Louisiana coast still hurting from storms, bracing for more

Louisiana coast still hurting from storms, bracing for more

Rebecca Santana                            May 30, 2021


CAMERON, La. (AP) — Scores of people in coastal Louisiana are still living in campers on dirt mounds or next to cement slabs where their houses once stood. Unresolved insurance claims and a shortage of supply and labor are stymieing building efforts. And weather forecasters are warning of more possible devastation to come.

Nine months after two back-to-back hurricanes hammered their towns, residents are still struggling to recover — even as they brace for another onslaught of storms in the season that starts Tuesday.

“We’re scared to death for this next season,” said Clarence Dyson, who is staying with his wife and four kids in a 35-foot-long (11-meter-long) camper with bunk beds while the home they had been renting in Cameron Parish undergoes repairs after Hurricane Laura.

The parish — a Louisiana designation similar to a county — is made up of small communities on the southwestern coast where residents have lived for generations, either working in the shrimp industry or more recently at one of the area’s liquefied natural gas plants.

The region features a stunning, peaceful landscape where families go crabbing together, birds perch on swaying strands of marsh grass and wind-gnarled oak trees grow on the long ridges — called cheniers — that rise above the marsh. About 70% of the parish is wetlands or open water.

Last fall, however, the area was battered by hurricanes that carved a path of destruction. On Aug. 27, Category 4 Hurricane Laura rammed into the coast near the town of Cameron with maximum winds of 150 mph (241 kph). Just six weeks later, Hurricane Delta, carrying 97-mph (156-kph) winds, made landfall about 10 miles (16 kilometers) away.

Of the several communities hit, the towns of Cameron, Creole and Grand Chenier, in Cameron Parish, took the worst beating. Laura flattened homes, nearly gutted the First Baptist church, stripped trees of their branches and leaves and toppled power lines.

Nine months later, the parish’s electric lines have been replaced by ramrod straight poles. Oak trees denuded of leaves and branches are started to sprout new growth. Piles of debris have been hauled away. And Booth’s Grocery Store, in business since 1957, is once again selling beer and bait.

But for most of the parish, recovery is still an ongoing process. Cement slabs and mounds of dirt still mark the place where homes used to be. The sounds synonymous with rebuilding — the whine of circular saws cutting lumber or nail guns hammering shingles — are rare.

Building contractors are in short supply; most are already slammed with work in the more densely populated, hurricane-damaged Lake Charles area farther north. Lumber prices have soared due to a trade dispute with Canada and a temporary shutdown in production when the coronavirus pandemic hit a year ago.

Leaders of the First Baptist Church in Cameron have been trying to get a contractor to come out and give them a quote so they can apply for a building permit. Most of the church has been gutted to the studs, with pews currently stacked in the building’s center. This is the fourth hurricane the small congregation has survived as well as one fire, said Cyndi Sellers, a longtime church member who was baptized and married there.

In the meantime, the small congregation holds services in the meeting room of the parish’s governing body. They try to soften the space with plastic sunflowers and a blue cloth across the podium. A cross with a Bible verse attached to it stands on a table.

Sellers says rebuilding will help the congregation.

“They need to be able to worship together on Sunday, to be able to have that family and to have that support — emotional, spiritual support — to get through what they’re going through,” she said. “And they’re going through a lot.”

Sellers has gone through quite a bit herself. As a young child, she took refuge in the Cameron Parish courthouse when Hurricane Audrey hit in 1957, and has seen many other storms in the more than 60 years since. Finally, after Laura, she and her husband had had enough and decided to move inland to a town about two hours away.

“The stress that you go through when there’s a storm in the Gulf, if you don’t live on the coast you can’t really imagine what it’s like,” she said.

Meanwhile, forecasters with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are predicting 13 to 20 named storms — six to 10 of which will become hurricanes and three to five of which will be major hurricanes — for this year’s Atlantic season, which runs from June through November.

The stress of rebuilding and worry about future storms have prompted some to consider moving inland. But many who did just that after Hurricane Rita in 2005 were still unable to escape Laura’s wrath. The 2020 storm was so powerful, it was still a hurricane when it hit Shreveport about 200 miles (322 kilometers) north of the coast.

Clarence Dyson and his wife considered leaving but decided to stay — he is working at an LNG plant being built in Cameron. He also used to catch shrimp, but his boat was destroyed by Laura.

Federal officials just recently made it a little easier for residents to stay on their properties while they rebuild, by allowing the trailers it provides to be placed on lots that lie in the flood plain.

The movable living quarters can be seen everywhere, often parked near the cleared slabs and elevated mounds where houses used to be. Some residents intend to build something more permanent. But not 67-year-old Margaret Little. She plans to stay in a one-bedroom trailer that can be hooked to a truck and hauled away when the next hurricane comes.

Like Sellers, Little lived through Hurricane Audrey. She remembers holding on to a fence for dear life and how her dog had to fight off snakes when the family found refuge in a pump house.

Hurricane Rita took her nice brick house in Grand Chenier. Then Laura wiped out the trailer she’d bought to replace it. By the time Delta came, there was nothing left to take.

Little’s husband loves to crab and shrimp, and they have replanted the fruit trees they lost in Laura. But she draws the line at permanently rebuilding.

“I can’t lose another house. I just can’t,” she said.

Chemicals, pipelines destroying Black communities today. And poor of color are dying.

Chemicals, pipelines destroying Black communities today. And poor of color are dying.

The Rev. William J. Barber II                    May 30, 2021


Along the Mississippi River in Louisiana, land where Black people were once enslaved on plantations is now being poisoned by petrochemical plants that have given the place a new name: Cancer Alley. In the fall of 2019, Robert Taylor told a Poor People’s Campaign gathering there about the toll of watching his family and neighbors die. Taylor’s daughter has a rare disease that her doctor told her she had a 1 in 5 million chance of contracting. She has since learned that three other neighbors are dying of the same disease.

Robert Taylor talks about his family struggles with chemical poisoning. His daughter contracted a rare disease, and so did her neighbors.
Robert Taylor talks about his family struggles with chemical poisoning. His daughter contracted a rare disease, and so did her neighbors.


Four hundred miles north in Memphis, Tennessee, Black residents invited the Poor People’s Campaign to support their organizing to stop the Byhalia Pipeline. The proposed crude oil pipeline would repeat the systemic racism of the 1970s urban renewal by running the line through Memphis’ African American communities. In this place where Ida B. Wells once challenged the lies used to justify lynching, Black Memphians are again resisting lies that would harm their community.

More than 150 years after slavery was abolished in the United States, descendants of enslaved Americans continue to challenge systemic racism because they experience the ongoing impact of America’s original sin on the very land where it first occurred.

But slavery’s legacy doesn’t stop in those communities.

Neighborhoods of color across the country are hit by industrial waste and air pollution and deprived of green spaces at significantly higher rates than white communities. Poverty, redlining (a practice that segregated housing) and the overwhelming lack of diversity in the environmental space keep the cycle of pollution and community destruction concentrated in Black America.

In fact, whites in America experience 17% less air pollution than they cause. Black people experience 56% more than their consumption causes, according to a 2019 study.

Follow the family lines of the Great Migration to Chicago, Illinois, and Flint, Michigan, and you find African American communities where families can buy unleaded gas but not unleaded water. There, too, welfare-rights unions have joined the Poor People’s Campaign because their members work two and three jobs but still cannot afford a decent home for their families. In recent weeks, our partners on the Southeast side of Chicago won a struggle to keep a processing plant from moving from predominantly white Lincoln Park into their neighborhood.

