Tribute to Pam Dashiell
Pam Dashiell, dear friend and partner of this coalition, passed away last week in her New Orleans home. She was 61 years old. Pam was an avid advocate for environmental justice, coastal restoration, and for creating a resilient, sustainable Lower Ninth Ward.
After her Holy Cross neighborhood home was destroyed during Hurricane Katrina, Pam dedicated her life and work to sustainably rebuilding her community and city. Pam wore many hats throughout her career, most recently serving as co-director of the Lower 9th Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development. She acted as president and board chair of the Holy Cross Neighborhood Association, in addition to serving on the boards of many other local organizations.
Members of our coalition had the pleasure of collaborating with Pam on numerous projects, including restoration of the Bayou Bienvenue-Central Wetlands Unit, closure of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, as well as the “How Safe, How Soon?” collaborative. Pam’s work centered on her ability to effectively blend environmentalism with social justice. We will greatly miss her passion and drive.
Pam's memorial and funeral were held last weekend at a church near her home in Holy Cross. Her ashes were scattered in Bayou Bienvenue from the platform in the Lower Ninth Ward.
Louisiana says Corps' disposal of dredged materials inconsistent with state CZMA regulations
On November 23, the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources submitted a letter to U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke requesting him to intervene, in his role as Coastal Zone Management Act mediator, in the dispute between the state and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The dispute is over the consistency of the Corps' dredged material disposal practices in and in proximity to the Mississippi River's Southwest Pass. EDF and NWF submitted a statement
in support of this action, arguing that the Corps is actively managing the Mississippi River and its sediments for deltaic collapse, a purpose not authorized by Congress. The Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation submitted a technical assessment to the state supporting the state’s position that the Corps disrupted the natural flow in Pass a Loutre of the Mississippi Delta.
The Corps has designed the Mississippi River system to move much of the river’s sediments through the Southwest Pass and into deep Gulf waters, thus starving nearby coastal wetlands of vital freshwater and sediment. The state has submitted a white paper, that proposes a number of restoration uses for this dredged material and has argued to the Corps that the current disposal practice is inconsistent with state Coastal Zone Management Act regulations and the State Master Plan that calls for beneficial or restoration use of these materials.
The Corps disagrees with some of the state's specific beneficial use proposals, and claims that its disposal program complies with the "federal standard," which requires the most cost-effective disposal method consistent with environmental and legal requirements. Environmental groups and the state do not consider disposal practices that promote deltaic ecosystem collapse to be consistent with environmental and legal requirements. “We hope that the Gulf Coastal Restoration Working Group will take on this issue and urge the Corps to accept the mediation request,” stated Jim Tripp, general counsel at Environmental Defense Fund, “with the goal of reorienting the whole dredging program towards restoration with the requisite budgetary support.”
Profile: EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson
New Orleans and Louisiana gained a champion in the Administration when President Obama appointed Lisa Jackson
as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Administrator Jackson grew up in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans and graduated from the School of Chemical Engineering at Tulane. She went on to receive her master's degree from Princeton University, where she was inspired to use her engineering skills to address and prevent pollution.
Administrator Jackson began her career in the environmental field in 1987, working for the EPA in the Superfund site remediation program. Sixteen years after joining the EPA, Jackson moved to the New Jersey's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), where she served as Assistant Commissioner of Compliance and Enforcement, Assistant Commissioner of Land Use Management, and then Commissioner of Environmental Protection. Jackson led compliance investigations of two New Jersey cities--Camden and Paterson--following multicultural outreach efforts on the effects of pollution on public health.
Administrator Jackson is the first African American to serve as EPA Administrator. Governor Corzine, in response to Jackson's confirmation as head of U.S. EPA, stated: “The American people have gained a tireless public servant and a tenacious guardian of the environment.”
"I know that Nancy Sutley was here and the White House has made it clear they're coordinating an effort across the federal government [to review coastal restoration plans]," Administrator Jackson said during a trip to New Orleans in November, "but I would be lying to you if I didn't say I have a special interest in making sure the EPA is doing all it can to move those issues forward."
EPA regional programs receive funding for FY2010
The Environmental Protection Agency has two regional programs that focus on the health of southern Louisiana. They are the Gulf of Mexico regional program
and the Lake Pontchartrain program office. Each office provides valuable services to the local communities and engages in outreach on how to best address environmental, health and restoration issues around the ecosystems of the Gulf of Mexico and Lake Pontchartrain.
In the Department of the Interior and EPA appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2010, these two programs received considerable increases in funding. This money will be well spent to support our priorities. The Lake Pontchartrain program received its highest funding level ever--$1.5 million--an increase of more than $500,000 from FY 2009. This budget allows the federal government to continue educating the public about ongoing issues involving the lake. The Gulf of Mexico program received $6 million for FY 2010, an increase of more than $1.4 million from FY 2009.
The funding increases for the EPA’s geographic programs are unprecedented and provide the EPA with an opportunity to educate a large number of people about the problems and solutions involving the Gulf Coast. Our coalition will continue to follow this issue and provide updates when possible.