National Sierra Club » Delta Chapter Sierra Club » Conservation » Katrina response

The Delta Chapter produced this page to keep you updated on the Sierra Club response to the hurricane Katrina relief and rebuilding efforts underway.

An update on what's happening in the Lower 9th Ward:

From March 8-23, the Sierra Club will be participating in the 2008 Historic Green event to rebuild a sustainable New Orleans. Hundreds of students and young professionals in the construction industry—architects, engineers, planners, landscape architects, interior designers, and contractors—will converge on the Crescent City to work hand-in-hand with residents of the Holy Cross Historic District, part of the Lower Ninth Ward that was among the city's hardest-hit areas during Hurricane Katrina.

More >>

This is the newly revised brochure (PDF 386 KB) about building green created by members of the Gulf Coast Restoration Taskforce.

Update on the Campaign to Close the MRGO:

Thanks to everyone's hard work for many years an end to the MRGO may be in sight.

After years of attempts to rid Southeastern Louisiana of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, the end may be in sight.Louisiana's Senators Mary Landrieu and David Vitter both worked to add language to an appropriations bill that would de-authorize the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet. To ensure the first step towards closing the MRGO, this amendment must remain in the bill during conference committee between the House and the Senate.

The MRGO contributed significantly to flooding. Scientists at the LSU Hurricane Center believe that the MRGO allowed storm surge to reach New Orleans 2 to 3 times faster than if the storm surge had traveled through wetlands. Fatalities in the Lower Ninth Ward were higher than other areas of the city, in part because the fast-arriving storm surge gave residents less time to respond. Beyond its direct impact, the MRGO has destroyed much of the wetlands to the east of the channel that act as a buffer to storm surge.

Amendment Facts

Offered by Senators Vitter (R-LA), Landrieu (D-LA), Inhofe (R-OK) and Jeffords (I-VT), the closure plan for MRGO is part of a broader amendment. The Corps is provided $3.5 million to develop a plan for closure of the MRGO in six months. A final plan will be submitted for closure funding by December 2007.

The MRGO closure plan will:

  1. De-authorize deep draft navigation at a minimum and will recommend if any navigation should be supported on MRGO;
  2. Provide measures for protection from hurricanes and storms;
  3. Prevent salt water intrusion;
  4. Re-establish the storm buffering properties and ecological integrity of wetlands lost due to construction and operation of MRGO
  5. Complement overall restoration of coastal Louisiana.


Call Senators Mary Landrieu and David Vitter today to thank them for their work to Close the MRGO and urge them to keep up the fight to ensure their amendment stays in the supplemental appropriations bill. This amendment must remain in the bill during the conference committee.

To contact Senator Mary Landrieu, call (202)224-5824 or call her New Orleans office at (504) 589-2427.

To contact Senator Davide Vitter, call (202) 224-4623 or call his Metairie office at (504) 589-2753.

Katrina Related Links

New Orleans Food Map New Orleans Food Map
New Orleans Food and Farm Network New Orleans Food and Farm Network
Katrina slide show Budget priorities after Katrina
MR. GO must go MR. GO Must Go
Stop the NO East landfill NOLA East landfill
Levees for New Orleans

Flood Washington to rebuild New Orleans and our coast

On September 15th the President pledged to rebuild the Gulf Coast and do whatever it takes to make New Orleans rise again. Since then his administration and leaders in Congress have failed to follow that pledge with the action necessary to rebuild New Orleans. Sierrans know, the first step in any serious revitalization effort is a commitment to honest and effective storm protection for our communities and a vibrant and restored coast. Each day that passes without a federal commitment to Louisiana's coast and communities prolongs this tragedy.

The Sierra Club and other civic and conservation organizations have kicked off a campaign to send that message. Please take a moment to remind the President of his pledge and urge your friends to do the same. With 300,000 New Orleanians displaced, we want to send an e-mail for each of them. Please help us send the message that New Orleans needs category 5 hurricane protection, which includes effective levees and comprehensive coastal wetland restoration. Click here or visit to help renew New Orleans!

Katrina -- Ninety Days Later:

Monday, December 05, 2005

New Orleans -- Three months ago America swore that it would devote itself to the recovery of the Gulf Coast -- and a lot of people swore that, this time, we would get it right. How are we doing?

Just as the hurricane left a chaotic jumble in its wake, the recovery effort is still a pretty big mess -- some hopeful signs, some outrageous backsliding, and a lot to be anxious about. more...