The Poor People’s Campaign has joined with grassroots movements across the USA to highlight the 140 million Americans who are poor or low-income in the richest nation in the history of the world.

While poverty touches every race, creed and culture, 60% of African Americans are poor or low-income (compared with 33% of white Americans) because the promise of 40 acres and a mule was never fulfilled for the formerly enslaved. Whether you live in St. James Parish, Louisiana, or Flint, Michigan, the nation’s failure to pay reparations continues to echo through the African American community.

Black people have been denied the fruit of our labor through Jim Crow laws, convict leasing and the redlining and urban renewal that have destroyed Black neighborhoods.

Today’s racial wealth gap is clear evidence that reparations are needed.

For generations, an economic system built by white male property owners has consolidated more and more wealth in the hands of a few, leading to income inequality that hurts people of every race.

A tax on that accumulated wealth to repay the descendants of the people who have been systematically abused by this economy would do more than render justice too long denied. It would give Black Americans the opportunity to demonstrate how wealth can be invested in ways that benefit the whole and help us imagine a world where no one needs to live in poverty.

The Rev. William J. Barber II is the president of Repairers of the Breach and co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign.

Experts Predict Summer 2021 Will Be a ‘Tick Time Bomb’—Here’s How to Stay Safe

Experts Predict Summer 2021 Will Be a ‘Tick Time Bomb’—Here’s How to Stay Safe

Korin Miller                          May 30, 2021
Photo credit: rbkomar - Getty Images
Photo credit: rbkomar – Getty Images

  • Experts predict summer 2021 will be a “tick time bomb.”
  • Due to a mild winter, most parts of the country are already seeing more ticks this season than last year, as the tiny insects thrive in humidity.
  • Here’s how to protect yourself from tick bites, which can lead to various illnesses including Lyme disease.

Every summer, we hear the same warning: It’s going to be a bad year for ticks. But entomologists (a.k.a. insect experts) say that 2021 could live up to that message. In fact, The Weather Channel even referred to this year as a “tick time bomb.”

Robert Lockwood, associate certified entomologist for Ehrlich Pest Control, says experts are already noticing a thriving tick population in 2021. “Due to the mild winters and climate change, we are already seeing more ticks this season than last year,” he says.

Why does a wet winter matter? Ticks thrive in humidity. As a result, “regions that experienced wetter and warmer winters will have higher tick populations this spring and summer,” says Ben Hottel, Ph.D., technical services manager for Orkin.

The warmer and moister an environment becomes, “the faster the arthropod life cycle is completed,” explains Anna Berry, a board-certified entomologist and technical manager at Terminix. “When it gets very cold, very hot, or very dry, it may take longer to go from one stage of development to the next.” A wet winter and spring, along with warm temperatures, “provides the necessary warmth and humidity for fast development,” she says.

Ticks also need hosts like deer, mice, and birds, to survive, and those hosts also tend to thrive in warm, wet weather, Berry says.

The problem is, these minuscule pests aren’t just hanging out—they’re biting people, says Jean I. Tsao, Ph.D., associate professor in the Departments of Fisheries & Wildlife and Large Animal Clinical Sciences at Michigan State University. She cites data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that show tick bites are already trending higher than past years for this week.

“Although this is not the case for the entire U.S., this is the case for the South Central, Northeast, and Midwest regions,” Tsao says. “In these regions, the American dog tick is very active now; and in the Northeast and Midwest, the blacklegged tick is also active.” Both species are known to carry diseases, including Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease, respectively.

What do ticks look like, again?

Most adult ticks are about the size of an apple seed or pencil eraser, but they can be as small as the size of a poppyseed. They don’t have wings, and are flat and oval until they have a blood meal, Berry says. The color varies depending on the type of tick; it can look grayish-white, brown, black, reddish-brown, or yellowish.

How to protect yourself from ticks

To prevent bites, the CDC recommends applying a tick repellent that contains at least 20% DEET, picaridin, or IR3535 on exposed skin and avoiding wooded and brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter (a.k.a. tick minefields). You can also treat your clothes and gear with a product that contains 0.5% permethrin, a powerful insecticide.

If you go hiking, walk in the center of trails instead of near brush, where ticks are likely to be hanging out. When you come inside after a day outdoors, try to shower within two hours to ensure any lingering critters are washed away. You’ll also want to do a close, full-body tick check with a mirror (or have someone you trust inspect you).

You can throw your clothes directly into the washer, but you’ll want to do so on high heat, the CDC says. If you don’t want to wash your clothes, toss them in your dryer and run the machine on high for 10 minutes to ensure ticks are killed.

You can protect your property from ticks by landscaping, Hottel says. “Keeping your lawn regularly mowed, creating a barrier between overgrown shrubs and your property, and reducing leaf litter will reduce the presence of all tick species,” he says. (Check out our in-depth guide on how to keep ticks away from your home.)

What to do if you spot a tick on your body

If you find a tick on your body, the CDC recommends removing it as soon as possible. Here’s how:

  • Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to your skin’s surface as possible.
  • Pull upward with steady, even pressure. (Don’t twist or jerk the tick—that can cause the mouthparts to break off and remain in your skin.)
  • Clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
  • Dispose of the tick by flushing it down the toilet or putting it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag or container, and wrapping it tightly in tape. (Many people prefer to keep the tick, just in case they experience odd symptoms and need the insect for testing.)

It’s unclear what will happen with tick populations through the rest of the summer. Tsao says certain parts of the country are now starting to see a lack in moisture. “If the drought continues, then our tick boom most likely will subside,” she says.

Ticks can rehydrate if the air under leaf litter is moist, but if the humidity drops below 82-25% for an extended period, the ticks start to die. “The greater the frequency of these drying periods,” Tsao says, “the higher the mortality rate of the ticks.”

Until then, stay safe during those outdoor adventures!

Outrage as regulators let pesticides from factory pollute US town for years

Outrage as regulators let pesticides from factory pollute US town for years

Carey Gillam                             May 29, 2021


For years, the people of Mead, Nebraska, have worried about the ethanol plant that moved into their small rural community a little over a decade ago. They feared the terrible smells and odd illnesses in the area might be connected to the plant and its use of pesticide-coated seed corn in its biofuel production process.

Those concerns recently turned to outrage and anger after environmental regulators were forced to acknowledge that under their oversight the AltEn LLC ethanol plant has been contaminating the area with an array of pesticides at levels much higher than what is considered safe.

The contamination has been ongoing for years, exacerbated through accidental spills and leaks of the plant’s pesticide-laden waste, which has been stored in poorly maintained lagoons and piled into hills of a putrid lime-green mash called “wet cake”. The company had also distributed the waste to area farmers for spreading across fields as “soil conditioner”.

It was only earlier this year – after media reports exposed the problems – that state officials ordered the plant to close, and began efforts to clean up what many in the community see as a sprawling environmental disaster.

The state attorney general’s office then sued the company for multiple alleged environmental violations, citing “an ongoing threat to the environment”, and late last month Nebraska lawmakers passed a bill restricting the use of pesticide-treated seeds for ethanol production.

Residents of Mead say the crackdown on the plant is welcomed, but, in many respects, is far too late. The lingering impact of the pollution won’t simply end with the new law, nor will many of the industrial agriculture practices that caused it. Instead, the pollution continues to wreak havoc and there are fears that Mead’s trauma may be repeated in other small towns across the state where large-scale industrial agriculture practices continue.

