thinking that I would cheat again and do a “photo of yesterday.” But first I decided to check and see what was happening in Facebook land and at the top of my updates was this post by the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program:

Terrebonne Closing Floodgates Because of Strong Winds

Our coastal wetlands, ridges, and barrier islands protect against more than hurricanes. Our coastal wetlands once served as a buffer from the Gulf of Mexico. Today, with the loss of much of our coastal wetland complex, sustained southerly winds can push Gulf of Mexico waters far inland. These surges aren’t limited to hurricanes. A sustained wind can flood roads, businesses, and homes. Today, with our wetlands disappearing, we’re forced to close flood gates and rely on hurricane protection systems to shield us from common winds. Restored wetlands will act as a sponge and barrier, blocking our coastal communities from these high tides as they once did. See the press release below form Terrebonne Parish as they prepare to close many flood gates (unfortunately, a common occurrence). Wetlands alone cannot protect us from the largest of hurricanes and we’ll always need levee protection for many of our vulnerable communities, but restored wetlands will protect us from occurrences like this and they will stand as the only line of defense for communities outside the levee system who don’t have the luxury of closing flood gates when waters rise.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
TIME: 9:00 AM
DATE: 04/27/2009

CURRENT FLOODGATE OPERATIONS

TERREBONNE PARISH, LA: The Terrebonne Levee & Conservation District (TLCD) has closed the Humble Canal Auxiliary Structure due to strong southeast winds and rising tides. The TLCD anticipates closing the Bayou Terrebonne and Little Floodgates some time later this morning.

Water levels are being continuously monitored and these structures will reopen once conditions are favorable.

Now I typically try to keep my blog pretty upbeat, but I got to say that when I first read this, it kind of felt like being told that someone I really care about has terminal cancer. Then I thought about it and realized that it’s not really like that at all. It’s like being told that someone I really care about has a very serious illness and while it’s completely curable they don’t have the money to pay for the treatment. See that’s the really frustrating part about what’s happening to the environment where I live. It’s not about not having a solution to unnatural coastal land loss and erosion, it’s about not having the money to implement the solution that’s been studied and studied and studied and is ready to be executed.

I mean the fact that a high tide on a windy day is requiring us to close our floodgates…well, that’s just crazy. But when you consider the numbers it’s just no surprise I guess. Since the 1930s, Louisiana has lost over 1900 square miles of land. That’s like the whole state of Delaware folks. Between 1990 and 2000, Louisiana lost approximately 24 square miles per year. If you want to make that a little easier to comprehend (although it seems incomprehensible), that’s basically a football field every 38 minutes. And that land/time ratio has almost certainly sped up since the turn of our new century and will just keep speeding up without intervention.

It’s not like there aren’t any restoration projects in progress, but the numbers are few, the dollars laughable in light of what’s needed, and right now it’s like trying to cure cancer by taking an asprin. But the key is that it doesn’t have to be like that. And so I guess I’m going to get up tomorrow and keep doing my best to be part of the solution and hope that more people will take action tomorrow than did today and more on Wednesday than tomorrow and so on and so on.

So I guess there will be a photo of today after all. It was taken this afternoon along Bayou Petit Caillou about a mile from where I live and is entitled Change the Tide.

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A Trip to Pearlington, MS November 8, 2008

Posted by dianehuhn in Friends, Hurricanes, Relief Work, Travels.
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This week I had the honor and pleasure of visiting a group of 70+ volunteers at the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance Camp in Pearlington, MS. The group is made up of members of various churches from the Detroit Presbytery. This is their 6th mission trip to Pearlington, but 7th trip providing hurricane relief in the Gulf Coast. Last spring the group worked in Terrebonne Parish, LA. I joined them on that trip and it’s the reason I am on the bayou now.

It was a most wonderful experience to see all the work they’ve accomplished thus far, and know that they will continue to do great things for the citizens of Pearlington and the surrounding communities. It was great to see old friends and make new ones. And it was terrific to celebrate with my sister Sue on her 60th birthday!