Personal stories from the Gulf after Katrina:

The following links are from the Sierra Club's Gulf Coast Update page. This page contains links to Gulf Coast Sierra Club members personal Katrina stories called "Notes from the Gulf Coast". These links are to stories from Louisiana.

Who do you blame when the levees fail ... why blame the environmentalists of course:

You might be hearing some noise coming from certain camps who are looking for someone to blame for the recent catastrophic flooding in New Orleans due to hurricane Katrina. Of course they are looking for anyone to blame but themselves. In this case, they are trying to place the blame for the flooding on the environmental community. The following link will take you a Web page that the National Sierra Club has produced to give you the whole story.

You can also read this PDF file (390 Kb) from the GAO (Government Accountability Office) of testimony before the Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, Committee on Appropriations, House of Representatives by the Army Corps of Engineers on the Lake Pontchartrain and Vicinity Hurricane Protection Project. One conclusion reached is that flooding may have been worse if the project had been built as originally designed.

The Sierra Club's Response to Hurricane Katrina -- Three Things Sierra Club Members Can Do:


Dear Sierra Club Leaders, Staff, and Members

Like the rest of the nation, we have watched in horror at the death, damage, and destruction Hurricane Katrina has caused in Louisiana and the Gulf Coast. Not only has Katrina taken a huge human and economic toll, but she has unleashed an unprecedented environmental catastrophe.

Many Club leaders, staff, and members have contacted me with their expressions of concern and offers of help. I’m writing this memo to summarize the initial steps the Club is taking as the country begins looking to recover from this tragedy. These are only initial steps -- the Club will soon convene a task force to develop a longer-term rebuilding and environmental restoration plan.

By the time you receive this memo, we will be posting these steps on our public Web site. I encourage you to take action and share this message with other concerned Sierra Club members.

  1. Donate to the Red Cross to help provide immediate relief. A link to the Red Cross is on the Club Web site or use the link above.
  2. Offer to house those displaced through That link is also on the Club Web site.
  3. Help rebuild the Gulf Coast by contributing to the Sierra Club's new "Gulf Coast Environmental Restoration Fund". We will use these funds to support the work of Club staff and volunteers in the Gulf Coast states of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama as they begin restoration work. This fund will be a priority for our ongoing "Building Environmental Community" program as we work with local communities to address this tragic event, and seek opportunities for renewal.

We will showcase our vision of re-energized, civically engaged environmental communities all across this country by starting in New Orleans and in other Gulf Coast communities. We hope to help bring citizens together to rebuild their communities in ways that:

  1. strengthen local civic engagement
  2. restore the environmental integrity of coasts and wetlands
  3. rebuild in environmentally clean and efficient ways that use renewable energy, green-building techniques, and smart-growth policies in development and transportation

You can also help by sending this message to other Club leaders and/or list serves.

As we embark on these and even more challenging steps ahead, we will be notifying you through various Sierra Club communications – Clubhouse, the Sierra Club Insider, the Planet, various listservs and e-mails – and we’ll be asking for your help and feedback. If you have questions or ideas about how you can help, please feel free to contact me at or contact National Field Director Bob Bingaman at

Thanks in advance for your assistance.


Update from the Gulf Coast Environmental Restoration Project Task Force Chair Barbara Coman:

In response to the outpouring of concern for people impacted by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and to help the Gulf Coast region recover from the severe environmental problems these storms created, the Sierra Club established a Gulf Coast Environmental Restoration Project Fund, and the Conservation Governance Committee established a Task Force charged with drafting a campaign plan for this project.

In September, the CGC appointed the following volunteers and staff to the Gulf Coast Environmental Restoration Project Task Force:


  • Barbara Coman - Task Force Chair / Delta Chapter (Louisiana) Chapter Chair/New Orleans resident
  • Leslie March - Delta Chapter Vice Chair / Mandeville resident
  • Casey Roberts - New Orleans Group Chair / New Orleans resident
  • Becky Gillette - Mississippi Chapter Chair / Ocean Springs resident
  • David Underhill - Mobile (Alabama) Group Chair / Mobile resident
  • Juan Parras - National Environmental Justice Committee / Houston resident
  • Colin Bennet - National Environmental Justice committee / SSC
  • Lisa Force - Board of Directors liaison


  • Maura Wood - Sr. Regional Rep Al/Ms/La / Lead Staff to Task Force
  • Darryl Malek-Wiley - La. Environmental Justice Organizer /New Orleans resident
  • Louie Miller - Mississippi BEC and Mississippi Chapter Director
  • Lisa Evans - SE Office Administrative Coordinator
  • Kim Haddow - National Communications Director
  • Bob Bingaman - National Field Director

The Task Force has met twice by conference call. I accepted leadership as Chair of the Task Force, and we have established five subcommittees focused on various areas of environmental concern as the rebuilding commences.