The pollution continues to wreak havoc and there are fears that Mead’s trauma may be repeated in other small towns across the state

“I believe this is an environmental failure of colossal proportions and the blame can be squarely laid at the feet of the governor and his staff who simply closed their eyes to the environmental damage being done,” former Nebraska state senator Al Davis told the Guardian.

Fish die-offs are reported miles downstream from the plant. University researchers have reported the decimation of dozens of honeybee colonies, and state officials have received reports of sick and dying geese and other birds, as well as disoriented dogs and unexplained ailments in people.

Regulators said they have found unsafe pesticide levels in a farm pond, and water used for drinking and for irrigating crops is also feared contaminated, according to records within the Nebraska department of environment and energy (NDEE). Pesticide residues have been detected in soil samples taken from an area park.

Meanwhile, AltEn lagoons are awash in millions of gallons of pesticide-laden wastewater and 84,000m pounds of distillers grains byproduct sit in piles around the plant. State tests on the water and the byproduct show staggeringly high levels of several pesticides associated with a range of health problems for people and wildlife.

Carol Blood, a Nebraska state senator, said the situation in and around Mead, a tiny village of roughly 500 people, is “dire”. She is pushing for an investigation into AltEn’s practices and is planning a series of public meetings across the state to help evaluate the scope of the environmental damage. “Based on the scale of the issue … it is an environmental catastrophe,” Blood said.

Neither the NDEE nor the governor’s office would answer questions about the situation posed by the Guardian.

AltEn attorney Stephen Mossman also declined to comment and AltEn’s general manager, Scott Tingelhoff, did not reply to requests to discuss the situation.

Seed companies

The pesticides creating the problems in and around Mead came from some of the world’s largest agricultural companies, who make and sell seeds coated in different types of chemicals as a tool for protecting growing crops from damaging insects and disease.

AltEn advertised itself as a “green recycling” location where agricultural companies could dispose of unwanted supplies of these pesticide-treated seeds. Bayer AG, which owns Monsanto, along with Syngenta, Corteva, and other large companies, were among those dumping seeds coated with an array of insecticides and fungicides at AltEn, according to AltEn marketing materials.

The pesticides creating the problems in and around Mead came from some of the world’s largest agricultural companies

The companies could rid themselves of pesticide-coated corn, wheat and sorghum seed free of charge at AltEn, and pay a fee to dispose of soybean and other types of treated seeds, under the AltEn program.

The companies are now actively involved in the clean-up. Emails between state regulators and Bayer’s senior remediation manager, Mark Bowers, show Bayer overseeing a range of actions on the AltEn site. Among other actions, Bayer is trying to lease farmland in the area to house storage tanks for AltEn waste, and is working on a plan to spread the plant’s wastewater over area fields after the water is treated to reduce pesticide levels.

In a statement, Bayer said it was addressing “priorities in the management of wastewater and wet cake along with the development of a remediation plan stewarded by the State of Nebraska”.

Syngenta said it was working with the other seed companies on “voluntary response activities”, and is “committed to proper stewardship for the safe use of treated seeds”.

Corteva confirmed it was part of the team working to “address environmental conditions at the AltEn site”.

None of the companies would answer questions about how much of the pesticide-laced seed they deposited at AltEn over the years. A source close to the companies said they believed AltEn would handle the seeds responsibly and they were not culpable in the contamination.

A history of trouble

The ethanol plant was first introduced to Mead in 2007 as part of a “closed-loop” system developed by a company called E3 Biofuels. A 30,000-head cattle operation was set up adjacent to the ethanol facility. Operators said they would process manure from the animals into methane gas to help power the plant and use manure to fertilize corn fields. Wet distillers’ grains made as a byproduct could be fed back to the cattle, a common industry practice.

But after just a few months, the plant closed and E3 filed for bankruptcy in late 2007. AltEn later restarted the plant, telling regulators in 2013 the plant would be using grain, “mainly corn”, as its primary raw material.

Nebraska regulators discovered in 2015, however, that AltEn was using pesticide-coated seeds, one of only two ethanol plants in the United States known to do so. Records show by 2018 the regulators knew the byproducts contained “measurable” pesticide residues and by 2019 they knew the pesticides were present in “elevated concentrations”.

There are more Meads out there

Jane Kleeb

According to correspondence between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the NDEE, tests run on AltEn’s wet cake and wastewater showed “very high levels of pesticide residues”, including neonicotinoids, which are known neurotoxins. The fact that the material had been applied to area fields meant the pesticides could leach into groundwater and be taken up into plant tissues, contaminating nectar and pollen and threatening wildlife, the EPA warned.

The NDEE ordered AltEn to stop distributing the waste for land application in 2019 because of the pesticide levels. But the agency did not stop the company from taking in more pesticide-coated seed.

Over the years, AltEn racked up multiple violations of environmental regulations, NDEE records show. But it was not until February of this year that NDEE ordered the plant to close until the contamination was cleaned up.

Only days after the shutdown, a pipe attached to a 4m-gallon digester tank broke, washing toxins into waterways and spreading them at least 4.5 miles away, according to regulators. In May, another leak was discovered in a pipe adjacent to a wastewater lagoon.

Monitoring health

While regulators sample water and soil, many area residents worry that the beef cattle operation adjacent to the AltEn plant has also been contaminated. They wonder how much the animals there may have been exposed to pesticide concentrates through their feed and water, and if people who consumed meat from those animals may have long-term health consequences.

“People want answers and action,” said Jane Kleeb, who chairs the Nebraska Democratic party and is pushing for resources, such as medical testing and water filtration, for the people in and around Mead.

Researchers from the University of Nebraska and Creighton University are now launching a 10-year study of the impacts on human and environmental health.

The situation is but the latest example of how industrial agricultural practices can create hazards dangerous to human and environmental health, according to Blood, who grew up on a farm in Hastings, Nebraska, and suspects cancers developed by many Hastings residents were linked to chemicals in the soil and water. The area was designated a federal superfund site because of the contamination.

“There is a lot of stuff like this that goes on in a lot of these small towns,” she said. “There are more Meads out there.”

Can Removing Highways Fix America’s Cities?

Can Removing Highways Fix America’s Cities?

Nadja Popovich and Denise Lu                           May 29, 2021
Shawn Dunwoody, an artist and community organizer, on Union Street, where the Inner Loop has been filled in and walkable new urban development is under way, in Rochester, N.Y., May 17, 2021. (Mustafa Hussain/The New York Times)


ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Built in the 1950’s to speed suburban commuters to and from downtown, Rochester’s Inner Loop destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses, replacing them with a broad, concrete trench that separated downtown from the rest of the city.

Now, the city is looking to repair the damage. It started by filling in a nearly-mile-long section of the sunken road, slowly stitching a neighborhood back together. Today, visitors of the Inner Loop’s eastern segment would hardly know a highway once ran beneath their feet.

As midcentury highways reach the end of their life spans, cities across the country are having to choose whether to rebuild or reconsider them. And a growing number, like Rochester, are choosing to take them down.

The massive roads radically reshaped cities, plowing through dense downtown neighborhoods, dividing many Black communities and increasing car dependence. In order to accommodate cars and commuters, many cities “basically destroyed themselves,” said Norman Garrick, a professor at the University of Connecticut who studies how transportation projects have reshaped American cities.

“Rochester has shown what can be done in terms of reconnecting the city and restoring a sense of place,” he said. “That’s really the underlying goal of highway removal.”

