Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Jackson County Residents Opposed to Richton Salt Dome

More than 30 county residents appeared before the Jackson County supervisors Monday to request the board take action against a proposed oil storage facility in the Richton Salt Dome.

The board decided to withhold any action until its Jan. 7 meeting.

I plan to be at the meeting voicing my opposition to a project that is environmentally unsound.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

We deserve public input on the Richton Project

George County supervisors are asking President Bush, the Energy Department, U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor and the state's two senators to help organize public hearings about plans to use the Richton salt dome for oil storage.

The supervisors, who passed a resolution at Monday's board meeting, want hearings in Jackson, George and Greene counties, and they want full notice of reasonable dates, times and places for those hearings.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Protect our endangered species say NO to the Richton Site

The Pascagoula River basin is home to species that exist nowhere else in the world. Gopher tortoises and black pine snakes live along the proposed pipelines, said Rebecca Stowe, director of the Nature Conservancy's office in Merrill. The river itself is home to the endangered Gulf sturgeon and yellow-blotched map turtle, and the pearl darter, a fish whose status is under consideration. Of the sites under consideration for the new reserve, DOE documents say only development of the Richton site could harm endangered species.

It's a no brainer the Richton site should not be considered. We must protect our endangered species.

The brine water will be shot through a diluting machine into a major migration pathway for young shrimp and other economically important sea life, said fisheries expert Mark Peterson of the University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast Research Lab. Many creatures important to the seafood industry reproduce offshore, and their young depend on currents to get to estuaries near shore, where they mature. Areas near Horn Island could see a large jump in salinity from the salt dome plan, forcing many young off their path. Some creatures may die. The brine will be heavier than the water around it, he said. It will sink to the lowest point in the Sound, which is the Pascagoula Ship Channel. Ships passing through could move the water northward, into the estuaries and the river.

"As for pipelines carrying brine running along freshwater bodies, all you have to do is have one 36-inch pipe break. Everything surrounding it would be killed," Peterson said. The current assessment, he said, doesn't take into account all the "what-ifs."

Not to mention the havoc that will be caused to our seafood industry.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Gopher Frog Woes

A conservation group is suing the federal government on behalf of a frog that used to live in ponds throughout Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama but now lives in just three places in De Soto National Forest and Jackson County.

The Mississippi gopher frog's population had dwindled to about 100 breeding adults, prompting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2001 to declare the animal endangered.

Salt dome plan is a disaster in the making

This was in the Letters to the Editor (Sun Herald)

Salt dome plan is a disaster in the making
The plan by the Department of Energy to use fresh water to hollow out the salt dome at Richton for oil storage is a disaster in the making.
The DOE plans to pump 50 million gallons of fresh water per day from the Pascagoula River to dissolve the salt in the dome. The salt slurry would then be pumped through a 100-mile-long pipeline and discharged into the Gulf of Mexico near the Pascagoula ship channel. This process would last five years. Once the dome is hollowed out, oil would be pumped into the cavity via the same pipeline.

The federal government deems this necessary for national security. I will not argue with national security, but I, and many others, take strong issue with the plan. Given the current drought conditions, and fights over water resources in neighboring states, it makes no sense to turn 50 million gallons of fresh water per day into a toxic salt slurry, then pump that slurry into a prime wildlife habitat.

The DOE-prepared environmental impact study concludes that there will be little environmental impact, yet cites the potential for brine spills of up to 34.7 million gallons (as has already occurred at another storage site), that the brine plume would enter the Pascagoula ship channel, and that there would be an adverse impact on water resources. Removing 50 million gallons of water per day from the river system and dumping 140 billion gallons of salt brine will have more than a little environmental impact. This amount of brine will impact the entire Mississippi Sound.

The DOE is moving ahead with this plan, partly because there was very little comment from the Coast counties at public hearings held immediately after Hurricane Katrina. Before this goes any further, independent studies should be required.

If the storage site at Richton is necessary, at least modify the plan to reduce the environmental impact. Pull the water from the Gulf instead of the river, and discharge the brine farther out into the Gulf.

This impacts all of South Mississippi. Please voice your concern to our governor, senators and congressmen.


I plan to start writing letters ASAP.

Department of Energy slips the Richton plan through the cracks in the days after Katrina.

On Sept. 1, 2005, just three days after Katrina, the Department of Energy announced its intent to explore the environmental impact of building the reserve at Richton and three other sites, including one in Claiborne County.

"Nobody had a TV or electricity," said Rebecca Stowe, director of the Nature Conservancy's office in Merrill. "It definitely seems to have flown under the radar." She said she had no knowledge of the announcement or subsequent public meetings, and she believes George County officials also knew nothing of the plan.

Not only did we not have TV, Internet Service or electricity we were not getting any mail for several weeks.

The agency cancelled public meetings in Hattiesburg and Pascagoula scheduled for early October 2005 because the meeting places had been damaged. They rescheduled the meeting for two weeks later in Jackson (the state capital, not the county). The Jackson County Board of Supervisors was left out of the loop, said Supervisor Frank Leach at a recent Sierra Club meeting about the project.

The report said more than 1,500 acres of wetlands could be altered, filled or damaged through the Richton program, and 150 acres of prime fish habitat could be damaged.

By May 2007, said a Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks official, meetings between state and federal agencies concluded the Leaf would not support the mining process, which would draw enough fresh water to create about 1.2 billion gallons of brine nearly 10 times saltier than the waters of Mississippi Sound it would then be dumped into. Fifty million gallons is roughly the equivalent of 11 football fields, measured goal post to goal post, each sitting under 10 feet of water.

Thoughts turned to the Pascagoula River, the only river in the lower 48 states that has not been dammed.

Mississippi deserves better then to be treated as a dumping ground by the rest of the nation. We must rally to protect our wetlands, our rivers and the Mississippi Sound.