These five subcommittees are:

  • Rebuilding greener (Lead volunteer Leslie March)
  • Protecting people from natural disasters (Lead Volunteer Reilly Morse / Gulfport, MS)
  • Toxics (Lead Volunteer Becky Gillette)
  • Global Warming and Energy Policy (Lead volunteer Casey Roberts)
  • Environmental Justice (Lead volunteer David Underhill)

Currently, each lead volunteer is seeking out 4 - 5 members for their subcommittee. They will then begin determining priority goals, targets, and tactics to achieve our goals in each area. Leaders and members of the subcommittee are not necessarily members of the Task Force. In fact, we are reaching beyond the Task Force at this stage to other experts – either Sierra Club members or people from other organizations - who can provide the best input and insight.

On November 5-6, the Task Force will meet together in Baton Rouge, Louisiana to bring the five areas together into one campaign plan and rebuilding blueprint which will guide the Sierra Club's activities during the Gulf Coast’s recovery. (We're meeting in Baton Rouge because it's as close to the Gulf Coast as we can find places to stay! All hotels are still filled with evacuees and service workers, so members of the Task Force will stay in member's homes, and we will meet at the Sierra Club office in Baton Rouge.)

As I mentioned earlier, in immediate response to Hurricane Katrina, the Sierra Club Foundation created the Gulf Coast Environmental Restoration Project Fund to help fund our community organizing efforts during the rebuilding process. After the campaign plan is approved by the CGC, the Fund will be used for implementation of the plan. An appeal at the Sierra Summit resulted in donations totaling almost $40,000. Since then, the amount has grown to $90,000. We are overwhelmed by the caring and concern for the Gulf Coast that these donations represent, and will continue to update you on the plan and its implementation.

Establishing a strong infrastructure to support our work along the Gulf Coast has taken time, but that doesn't mean the Sierra Club has been silent on the huge social and environmental issues presented by the hurricanes' destruction. Immediately after Hurricane Katrina, Executive Director Carl Pope issued "Seven Principles for Rebuilding the Gulf Coast." These principles, which focus on people, people's health, and rebuilding with respect for people and the environment, provide a guiding framework for our work and our campaign plan.

We've received a lot of inquiries from people who want to come here and help, and we so appreciate the generosity and concern behind that! Unfortunately, it has been logistically impossible up 'til now. There is no place for people to stay! Non-residents were not allowed into many areas until recently. However, today we learned that Habitat for Humanity in Covington, LA, has been approved for RV camping in their parking lot. If you would like to bring an RV and help build modular affordable housing, you can contact Claire at 985-893-3172 for more information. In addition, you can register as a volunteer at your local chapter of the Red Cross. They anticipate bringing volunteers in the hurricane area for many months to come. As we understand it, training will take place "on the job", and they will pay travel costs depending on the length of stay. We will try to keep you updated on other opportunities, via the website and memos such as this.

In addition, we've done A LOT of media work. EJ Staffer Darryl Malek-Wiley and Mississippi Chapter Chairs Becky Gillette and Rose Johnson, among others, have been featured in numerous newspaper, radio, and television interviews, from the Washington Post to the Christian Science Monitor to NPR to CNN. Rose and the Turkey Creek community where she lives have been featured in the several stories, serving to highlight the problems that low-income, disenfranchised communities are facing. Darryl visited New Orleans with a German TV crew the day before Hurricane Rita made landfall, and will escort a crew from Los Angeles this weekend. We've countered arguments that Sierra Club in fact CAUSED the destruction in New Orleans (see - Blaming Environmentalists for Katrina - What you should know!), and highlighted the importance of putting people and their health and safety first as residents return to stricken areas.

To keep the human face of the disaster first and foremost, we have also established a 'blog on the Sierra Club website (see On this site, you can read first hand accounts of hurricane experiences from volunteers and staff who live in hurricane-effected areas. In addition, our 'bloggers are providing personal photos documenting what they are seeing and living - please check it out. Also, if you have stories of your own, we hope that you will add them to the others.