The project’s successes and stumbling blocks provide lessons for other cities looking to retire some of their own aging highways. Nearly 30 cities nationwide are currently discussing some form of removal.

Some, like Syracuse and Detroit, have committed to replacing stretches of interstate with more connected, walkable neighborhoods. Others, like New Orleans and Dallas, are facing pressure from local residents and activists to address the pollution, noise and safety hazards brought by the mega-roads.

The growing movement has been energized by support from the Biden administration, which has made addressing racial justice and climate change, major themes in the debate over highway removal, central to its agenda.

In a wide-reaching infrastructure plan released at the end of March, President Joe Biden proposed spending $20 billion to help reconnect neighborhoods divided by highways. Congressional Democrats have translated the proposal into legislation that would provide funding over the next five years. And the Department of Transportation opened up separate grants that could help some cities get started.

Pete Buttigieg, who heads the department, has expressed support for removing barriers that divided Black and minority communities, saying that “there is racism physically built into some of our highways.” Midcentury highway projects often targeted Black neighborhoods, destroying cultural and economic centers and bringing decades of environmental harm.

Congress is still haggling over Biden’s infrastructure plan, but experts say the proposed funding for highway removal represents a shift in the way the government approaches transportation projects.

“As recently as a decade ago,” said Peter D. Norton, a transportation historian at the University of Virginia, “every transportation problem was a problem to be solved with new roads.” Now, the impacts of those roads are beginning to enter the equation.

Back to a Neighborhood

Federal and state funds have historically gone to building highways, not removing them. But in 2013, the city of Rochester, in upstate New York, won a nearly $18 million grant from the Obama administration that allowed it to take out an eastern segment of its sunken Inner Loop freeway, known locally as “the moat.”

The project turned a six-lane highway, with access roads running alongside, into a narrower boulevard, and the rest of the land was opened up for development.

People have already moved into town house-style apartments where the highway once stood. Scooters and bicycles share space with cars along the new Union Street corridor, a once unlikely sight. Several cross-streets cut off by the highway have been reconnected, encouraging more walking in the area.

And the big fear of removing a highway — terrible traffic — hasn’t materialized.

Lovely Warren, who has served as Rochester’s mayor since 2014, said the project is proof the city can undo some of its mistakes.

In the past, “we created a way for people to get on a highway and go directly out of our community,” she said, adding that highways also created “barriers that were really detrimental to the communities left behind.”

Now, Rochester is trying a different approach: Instead of moving people in and out of downtown as quickly as possible, the city is trying to make downtown a more livable place.

The highway removal and other deconstruction projects are part of a long-term plan for a city still struggling to come back from years of economic and population decline. The big bet: Rebuilding more walkable, bikeable and connected neighborhoods will attract new investment and new residents. And city officials hope it might even reduce car-dependence in the long run.

But rebuilding a neighborhood from scratch isn’t easy, or quick.

Four years after the sunken freeway was filled, many buildings along the corridor are still under construction and new businesses have not yet moved into the space, including a planned pharmacy and grocery store.

Local residents and business owners said they were glad to see the highway go, but many of them had mixed feelings about what followed.

“The success was: It got filled. You now have people living somewhere that was just road before,” said Shawn Dunwoody, an artist and community organizer who lives in Marketview Heights, a neighborhood near the removal site.

“We don’t have the moat that was there,” he said, walking along the new corridor. “But now, when you look down, there’s just a whole series of walls,” he added, pointing to the large, new apartment buildings that repeat down Union Street.

Others echoed the concern that the redevelopment project brought in too many higher-end apartments (though a portion are reserved for lower-income tenants and other vulnerable groups) without opening up any space for the public: No parks, no plazas.

Erik Frisch, a transportation specialist for the city who worked on the Inner Loop East removal, said the project has so far fulfilled its main goals: bringing in new investment and enlivening the city’s East End. But the new neighborhood is still a work in progress.

Rebuilding a neighborhood “is not just an ‘Add water, mix and stir’ type situation,” said Emily Morry, who works at the Rochester Public Library and has written about the neighborhoods razed by the Inner Loop’s construction. “You can set up all the infrastructure you like, but there’s the human factor, which takes all these different buildings and turns them into actual, viable communities.”

Rochester is now looking to take down more of the Inner Loop highway, starting with a northern arm. Officials hope the experience from the first removal will help expedite the process.

It took more than two decades of planning to break ground on the Inner Loop East removal, even though the project faced fewer obstacles than most.

The eastern highway segment never carried the traffic it was built to serve, so its removal faced scant opposition from daily commuters and business groups. The aging road was due for major upgrades, which would have cost much more than the entire removal process. And there weren’t a lot of people already living along the corridor.

Funding and expertise were the biggest barriers to removal.

A few highways had been taken down in the past, but there was no real template. San Francisco’s Embarcadero Freeway was irreparably damaged by an earthquake in 1989 and removed two years later. Other, more recent removals targeted waterfront highways and short “spurs” rather than segments of a working highway.

“We are a bit of a proof of concept,” said Frisch, the city’s transportation specialist.

Removing the northern arm of the Inner Loop presents a new challenge. That section of highway carries much more traffic and its removal would reconnect two long-divided neighborhoods: Marketview Heights, a majority Black and Hispanic lower-income community north of the Inner Loop, and Grove Place, a whiter, wealthier enclave to the south.

For current residents of Marketview Heights, the crucial question is: What will reconnection bring? More opportunity and less pollution? Or another round of displacement?

Dozens of Projects

In recent years, more cities have started to seriously rethink some of their highways. The Congress for the New Urbanism, a group that tracks highway removals, counted 33 proposed projects in 28 American cities. And the idea is being discussed in many others.

If rebuilding cities is done right, highway removal projects could make life better for local residents as well as the planet, said Garrick of the University of Connecticut, because denserless car-centric neighborhoods are crucially important to reducing greenhouse gases that are causing climate change.

The proposed replacements, and their benefits, vary. Some follow Rochester’s model, turning former highways into smaller, walkable boulevards. Others are covering highways with parks, or merely replacing them with highway-like streets. Nationwide, many cities also continue to expand highways.

A growing number of removal projects are grappling with the questions of environmental justice central to Biden’s proposal. Historically, vulnerable communities have had little say in infrastructure decisions.

When the National Interstate Highway System was built in the 1950s and ’60s, it connected the country like never before. But it plowed through cities with little concern for local effects. State highways and connector roads compounded the damage.

“Highways, freeways, expressways were always hostile to cities,” said Norton of the University of Virginia. But they were particularly hostile to Black communities.

In cities like Detroit, New Orleans, Richmond, Virginia, and many more, federal interstates and other highways were often built through thriving Black neighborhoods in the name of “slum clearance.”

Most highway projects fit into a broader program of urban renewal that reshaped American cities in the mid-20th century, displacing more than a million people across the country, most of them Black. Cities replaced dense, mixed-use neighborhoods with megaprojects like convention centers, malls, and highways. When public housing was built, it usually replaced many fewer units than were destroyed.

Clearing “blighted” neighborhoods, which was usually a reference to low-income and Black areas, was the intentional goal of many urban highway projects, said Lynn Richards, president of the Congress for the New Urbanism, which advocates for more sustainable cities. “But, you know, where one person sees urban blight, another person sees a relatively stable neighborhood.”

Highways didn’t just destroy communities, they also often reinforced racial divides within cities.

White Americans increasingly fled cities altogether, following newly built roads to the growing suburbs. But Black residents were largely barred from doing the same. Government policies denied them access to federally backed mortgages and private discrimination narrowed the options further.

