Ocean Currents » Bethany Kraft http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Fri, 28 Apr 2017 22:26:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Searching for Hope in a Time of Despair http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/07/18/we-rise-and-fall-together-as-one-country-as-one-world/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/07/18/we-rise-and-fall-together-as-one-country-as-one-world/#comments Mon, 18 Jul 2016 21:12:30 +0000 Bethany Kraft http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12428

Because we rise and fall together.

This has been a heartbreaking month – a heartbreaking year – for our country and around the world.

Like you, I’m troubled and heartbroken by the racial inequality and violence that mars our great country. I’ve been thinking about the events in Dallas, Baton Rouge and Minnesota almost constantly. And I am struggling with the fact that whatever I write will not adequately capture or convey my feelings. It certainly doesn’t represent all the conversations that Ocean Conservancy staffs have had as these events have unfolded.

I want to take heart from the fact that across America we are coming together and speaking out on whatever platforms we have. And yet this weekend, we learned of even more heartbreaking news out of Baton Rouge. It feels hopeless, but at the same time I am looking for signs of hope – that together, as one country we can say that it is past time for a change.

The reasons we find ourselves in this moment are rooted deeply in the past. And it taints our present by the persistent challenges brought about by the lack of access to education and opportunities, a vicious cycle of poverty and years of systemic prejudice, segregation and racism.

I grew up in the South, a place of great beauty, great complexity and great contradiction. This is where I found my calling: to restore the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon disaster. And this is also where I am part of a storm that has been building for some time, one that is changing the social landscape and how we must measure truth, justice and peace.

I’m deeply saddened by the disparity, the unfairness and the fear that we have sowed. At times, it seems that these problems are almost too overwhelming to overcome. I see similar issues of separateness, us-versus-them mentalities that have marred the environmental movement. We have to remind ourselves to connect and contextualize our work around the people and communities around us. Because the truth is that we rise and fall together, as one country, as one world.

I am not without hope. I am hopeful that many groups, including Ocean Conservancy, are speaking up, working on honest conversations and meaningful actions to make this world, including my little corner in the Gulf, in a better place. As we stay present to recent events, Ocean Conservancy is strengthening our commitment to become the change we want to see in the world.

We must reflect on what got us here and consider what we can do as individuals and as communities to overcome the despair and reach for peace, equality and justice.

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Shell Spills 88,000 Gallons of Oil in Gulf http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/05/13/shell-spills-88000-gallons-of-oil-in-gulf/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/05/13/shell-spills-88000-gallons-of-oil-in-gulf/#comments Sat, 14 May 2016 01:16:06 +0000 Bethany Kraft http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12067

Today, the Coast Guard reported that Shell’s Brutus oil platform, about 90 miles off the coast of Louisiana, has spilled more than 80,000 gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. This is a bad week for Shell—just Monday, Shell gave up most of its oil and gas leases in the Chukchi Sea off the coast of Alaska. Although it is too early to know the extent of environmental damage from the Shell spill, we do know that the Gulf of Mexico is still damaged from the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster six years ago.

Thankfully, the leak has been secured, and clean-up efforts are underway, as a result of NOAA and the Coast Guard’s immediate response. There are 52,000 boreholes drilled into the Gulfseafloor, the result of a century-old search for oil and gas. Much of the time, offshore oil production proceeds relatively safely and without much public interest, but when things go wrong in the Gulf of Mexico, they can really go wrong.

As soon as the news broke last night, my news feed was filled with rhetoric from two extremes: those who say that drilling is an economic imperative and a matter of national security, no matter the cost, and those who say that all drilling must stop now, no matter what.

But that cannot be the singular focus when the risk associated with oil and gas exploration and drilling is something that the people who make their homes in the Gulf region grapple with every day. The Gulf is a complex place and the undeniable reality is that thousands of people rely on it for their livelihood.

For our ocean and the people that rely on it, we can and should do better in the Gulf–and other places where drilling occurs.

Here are a few places to start:

1. Better monitoring

Our Charting the Gulf report revealed that that Gulf’s offshore wildlife and habitats are not monitored to the same degree as those in the coastal areas. This monitoring is vital for species like bottlenose dolphins, which will likely need 40-50 years to fully recover from the BP oil disaster, along with deep-water corals, which could need hundreds of years to improve.