In closing, thank you again so much for your concern for us, and for all of the people of the Gulf Coast. We will continue to keep you informed about the work of the Task Force, the Plan, and its implementation. I also invite you to send ideas and thoughts about rebuilding to me, and the lead volunteers who will share them with their subcommittees.

Barbara Coman Gulf Coast Environmental Restoration Task Force Chair

Seven Principles for Rebuilding the Gulf Coast:

Statement by Carl Pope, Sierra Club Executive Director

President Bush addressed the nation to share his administration's vision for rebuilding New Orleans and the other Gulf Coast communities that have suffered in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. It is one of many opportunities for our government to rebuild trust with people who feel that this emergency was mismanaged. Given the enormity of the task ahead, it is vital that the rebuilding process adhere to some common principles to ensure that the effort is not only efficient but also safe, just, and fair.

  1. PUT PEOPLE FIRST The people who were hurt, suffered and were displaced must come first. The region should be rebuilt to meet their needs, and provide them with secure, prosperous and dignified lives. All must be welcomed back if they choose to return.
  2. INVEST IN THE LOCAL WORKFORCE AND ECONOMY Local workers and local businesses must be partners in the rebuilding. The disaster should not be used to drive down wages or salaries. Arguments of "efficiency" should not be used to channel the benefits of rebuilding to outside mega-firms. Existing prevailing wage, equal opportunity and small business safety nets should be respected, not shredded. In addition, workers involved in the clean up, rebuilding and restart of industry must be adequately protected.
  3. DON'T SACRIFICE HEALTH AND SAFETY FOR SPEED The community must be safe and healthy for those who are going to live and work there. While speed is of the essence for the immediate draining and restoration of basic infrastructure, scientists -- not politicians or bureaucrats -- must be allowed to determine what it will take to make the cleanup and rebuilding safe for residents, including children, the elderly, and those at particular risk from toxins. In addition, workers must be involved in the clean up, rebuilding and restart must adequately protected.
  4. REBUILD SMARTER AND BETTER The disaster revealed the many mistakes made in the development of New Orleans and other Gulf Coast communities over the last half century and more. In rebuilding, the lessons of these failures must be learned. Adequate transit must be provided; homes, buildings, and sewage systems designed to withstand future storms; and the latest building and energy conservation technologies adopted. There's also a need to disarm time bombs that were not triggered by Katrina but still pose a threat in the future, including inadequate levees, substandard buildings, and uncleaned toxic waste dumps.
  5. PROMOTE RESPONSIBILITY TO THE COMMON GOOD Those whose practices put others at risk must not be allowed to repeat them. Oil and gas operations that destroyed protective barrier wetlands; floating casinos that threatened shoreline communities when the storm surge hit; the storage and disposal of toxic materials in flood-plains and wetlands; shoddy construction practices; inadequate drainage requirements -- all of these must be firmly and resolutely ended.
  6. REPAIR THE INEQUITIES OF THE PAST This disaster made it clear that nature is the great equalizer and knows no race or class and that our emergency response mechanisms are often discriminatory, with dire consequences for minority and low-income communities. Our government needs to ensure that future emergency plans protect everyone, regardless of race and class. It must also ensure that the rebuilding lifts up everyone equally and does not simply restore past injustices.
  7. UPHOLD A MODEL OF DEMOCRACY The people of the Gulf Coast must be allowed to oversee and control the reconstruction and ensure that these principles are respected. Communities and workers that are not involved in decisions will be more exposed and vulnerable to future risks. Transparency, accountability and public control are the most important key to success.

Eric Antebi 415-977-5747
David Willett 202-675-6698


The Delta Chapter is 3,000 of your neighbors supporting the work of the Sierra Club in Louisiana. We advance the cause of protecting Louisiana's environment in a variety of ways, including lobbying the state legislature in Baton Rouge, sponsoring a Mercury Public Education Campaign, raising public awareness about climate change, and working to keep the Atchafalaya Basin, America's greatest river swamp, wet and wild. In addition, we encourage our members to get outside and enjoy our beautiful planet.

The Sierra Club's members and supporters are more than 1.3 million of your friends and neighbors. Inspired by nature, we work together to protect our communities and the planet. The Club is America's oldest, largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization.

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