In effect, that left many Black residents living along the highways’ paths.

In March, Biden named New Orleans’ Claiborne Expressway as a vivid example of how highway construction divided communities and led to environmental injustice.

The highway looms over Claiborne Avenue, once an oak-lined boulevard that served as “the economic heart and soul of the Black community of New Orleans,” said Amy Stelly, a local resident and urban planner, who has been pushing for the expressway’s removal for most of the last decade. A part of the Treme neighborhood, the Claiborne Avenue corridor was a meeting space for local residents and the site of Black Mardi Gras celebrations at a time when the festival was still segregated.

In the mid-1960s, the oak trees were ripped out to make way for the highway, cleaving the neighborhood in two. Over the following decades, the once middle-class area fell into decline. Today, the expressway corridor is polluted: Local residents suffer higher than average rates of asthma and the soil is contaminated with lead, the result of years of leaded gasoline use in cars traveling into and out of downtown.

The idea of removing the highway, however, is raising some of the same concerns heard in Rochester.

Not Repeating Mistakes

Older residents of Rochester’s Marketview Heights neighborhood still remember the displacement caused by the construction of the Inner Loop. Many people now fear a second wave if it is removed.

A common argument, said Dunwoody, the artist and community organizer, is that if the highway is removed “folks are now going to be looking at our neighborhood, and bringing in yoga studios and coffee shops to move us out.”

“People don’t want to get gentrified, get pushed out, get priced out,” he said.

To make sure that city officials listen to these concerns, Dunwoody started a local advocacy group three years ago with Suzanne Mayer, who lives on the other side of the highway, in the Grove Place neighborhood. The group, called Hinge Neighbors, aims to bring local residents into the planning process.

At a community meeting in Marketview Heights in early May, the biggest question on people’s minds wasn’t whether the highway should come down, but what will replace it.

Miquel Powell, a local resident and business owner working on a prison re-entry program, worried that more large-scale apartments, like those built in the East End, would come to the neighborhood. “That would totally change the whole dynamic,” he said. Marketview Heights is mostly free-standing single-family homes; some are subdivided and most are rented.

Nancy Maciuska, who is in her 60s, said she wants to see more family-centric development in the area if the highway is removed, and some parks to replace those torn down by the construction of the freeway. “So people can raise their families and enjoy Mother Nature,” she said.

Hinge Neighbors helped Maciuska, Powell and other residents put some of their concerns about the Inner Loop North project into a presentation for city consultants and the mayor.

The project is still in early stages and Marketview Heights is only one corner of the area under study for removal. But Warren said her administration is exploring options that would help keep longtime residents in the neighborhood, including potential rent-to-own housing arrangements.

City officials are scheduled to present a series of options for the project to the community this summer.

The big challenge, according to Garrick, is that new investments in American cities today tend to lead to gentrification. “We need to figure out how to change without displacing people,” he said.

Some of the positive effects of highway removals, like decreasing pollution and increasing property values, can lead to the displacement. A recent study looked at the effects of replacing the Cypress Freeway in Oakland, California, with a street-level boulevard and found that the project decreased pollution but increased resident turnover.

Such “environmental gentrification” can also happen when parks and other greenery are introduced to historically disadvantaged neighborhoods.

The proposed Democratic legislation hopes to avoid that paradox. The bill would fund community outreach and engagement by local groups. And it prioritizes capital construction grants for projects that include measures like land trusts that would ensure the availability of affordable housing for local residents.

“It’s no longer good enough for us to remove a highway and make a replacement road beautiful,” said Richards of the Congress for the New Urbanism. “We have to reconnect the neighborhoods and invest in the legacy residents.”

Another tick-borne illness may be a growing problem

Another tick-borne illness may be a growing problem

Abby Alten Schwartz                          May 29, 2021


Jeff Naticchia wasn’t feeling well when he set off to work one Friday in late July 2017. The sales supervisor at Comcast was planning to work a half-day before a long-planned family weekend in Upstate New York. Instead, he called his wife, Crissy, from work and said to meet him at the emergency room. Something was wrong.

When Crissy arrived, she was shocked at what she saw: Her husband’s skin was yellowed, he seemed agitated and he couldn’t urinate.

Jeff was turning 51 and had been dieting and exercising to stay in shape, taking long walks in the state park that backed up to their home in Bucks County, Pa. He had always been healthy, although earlier that month, he started getting fevers and night sweats and had gone to a local urgent care clinic. He was given a urine test, diagnosed with a kidney infection and prescribed antibiotics. Briefly, he seemed to improve.

But now, doctors in the ER examined Jeff, ordered tests and, with no immediate answers, admitted him to the hospital.

The next day, Jeff was weaker, sweating, unable to sleep. His breathing was labored. The whites of his eyes had yellowed, and his bilirubin was climbing, a sign that red blood cells were breaking down at an unusual rate or of liver trouble. The doctors moved Jeff to the intensive care unit, and placed him in a medically induced coma and on a ventilator. On Sunday, he was transferred to a hospital specializing in liver care.

Jeff’s symptoms resembled malaria. Could he have caught something in Costa Rica three months earlier? No, that timing didn’t make sense. Jeff was put on kidney dialysis. His team periodically woke him, and he would squeeze his wife’s hand.

Finally, on Tuesday, some potentially good news. An infectious-disease doctor at the hospital told Crissy, “We think we have a diagnosis.”

Jeff probably had babesiosis, a tick-borne infection that attacks red blood cells and appears to be growing in prevalence. Were there a lot of ticks or deer in her yard? Yes, she said, and later recalled that Jeff had pulled a tick off himself that summer, no bigger than a poppy seed. The doctor ordered an antibiotic and blood transfusion. Jeff’s condition was serious, he told her, but he was cautiously optimistic.

Babesiosis is most often caused by the tiny parasites Babesia microti and transmitted to humans in warmer months by deer ticks – the same ones that spread Lyme disease. It is rarely passed through blood transfusion.

Most U.S. cases occur in the Northeast and Upper Midwest, but babesiosis does appear elsewhere, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Peter Krause, a senior research scientist at Yale School of Public Health and Yale School of Medicine, said that babesiosis is “increasing in frequency and geographic range.”

A recently published 12-year study of babesiosis among U.S. Medicare beneficiaries reported “substantially increasing babesiosis diagnosis trends” particularly in endemic states and “expansion of babesiosis infections in other states.”

In 2011, when the CDC began collecting data on babesiosis, 1,126 cases were reported. Today, over 2,000 cases of babesiosis are reported in the United States each year, although Krause said he believes the actual number is many times higher. He explained: Lyme is underreported by more than tenfold, both diseases are spread by the same tick, and babesiosis is harder to diagnose. While 30,000 cases of Lyme are reported each year, the CDC estimates the actual number to be closer to 476,000.

“Most diseases are underreported because the system relies on physicians sending in reports of cases and physicians are busy,” Krause said. Babesiosis may also go unreported due to asymptomatic and misdiagnosed infections, and reporting not being mandated in all states.

Most people infected with babesiosis are asymptomatic or have mild to moderate flu-like symptoms such as fatigue, chills, sweats, headache, body aches, nausea and loss of appetite, which can appear days or even months later. (There is no telltale rash as with Lyme disease.)