Miss Alice and My Big Sis. Happy Birthday Sue!

Miss Alice and My Big Sis. Happy Birthday Sue!

I was so encouraged by what I witnessed. The motto of PDA is “Out of chaos, hope.” Everyday as I experience the chaos left by Gustav and Ike on the bayous, I am doing my best to remember that motto.

Please explore the website that the group created during their stay in Pearlington at:

http://katrina7.joyfullyserving.com/index.html

For pictures of my trip, click here.

Goodness Gracious Great Balls of Fire October 4, 2008

Posted by dianehuhn in Hurricanes, Relief Work.
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I’m sitting in my motor home right now next to the Chauvin Gym, getting about half a bar of Internet signal from someones unsecured network, listening to a band playing Great Balls of Fire at a wedding reception I just left. I have no idea who the lucky couple is, but they sure know how to throw a party, and the father of the bride was kind enough to invite the volunteers to the bash.

Hard to believe that less than 6 hours ago I was down the bayou shoveling mud, and what I think may have been sewage, out of the home of an incredibly sweet couple. He’s 82, she’s 78, and they’ve had to do this 6 times since they built the place in 1972. It’s not a pretty sight, and well, I’m just not sure how to accurately describe the smell. Use your imagination. The place got about 3 feet of water, been closed up for the past 3 weeks, and we were the first team to go in.

Our AmeriCorp team that’s been here for the last two weeks is leaving tomorrow morning and I will miss them terribly. What a great bunch of hardworking kids. We’ve got two more teams coming in Sunday and I’m sure I’ll come to grow quite fond of them too, but these guys will always have a special place in my heart.

More to come, but it’s late and it’s going to be a long day of gutting tomorrow. In the meantime, take a look at a few pictures from week 2 on the bayou here. Hoping I can fall asleep to the band seranading me to the sounds of Play That Funky Music White Boy…

Yes, I Am Alive and … September 28, 2008

Posted by dianehuhn in Bayou Bound, Hurricanes, Relief Work.
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Americorp volunteers after a long day of gutting.

Americorp volunteers after a long day of gutting.

 

 

Yes, I am alive and kicking. Well, maybe not kicking, but alive. I arrived on the Bayou 11 days ago. I think it was 11 days ago. It feels like 11 weeks ago, so I can’t be too sure. I wish that I could provide a synopsis of the last week and a half, but I don’t think that’s possible. It would be easier to tell you what I haven’t done, than tell you what I have done. At this point, I can only tell you of a few of the tasks that I have completed since many of my activities are just a blur. A few of these tasks have included unloading hundreds of boxes of supplies, assisting in the preparation of thousands of Red Cross meals, delivering dozens of truckloads of food, diapers, formula, medical supplies, cleaning kits, and clothing, coordinating hundreds of work orders and several volunteer teams to tarp roofs and gut homes, trucking tools and supplies to the teams, and, well, a hundred other things that I just can’t even recall anymore.

 

 

  

My brain and body are completely fried and I’m running on fumes. Thought I might be able to take a day, or even a half a day for myself today to get some laundry done, clean up and organize my new home on wheels, and get some other sundry personal items taken care of since my Americorp team is taking the day off, but I guess there’s no rest for the weary. We’ve got a bunch of folks coming in to help people with their FEMA registrations, and apparently I’m supposed to take some of them out on a work site.

I’ve wanted to get some information up on this site, but I have had very limited Internet access, and probably will continue to have limited access for the near future. So, I’m so sorry this is such a short post in comparison to everything that I want to tell you about, but it’s the best I can do with the 15 minutes I can spare at the moment. Please, please, please stay tuned as I have so much to share once I can get in to a routine and secure more consistent Internet access.

I’ve barely had time to take photos, but you can see a few that I’ve been able to snap here 

Sorry the formatting on this post is messed up, but no time to figure it out. Anything incoherent, just chalk up to sleep deprivation.