2. Commitment to restoring the Gulf beyond the shore

This new spill is one of a long list of stressors on the Gulf’s wildlife and habitats in the open ocean. BP has paid $1 billion to restore the open ocean, but the future of the deep waters of the Gulf is anything but secure. We must hold our Gulf leaders accountable and restore the Gulf’s deep sea, where the BP oil disaster began and where other spills are likely to occur.

3. Better response planning and risk assessment

The BP oil disaster taught us many lessons about the risks associated with oil drilling in the Gulf, especially the lack of updated response technology. We must apply these lessons to not just the Gulf, but in all areas where drilling and shipping pose a critical risk for our ocean.

I’m proud to live and work in the Gulf. While we tend to make national headlines when there’s been a disaster, the Gulf is beautiful, resilient and is on the path to recovery – as long as we stay committed and work together.

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Beyond BP: Restoring Our Gulf of Mexico in the Era of Climate Change http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/04/20/beyond-bp-restoring-our-gulf-of-mexico-in-the-era-of-climate-change/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/04/20/beyond-bp-restoring-our-gulf-of-mexico-in-the-era-of-climate-change/#comments Wed, 20 Apr 2016 14:27:25 +0000 Bethany Kraft http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11951

Photo: NOAA

The future of the Gulf is being shaped everyday. Six years after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, which took the lives of 11 workers, the grand experiment in the Gulf of Mexico continues to unfold in a unique crucible of complex science and complicated politics.

Over $25 billion in settlements finalized from BP and other parties is earmarked for environmental and economic recovery in the Gulf . While it not nearly enough to fully restore the Gulf, if invested wisely, it is enough to catalyze a transformation in working with nature to enable coastal communities to thrive.

The Gulf of Mexico became an immense emergency room during the hours, days and weeks following the explosion on April 20, 2010. Unprepared for the previously unthinkable worst case, first responders triaged the situation with the controversial use of dispersants applied a mile below the sea’s surface. Scientists grappled with the appallingly large knowledge gaps about the Gulf environment and how it would respond to a huge volume of oil. Across the coast, we rallied with coastal communities to respond to the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, straining the capacity of our nation’s disaster response system.

Six years on, we recognize a unique opportunity born from tragedy that is much bigger than the Gulf itself. It is the nation’s first real test case for whether and how we can best restore natural resources at a scale large enough to slow or even reverse the rate of environmental decline. Many places around the country and the globe struggle with environmental degradation exacerbated by development, loss of ecological connectivity and function, and the expected impacts of sea level rise. These places can benefit from the hard lessons we have learned in the Gulf.

By using the restoration funds as a down payment on the larger goal of ecosystem resilience, the Gulf can serve as an example to others grappling with climate change and restoration. This funding represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for ecosystem restoration in a region that has suffered decades of degradation without major federal investments, earning it the name “the national sacrifice zone.” The reality is that 31 states across the U.S. send their pollution downstream into the Gulf, including “dead zone”-causing pollution from farms in the Midwest. Yet the Gulf provides a large part of the seafood we eat, as well as the oil and gas we use. For all that we as a nation rely on the Gulf, we fail to invest the resources to fix it.

The Gulf of Mexico is now on course, for better or worse, to be the leading example of restoring a large ecosystem and the resulting economies that are based on often conflicting uses. However, our needs in the Gulf of Mexico, like many other regions of the world, far outstrip the available resources. We will have to work smarter rather than harder, and adopt a creative and innovative approach to defining the problem and implementing the solution. For ecosystem restoration to fulfill its promise as a key component of responding to climate change, we need a far more comprehensive approach to designing, funding and implementing restoration.

As restoration work gets underway in the Gulf, a number of guiding principles are critically important in driving the successful investment of billions of dollars. Some of these lessons are being learned the hard way, as state and federal officials grapple with requirements to think comprehensively while being responsive to both local needs and political pressures.

These principles include: transparency and public engagement, the consolidation of multiple restoration activities under one governing body, restoration objectives that take into account the anticipated impacts of climate change, fostering a culture of innovation and adaptation, and recognizing that restoration must be coupled with better policy decisions around development and extractive activities. Collectively, these efforts represent a replicable, scalable structure that can be adapted to restoration efforts in different ecosystems and management frameworks.

If the previous century was characterized by the loss of habitat and ecosystem services that communities rely on to thrive, then the next must be defined by a commitment to working with nature. This partnership will restore ecological functions, stabilize our fisheries and our shorelines and help us adapt to a changing climate.