If diagnosed quickly, the disease can be easily treated with a combination of atovaquone and azithromycin for seven to 10 days. If a person’s immune system is impaired, babesiosis can be deadly and the medication will be given longer. Among those most at risk are the elderly; individuals with cancer, AIDS or other serious immuno-compromised conditions; people being treated with chemotherapy, high-dose steroids or rituximab, an antibody therapy often used against cancer or autoimmune diseases; or those without a spleen. Jeff’s spleen was removed in childhood after a bike accident.

If Jeff had been diagnosed early, when he first complained of night fevers, it might have been different for him. But at 4 a.m. on Thursday morning, the hospital called Crissy to tell her his blood pressure was dropping precipitously and she needed to come right away. She left immediately, without waking their children. Jeff died a few hours later.

Krause said “the rate of death among babesiosis patients who are immuno-compromised is as high as 20 percent.”

Where babesiosis is not endemic, urgent care and ER providers may not immediately think of the disease when someone comes in, since the symptoms can point to many things and none of them are specific to babesiosis. It requires a specific type of blood test to identify the parasite in red blood cells.

“It has to step up to the level of an infectious-disease specialist being brought in before it might get diagnosed, whereas in an area where it’s more prevalent, some of the front-line people, the emergency room doctors or urgent care doctors, might be a little more attuned to it,” said infectious-disease specialist Sorana Segal-Maurer, director of the Dr. James J. Rahal Jr. Division of Infectious Diseases at NewYork-Presbyterian Queens hospital.

Gary Wormser, chief of infectious diseases at New York Medical College and director and founder of the Lyme Disease Diagnostic Center, said deer ticks may transmit several diseases, including Lyme, babesiosis and anaplasmosis, which has symptoms and risk factors similar to babesiosis but is generally treated with a different medicine, doxycycline. With Lyme disease and babesiosis, he said, “the ticks have to be on you for a fairly long time before they transmit those particular infections.”

Chances of avoiding infection are likely if the tick is removed within 24 to 36 hours. After possible exposure to deer ticks, Wormser advised showering within two hours, running clothes in a hot dryer for at least 10 minutes and doing a total body check for ticks on the skin within 24 hours.

If you find a tick, the CDC recommends removing it with fine-tipped tweezers, grasping the tick close to the skin and pulling upward with steady pressure.

Since Jeff’s death, Crissy and her kids have worked to raise awareness of babesiosis, hoping to prevent other families from experiencing the heartbreak of losing a loved one.

Crissy said it is important to get out in nature – especially now with the pandemic having forced so many restrictions. But for those who live in areas where ticks are common, she said it is important to check your body for ticks when you come home.

Headwinds: Offshore wind will take time to carry factory jobs to U.S.

Headwinds: Offshore wind will take time to carry factory jobs to U.S.

Isla Binnie, Susanna Twidale and Nichola Groom    May 27, 2021


(Reuters) – When U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration approved the country’s first major offshore wind farm this month, it billed the move as the start of a new clean energy industry that by the end of the decade will create over 75,000 U.S. jobs.

Industry executives and analysts do not contest that claim, but they make a clarification: For the first several years at least, most of the manufacturing jobs stemming from the U.S. offshore wind industry will be in Europe.

Offshore wind project developers plan to ship massive blades, towers and other components for at least the initial wave of U.S. projects from factories in France, Spain and elsewhere before potentially opening up manufacturing plants on U.S. shores, according to Reuters interviews with executives from three of the world’s leading wind turbine makers.

That is because suppliers need to see a deep pipeline of approved U.S. projects, along with a clear set of regulatory incentives like federal and state tax breaks, before committing to siting and building new American factories, they say – a process that could take years.

“For the first projects, it’s probably necessary” to ship across the Atlantic, said Martin Gerhardt, head of offshore wind product management at Siemens Gamesa, the global offshore wind market leader in a comment typical of the group.

That underscores an uncomfortable truth for the Biden administration as it seeks to show political opponents that a transition away from fossil fuels to fight climate change can be good for the economy: many of the clean energy jobs he aims to create to offset losses in drilling and mining may not materialize until well after his time in the White House ends.

The administration has unveiled a goal to install 30 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind power capacity in U.S. waters by 2030 – roughly the amount that already exists in Europe’s two-decade old industry – a plan that it estimates will create 77,000 U.S.-based jobs while combating global climate change.

More than 2,000 turbines will be needed to meet the 30-GW target, according to Shashi Barla, an analyst at consultancy Wood Mackenzie. But U.S.-based factories probably will not materialize until 2024 or 2025, he said.

After that, Barla said he expects the U.S. supply chain to develop rapidly and to make around 70% of major components for the industry by 2030.

A White House official did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A Factory in Every State

This month, Washington took a big step toward its goal of launching the offshore wind industry by approving the Vineyard Wind project off the coast of Massachusetts, jointly owned by Avangrid Inc and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners.

That project, the first major offshore wind farm to get federal approval in the United States after more than a decade of stops and starts, is expected to produce enough electricity to power 400,000 homes in New England by 2023.

Vineyard Wind alone will create 3,600 U.S. jobs, according to company officials, though most of the project’s components will be manufactured in Europe due to the lack of an existing domestic supply chain.

U.S. company General Electric’s renewable division, GE Renewable Energy, will supply Vineyard Wind with 62 turbines. The major parts for those turbines, which are twice the height of the Statue of Liberty, including rotor blades and gear boxes, will be made in its factories in France.

Iberdrola, Avangrid’s Spanish parent company, says the contract to make the turbine foundations, meanwhile, will create around 400 jobs at the Windar Renovables factory in Spain.

Several other U.S. offshore wind project proposals have also been preparing orders from companies like GE and Siemens Gamesa, but they are awaiting federal regulatory approval before moving forward.

The manufacturers told Reuters they need those orders to become solid and reliable before contemplating investments in a U.S.-based supply chain for offshore wind.

Opening a factory is costly and time-consuming: they require permits and large amounts of space near the coast, said Christy Guthman, GE Renewables commercial leader of U.S. offshore.

“We definitely want to maximize our local content wherever possible, but we need to have that sustained volume year over year to look at potential investments in the U.S,” Guthman said.

Developers also need to navigate complex state-level demands on the industry, as governors compete to ensure that any future factories supplying the offshore wind industry are built within their borders.

New Jersey, for example, has asked bidders on its offshore wind supply contracts to specify how they will help the state become an industry hub, while a recent New York solicitation said investments that create sustainable in-state jobs would be given preference.

“We cannot have a factory in every state, that is not economic,” Siemens Gamesa Chief Executive Andreas Nauen said in an interview.

Nauen’s company is still deliberating over whether to open a specialized facility on the East Coast to service a proposed project for Dominion Energy in Virginia, having been named preferred supplier back in January 2020.

Siemens Gamesa, GE and Vestas already produce parts for smaller, onshore turbines in the United States, but locations including landlocked Kansas, Iowa, North Dakota and Colorado put them too far from the windy coasts to be of much use for larger offshore pieces.

Orsted and Equinor, meanwhile, have said they plan to open manufacturing for some parts to service U.S. offshore projects they have proposed, though many major parts would likely still be derived from established plants in Europe.

Political Turbulence

Suppliers have reason to be cautious. Clean energy expansion in the United States relies heavily on political will – which can shift from administration to administration.

Federal incentives for renewable energy projects have expired or experienced eleventh-hour extensions in Congress multiple times over the last decade. Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, meanwhile, had cancelled Vineyard Wind’s permit application during his term, throwing the entire industry into doubt until Biden revived the process.

That turbulence resounded in the supply chain. Vineyard Wind initially chose Vestas as its turbine supplier in 2018, but that contract expired as federal permitting dragged on.

The Biden White House has said it is aware that suppliers need airtight commitments to make investments in local manufacturing, and points out the administration has pledged $3 billion in public financing for offshore wind and transmission developers and component suppliers. It will also fund $230 million of port infrastructure projects to help encourage the industry.

The U.S. International Trade Commission, meanwhile, has imposed tariffs on imported wind towers from certain countries including Spain. While the move came at the request of two domestic producers of towers for the U.S. onshore wind industry, the tariffs would apply to offshore towers as well, increasing the economic incentive to open U.S. factories.

“We know that we need to create greater certainty for offshore wind projects,” U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Director Amanda Lefton said on a call with reporters on May 11.

Lefton has also acknowledged that competing state demands could be an obstacle for the industry.

“There’s been this healthy competition among states for who is the most aggressive,” Lefton said in an interview with Reuters. “But we stand to gain a lot more now by… rowing in the same direction on establishing the supply chain here.”

(Reporting by Isla Binnie in Madrid, Nichola Groom in Los Angeles, Susanna Twidale in London; editing by Richard Valdmanis and Marguerita Choy)

Manchin’s political worldview was put to the test (and it lost)

MSNBC – MaddowBlog

Manchin’s political worldview was put to the test (and it lost)

The vote on the Jan. 6 commission wasn’t just a disappointment for Joe Manchin, it was a vote that shattered his vision for governance.

By Steve Benen            May 28, 2021


Joe Manchin 2
As Senate Republicans prepared to kill the bipartisan plan for a Jan. 6 commission, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) was seen on the chamber floor having a tense conversation with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). It was obvious to those who saw the discussion that the conservative Democrat was not pleased.


That was understandable. This fight, more than any other in recent memory, put Manchin’s entire political worldview to the test — and it lost.

After the vote, the West Virginian expressed his disappointment to reporters.

“Mitch McConnell makes it extremely difficult,” Manchin said. “The commission is something this country needs. There’s no excuse. It’s just pure raw politics. And that’s just so, so disheartening. It really, really is disheartening. I never thought I’d see it up close and personal that politics could trump our country. And I’m going to fight to save this country.”


The senator never explicitly acknowledged the dynamic, but for Manchin, the debate over the commission was not simply a legislative fight; it was a case study for a style of governing.

Indeed, the pieces were in place for Manchin to prove that his approach worked. Most Democrats and Republicans agreed that there was an insurrectionist attack on our seat of government. The parties also agreed on the need for an examination. There were bipartisan negotiations, concessions from both sides, and an eventual compromise agreement.

If Manchin were literally writing a script as to how political disputes should be resolved, it would look exactly like this.

As recently as late last week, the senator assured reporters there was a “very, very good chance” the Senate would pass the bipartisan proposal, adding that he hoped there were at least “10 good, solid patriots” among Senate Republicans.

Manchin didn’t just want to believe this, he needed to believe this. If Republicans rejected a bipartisan compromise, prioritizing politics and electoral strategies over country, then his entire vision of how Congress can operate would be shattered.

We don’t need to change the Senate’s filibuster rules, Manchin tells us, we simply need well-intentioned officials to sit down, talk, listen, compromise, and reach responsible agreements.

It’s an idea with hypothetical appeal. But in practice, a clear majority of Senate Republicans just told the conservative Democrat that his model doesn’t work. The parties reached a consensus, and GOP leaders decided they didn’t much care.

The only responsible way forward is for Manchin to consider the implication of today’s lesson. If 10 Senate Republicans won’t accept a bipartisan plan for a Jan. 6 commission — after they endorsed the idea and accepted Democratic concessions — why in the world would anyone think GOP officials would work in good faith toward a sensible agreement on infrastructure? And voting rights? And immigration? And literally every other meaningful policy dispute under the sun?

Or put another way, now that McConnell and his Republican have discredited Manchin’s preferred model, what is he prepared to replace it with?

Rain turns Miami street into ‘a river,’ but it’s at the end of the list for flood fixes

Rain turns Miami street into ‘a river,’ but it’s at the end of the list for flood fixes

Alex Harris                          May 28, 2021


The area of Fourth Street and Fourth Terrace is a charming pocket of Flagami. It’s near good schools, has beautiful old trees and is the kind of place where neighbors will cook hot meals for the whole block when the power goes out.

It also floods. A lot. And half a dozen residents agree: it’s gotten worse recently.

But this neighborhood is last in line for fixes in Miami’s $3.8 billion storm-water master plan, the city’s road map for surviving the two feet of sea rise that threatens by 2060. It might be a decade or longer before residents could see fixes, and they aren’t happy.

A 30-minute rainstorm is enough to swamp the streets and half a front yard. A major rain event, like the rainstorm last May, ruins homes.

Judy Torrez, 36, said floodwaters often reach the door handles of cars. She captured video with her doorbell camera of a car driving down the submerged street last year. The wake it caused sent her car floating and bumping into the fence.

“It’s at the point where my kids, when it starts raining, they pick up their toys so they don’t get wet,” she said.

Miami’s sea level rise bill is $4 billion by 2060. It won’t keep every neighborhood dry.

Sometimes the floods are so bad she has to keep them home from school. Leaving isn’t an option, because the road is lower than her driveway, and she needs to keep her belongings dry.

“You have to stay put til the water goes down,” she said. “We have to stay and make sure we don’t lose anything.”

The list of losses across both streets is long: Appliances, cars, furniture, electronics, books, documents, precious photos.

Neighbors have tried all sorts of tricks to cope. Several added extra dirt to raise the height of their front yards. Many use sandbags. Torrez’s family added a short brick fence at their lot line to keep the water out. Most have invested in higher cars and SUVs to survive the water.

What they want is a solution from the city, like a storm-water pump with a generator that will keep their homes and streets dry.

A strong rainstorm is enough to turn Fourth Terrace in Flagami into ‘a river,’ and residents want the city to fix the problems soon.
A strong rainstorm is enough to turn Fourth Terrace in Flagami into ‘a river,’ and residents want the city to fix the problems soon.
Why so low on the list?

The city of Miami does have a plan to fix the flooding that plagues this area — and the broader neighborhood of South Grapeland Heights directly south of the airport — permanently.

It’s estimated to cost $276 million, or north of $400 million if the city wants to protect it even more. And according to the city’s consultant-created storm-water master plan project list, it’s last in line. Planners say it could take five to 10 years to address the first group of projects, and the South Grapeland Heights project is in the fourth group.

Neighbors want a solution now, and so does their commissioner.

“My district is not going to wait for 15 years to remedy the flooding that we have, they deserve better,” said Commissioner Manolo Reyes. “Every time it rains a lot we have to go with pumps and pump it out, and you’re telling me there’s not an immediate need there? Then your analysis is faulty.”

A strong rainstorm is enough to turn Fourth Terrace in Flagami into ‘a river,’ and residents want the city to fix the problems soon.
A strong rainstorm is enough to turn Fourth Terrace in Flagami into ‘a river,’ and residents want the city to fix the problems soon.


Reyes and his constituents argue they should be in the first group of projects, which includes fixing flooding issues in places like Shorecrest, Brickell and Jose Marti Park.

The city says the list of projects is flexible, and staffers are currently working with each commissioner to see which projects they want to prioritize in their districts. But planners say the main thing keeping projects in the western side of the city so low on the list isn’t political preference, it’s gravity.

“A lot of these areas, especially to the west, they require downstream improvements to happen in order to handle upstream,” said Chris Bennett, the city’s deputy chief resilience officer.