This journey can and should start in the Gulf of Mexico.

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Take Action to Restore the Gulf Beyond the Shore http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/11/20/take-action-to-restore-the-gulf-beyond-the-shore/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/11/20/take-action-to-restore-the-gulf-beyond-the-shore/#comments Fri, 20 Nov 2015 20:00:58 +0000 Bethany Kraft http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11092  

We did it! You asked our Gulf leaders to restore the Gulf beyond the shore, and they heard you! When the details of the $20.8 billion settlement were released last month, more than $1 billion was set aside to restore the open ocean.

But there’s a catch…the Trustees charged with restoring the Gulf have proposed to take ALL of their federal overhead expenses for the next 15 years out of the open ocean fund. That funding is critical for restoring Gulf wildlife in the deep sea, where an area 20 times the size of Manhattan remains polluted with BP oil!

Please join me in taking action to protect the Gulf. Let’s send the Trustees a message: Don’t raid the Gulf’s open ocean fund!

Administrative costs are important to getting the job done right, but paying for federal administrative costs from the money set aside to address all of the impacts to ocean habitats and wildlife will deprive marine life like corals and sea turtles the funding they need to recover from the BP oil disaster.

Tell the Trustees to only use open ocean funds to restore the Gulf beyond the shore.

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Mississippi: A Model For Restoring the Gulf http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/11/18/mississippi-a-model-for-restoring-the-gulf/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/11/18/mississippi-a-model-for-restoring-the-gulf/#comments Wed, 18 Nov 2015 19:29:07 +0000 Bethany Kraft http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11058

Since the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster began over five years ago, various settlements with BP and Transocean have given way to a veritable alphabet soup of restoration processes: NFWF, NRDA, RESTORE, NAS and so on. Each process has its own set of funding and restrictions, which can exhaust the many dedicated people who are engaged in restoration with multiple sets of public meetings and comment periods. But the fish and crabs and wetlands in the Gulf don’t care where the money comes from to restore their health and their habitats.

Of all five Gulf Coast states charged with restoring the Gulf, Mississippi has demonstrated an understanding of this concept of interconnectivity the best. Last week the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality released the Mississippi Gulf Coast Restoration Plan. The plan includes a new model of Mississippi’s environment and extensive input from the public on what restoration issues matter most to them. The plan will be used to guide restoration decision-making regardless of where the money comes from, creating a one-stop shop for the public to provide their input in the coming years. The plan was funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), which received over $2 billion from BP and Transocean criminal settlements to restore the Gulf.

NFWF was busy last week, also announcing $80 million in new projects across the Gulf. We are particularly excited to see a continued commitment to restoring the Gulf beyond the shore, including fisheries monitoring in Florida and Alabama, and enhancing the marine mammal stranding network in Florida. Thank you to Florida and Alabama for your work in the marine environment and to the other states who funded important coastal restoration work.

We will continue to track all of the restoration work in the Gulf and share our insights with you, no matter how thick the alphabet soup gets!

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Shaping the Next 18 Years of Gulf Restoration http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/10/08/shaping-the-next-18-years-of-gulf-restoration/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/10/08/shaping-the-next-18-years-of-gulf-restoration/#comments Thu, 08 Oct 2015 20:18:34 +0000 Bethany Kraft http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10881

The final months of 2015 are shaping up to be very busy in the Gulf of Mexico! In July BP and the U.S. government announced that they were nearing a settlement agreement, and on October 5, that draft settlement agreement was released for public comment. This clarity around just how much funding will be available for Gulf restoration in the coming years means that decision-makers are working overtime to issue project lists, plans and regulations that will guide spending of fine money for the next 18 years. That’s a long time!

Here is a quick breakdown of what’s happening, what it means and how you can make your voice heard.

New details released for $20.8 billion Draft Settlement between BP and the U.S. Department of Justice, including a draft restoration plan

On October 5, the United States and the five Gulf states announced a $20.8 billion settlement to resolve civil and economic claims against BP arising from the 2010 BP oil disaster. This is the same settlement that was initially announced in July.