The Flagami streets in question are lower than the surrounding area, which sends all nearby rain draining to the bowl formation on Fourth Street and Fourth Terrace, he said. Pumping it out after the May rainstorm last year took a full week.

It’s a question of where you can put the water, said Alan Dodd, Miami’s chief resilience officer.

The main solution in the citywide master plan is thousands of injection wells that shoot water deep beneath the aquifer, but those types of wells can’t be drilled that far west in the county because they could pollute the water supply.

The city can’t drain the extra floodwater into the Blue Lagoon, the lake near the Miami airport, nor the canals and rivers managed by the South Florida Water Management District, and there’s no empty space to build a retention pond.

“There’s no place for the water to go, so we need to build a series of pump stations to get the water where it needs to go,” he said.

That requires building pump stations (and the jumbo pipes to go with them) in the eastern half of the city first, which will likely take years.

A strong rainstorm is enough to turn Fourth Terrace in Flagami into ‘a river,’ and residents want the city to fix the problems soon.
A strong rainstorm is enough to turn Fourth Terrace in Flagami into ‘a river,’ and residents want the city to fix the problems soon.


In the meantime, Bennett said the city is “exploring options” for a band-aid solution for the Flagami neighborhood.

“It won’t fix, it won’t eliminate, it will improve. How can we make the flood depths shallower, how can we make them less frequent, how can we get the water out of there faster?” he said.

‘We cannot sell’

Every time the streets flood, residents don’t just worry about the physical damage to their homes, they worry about property values.

Neighbors say one woman who lived on their street had a particularly hard time with the flooding. She told neighbors that every time the floodwaters rose, sewage spewed out of her toilet and shower and popped the tiles off her floor.

She couldn’t take it anymore and sold it to an investor last year “the minute it dried out,” neighbors said. The investor who bought it fixed it up and quickly resold it.

Her new house floods. Under Texas law, she would have been warned, but not in Florida.

Another home a block over sat on the market for months before finally selling — in the dry season.

“We cannot sell because of the flooding,” one neighbor who declined to give her name told city officials at a public meeting.

Another worry for homes that repeatedly flood is the price of flood insurance. When a home has four flood insurance claims of at least $5,000, the National Flood Insurance Program deems it a “severe repetitive loss.” The price of flood insurance soars, and the only way to bring it back to earth is by elevating the home.

Some neighbors seemed receptive to the idea of elevating their home proactively, provided the city foots the bill.

A strong rainstorm is enough to flood 4th Street in Flagami, and residents want the city to fix the problems soon.
A strong rainstorm is enough to flood 4th Street in Flagami, and residents want the city to fix the problems soon.


“As long as someone else pays for it, sure,” joked 30-year-old Maydeline Ramos, who says she sometimes has to wade through knee-high water to get home after her 16-hour shift at the hospital.

Other cities have experimented with solutions for this exact issue. North Miami has several repetitive loss properties within city limits, and in 2019 the city turned one of them into a park that absorbed excess water from the rest of the street, alleviating flooding.

North Miami bought her flooded home. Now it’s going to become a park to fight sea rise

Flagami residents said that sounded like a good idea, but the half dozen who spoke with the Miami Herald said they’d never sell their houses.

“I wouldn’t sell for a billion dollars,” said Maria Lopez, 61, who sometimes wakes her husband up at 2 a.m. to move her car to higher ground if she hears the rain. “This is my home. It has sentimental value.”

Dodd said the city has not looked into buyouts, despite the fact that the city’s master plan clearly identified several parts of the city where even hundreds of millions of dollars of engineering investment couldn’t save them from predicted flooding in the latter half of the century.

He said staff will continue meeting with commissioners before it takes the first group of projects to city commission for approval later this year.

“The city at some point in time is going to make a hard decision on what to spend their money on first. The more people involved in that decision the better it will become,” Dodd said.

A house has an elevated wall to stop water from encroaching on the house during a heavy rain, May 26, 2021. The Fourth Street and Fourth Terrace corner of Flagami, south of the airport, experiences intense flooding after strong rainstorms. Residents say water gets into their homes, floods their cars and ruins their belongings.

‘Sea snot’ is clogging up Turkey’s coasts, suffocating marine life, and devastating fisheries

‘Sea snot’ is clogging up Turkey’s coasts, suffocating marine life, and devastating fisheries

Morgan McFall-Johnsen                  May 28, 2021

‘Sea snot’ is clogging up Turkey’s coasts, suffocating marine life, and devastating fisheries
sea snot turkey coast dock harbor sea of marmara
A drone photo shows sea snot near the Maltepe, Kadikoy, and Adalar districts of Istanbul, Turkey on May 2, 2021. Lokman Akkaya/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images.
  • A goopy substance called sea snot has been clogging Turkish coasts in the Sea of Marmara for months.
  • The mucus has been filling fishing nets, suffocating coral, and killing marine life.
  • Climate change and fertilizer runoff may be fueling the algae boom that’s behind the sea snot.

Blankets of a goopy, camel-colored substance have been accumulating in the water off Turkey’s coast for months.

The goop, called marine mucilage or “sea snot,” is covering so much of the coastline along the Sea of Marmara that people can no longer fish there. The sea snot formations can get up to 100 feet (30 meters) deep, according to the Turkish news site Cumhuriyet.

The sea snot fills fishing nets and weighs them down – one fisherman told Cumhuriyet that nets have been bursting from the weight of the mucus. A fishery co-op leader said people were barely pulling in a fifth of the fish they hauled at this time last year.

Marine mucilage is a goopy discharge of protein, carbohydrates, and fat from microscopic algae called phytoplankton. The substance was documented in the Sea of Marmara for the first time in 2007, as researchers at Istanbul University reported in 2008.

marine mucilage sea snot underwater ocean
Marine mucilage, or “sea snot,” near the Solomon Islands. Prisma Bildagentur/Universal Images Group via Getty Images


Normally, sea snot is not a problem, but when phytoplankton grow out of control, the goop can overpower marine ecosystems. This can wreak ecological havoc, since the substance can harbor bacteria like E Coli and ensnare or suffocate marine life. Eventually, the snot sinks to the sea floor, where it can blanket coral and suffocate them, too.

Since phytoplankton thrive in warm water, scientists suspect that climate change is fueling the new sea-snot crisis. Runoff from nitrogen- and phosphorous-rich fertilizer and sewage could also be causing an explosion in the phytoplankton population.

“We are experiencing the visible effects of climate change, and adaptation requires an overhaul of our habitual practices. We must initiate a full-scale effort to adapt,” Mustafa Sarı, dean of Bandırma Onyedi Eylül University’s maritime faculty, told The Guardian.

sea snot turkey coast harbor dock mucus marmara
A drone photo shows sea snot near Istanbul, Turkey on May 2, 2021. Lokman Akkaya/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images.


This is the largest accumulation of sea snot yet, according to The Guardian. It began in deep waters during the winter then spread to the coastlines this year. Barış Özalp, a marine biologist at Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University, first noticed it in December but became alarmed once the snot carpets continued to grow through the spring.

“The gravity of the situation set in when I dived for measurements in March and discovered severe mortality in corals,” he told The Guardian.

Thousands of fish have been washing up dead in coastal towns as well, Sarı told The Guardian. The fish could be suffocating because sea snot clogs their gills, or because it depletes the water’s oxygen levels.

“Once the mucilage covers the coasts, it limits the interaction between water and the atmosphere,” Sarı said.