Two documents are open for public comment:

  • A consent decree that provides penalty and payment details related to the outstanding claims against BP.
  • A Draft Programmatic Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan/ Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PDARP/PEIS), which is a high-level restoration planning document that will guide the spending of $8.1 billion to restore the natural resource damages related to the oil disaster. This Plan contains extensive and previously unknown information about the extent of the impacts of the oil disaster as well as proposed restoration activities to address those impact. For instance, the plan estimates that we lost 4-8.3 billion oysters in the Gulf due to the BP oil disaster.

You can download both documents and find out how to comment on each here. The comment period closes December 4, 2015.

Over the coming weeks, Ocean Conservancy will analyze both documents and make our assessments available to the public. In the meantime, our policy analyst, Michelle Erenberg, has highlighted some of the important details of the settlement, which you can download here.

New requirements for Gulf state RESTORE Act plans

The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council released a new regulation to establish the formula allocating funds made available from the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund among the states of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas pursuant to the RESTORE Act. This funding is available for states to develop and implement plans for the overall recovery of the environmental and economic recovery in the Gulf region. Each state will have a different process to develop its plan and select projects (in accordance with the RESTORE Act and these proposed regulations) and the Council will then determine whether or not to approve each State’s Expenditure Plan.

Read the draft regulation and find out how to comment here. The comment period closes on October 29, 2015.

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Investing in Ecosystem Restoration Will Help us Weather Future Storms http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/08/29/investing-in-ecosystem-restoration-will-help-us-weather-future-storms/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/08/29/investing-in-ecosystem-restoration-will-help-us-weather-future-storms/#comments Sat, 29 Aug 2015 12:30:01 +0000 Bethany Kraft http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10691

This blog originally appeared on AL.com.

Ivan. Camille. Katrina. On the Gulf Coast, these names are as familiar to us as those of close family members. But while the names of the strongest hurricanes live on in our memories, the lessons they teach us about risk and vulnerability are often lost in the post-storm chaos of rebuilding our lives to some semblance of normal.

This year we mark 10 years since Hurricane Katrina and 5 years since the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. Both disasters reminded us that a healthy ecosystem is critical to our protection from natural and human-made disasters.

Over the last several decades, extensive loss of protective habitats like dunes, barrier islands and wetlands have left us more open to the barrage of water that often accompanies hurricanes. As our communities grew, we treated soggy land as a worthless asset and drained our wetlands to build new homes and new shopping centers.

We built bulkheads around our yards, cutting off the water from the land in an effort to engineer ourselves to safety, losing valuable marshland in the process. Growth is necessary, but what we didn’t know then was that, far from being worthless, our wetlands play a critical role in our ecosystem and are invaluable in their ability to absorb storm surge and potentially reduce the devastating power of a large storm. We know better now what role our natural landscape plays in protecting us, and if we want to continue making our home on the Gulf, we need to put nature back to work for us.

Change is the only constant in an environment as dynamic as the Gulf Coast. Although hurricanes have altered our landscape for hundreds of years, their increasing frequency and severity, coupled with our insatiable desire to build our castles on the sand, forces us to confront an uncertain future and begin to adapt our way of life to ensure that we can continue to call this beautiful place home.

The question that remains is: what role do we want to play in shaping our collective future? What if we envisioned our communities in the context of the place we live? What if we had the funding necessary to protect our communities in ways that also grew our economy and created a model for how to prosper in an era of risk and vulnerability?

I believe the effort to restore the Gulf following the BP oil disaster presents a unique opportunity to make our communities and environment more steadfast and resilient from hurricanes and other disasters. In July, the U.S. government announced an $18.7 billion settlement in principle with BP. This money can be used for a wide variety of purposes, but if our leaders are wise, they will invest in ecosystem restoration that will make the next Katrina less devastating to us economically and culturally. Wetland buffers, living shorelines and healthy oyster reefs are just a few of the restoration projects we can undertake with BP money to provide us with a natural first line of defense against hurricanes.

Resiliency is a term that is being thrown about more and more these days. Some people define it as “the ability to bounce back from a disaster more quickly and with minimal disruption”.

I propose that bouncing back only to make the same decisions that led to your getting knocked down in the first place isn’t resiliency – it is the textbook definition of insanity. It’s time to take our future into our hands. Investing in projects that restore natural habitats and natural processes will pay dividends now and into the future.

If you care about rising insurance rates, if you care about fishing, if you care about protecting your family, then you care about restoring our natural resources. Full stop. As we remember what we lost on August 29, let’s not forget what we stand to gain if we invest in our natural resources.

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