Storm Rider Tour to Highlight Coastal Vulnerabilities and Impact

Everglades to America’s WETLAND Route Sounds Hurricane Alarm

Ft. Lauderdale, FL – To highlight the opening of the 2009 Atlantic Hurricane Season and build interest in the impact storms are having in an era of climate change, the America’s WETLAND Foundation (AWF) announced today the voyage of “Storm Rider” from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, to New Orleans and Houma, Louisiana.

The voyage is designed to raise awareness of the impacts that loss of critical wetlands and coastal landscapes are having on the nation’s economy and environment. Anyone interested can follow the tour by visiting blog entries of Valsin Marmillion, managing director of the America’s WETLAND Foundation, at www.americaswetland.com.

The tour of the Grand Banks motor vessel, dubbed “Storm Rider”, is part of a series of events entitled “Storm Warning 4: Last Stand for America’s WETLAND” to culminate with events on May 30-June 1, 2009 across the southern part of Louisiana, an area eroding at a rate of over a football field of land every 50 minutes.

“We have chosen a route and ports of call based on communities that have experienced significant loss due to hurricanes,” said Marmillion, who will visit coastal communities during the Storm Rider tour. “We are encouraging boaters, bikers and RV operators, to head to America’s WETLAND in coastal Louisiana to take a stand for the protection of these valuable natural resources and our coastal communities.”

At each stop, Marmillion will hand out information about the statistical likelihood of when the next hurricane will strike within 60 miles of that community, as well as information about coastal land loss and the danger to the nation’s infrastructure, environment and energy supplies.

Some of the impacted Florida communities to be visited along the marine route include Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, Key Largo, Islamorada, Key West, Fort Meyers, Sarasota, St. Petersburg/Tampa, Tarpon Springs, Apalachicola, Panama City, and Pensacola.

In Alabama, the tour will include Gulf Shores, Orange Beach and Mobile Bay.

In Mississippi, Storm Rider will visit Biloxi.

In Louisiana, the tour will wind its way along the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, passing through St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes and New Orleans, Algiers, Lafitte, Larose and the eventual stop for the Last Stand for America’s Wetland event at the Downtown Marina in Houma.

Storm Warning 4 events will usher in the hurricane season with a large free outdoor concert at the Port of New Orleans featuring Irma Thomas, Rockin’ Dopsie, Jr., and the Hot 8 Brass Band on Saturday, May 30.

The following day, Sunday, May 31, boaters will form a fleet from the East and West and travel an Intracoastal Waterway route to meet in a flotilla in Houma, Louisiana, an area under siege from coastal erosion, for a rally to save the wetlands. RVs and bikers will join the rally to sound horns as alarms to the approaching hurricane season.

On June 1st, events will move to Lake Charles, Louisiana, an area severely affected by Hurricane Rita in 2005, for a gathering of leaders from across the Gulf Coast. The hearing will catalogue testimony on “Sustaining the Unique Coastal Culture of America’s Energy Coast,” the energy producing coastal region of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

Topics of interest throughout the Gulf Coast to be discussed by panels of experts include insurability, cultures at risk, disappearing habitat and deteriorating infrastructure. The testimony will be presented to the members of the America’s Energy Coast’s Community Resiliency Task Force to be included in their report to the third AEC Leadership Forum July 30 in Biloxi, Miss.

“Many issues tie the Gulf region together but none so important as protection of our valuable coastal landscapes. In Louisiana alone, thousands of acres of critical habitat for wildlife and marine species, more than 80% of domestic offshore oil and gas produced, 30% of the nation’s seafood harvest outside Alaska, the world’s largest port system, and culturally significant communities are vulnerable to the rising tide due to coastal erosion,” said Marmillion. “Restoring these coastal reaches in the Gulf can produce significant jobs at this challenging time and preserve some of the nation’s most important assets.”

The impact of coastal land loss on the nation inspired creation of the America’s WETLAND Foundation and its America’s Energy Coast initiative (AEC), which has attracted diverse support from civic, non-governmental organizations, environmental, conservation and industry leaders.

The AEC released an “Accord for Sustainability” that outlines critical actions necessary to maintain the value of environmental, energy, economic and community assets that serve the national interest. Emerging from the accord, an action framework calls on policy leaders to consider comprehensive systemic solutions and to move toward a more balanced national dialogue around issues of climate, energy and the coast.

“The nation depends on the economic activities that take place along America’s Energy Coast and those activities depend on a sound coastal environment as their platform,” said Sidney Coffee, senior advisor to AWF for climate, energy and the coast. “It will take a national commitment to sustain this region – its vast estuaries, the seventh largest delta on earth, and the communities that support our offshore energy supply, port systems, and fisheries.”

“The entire region, from Florida to Texas, is under stress and its vital signs show it – a vast hypoxic zone in the Gulf, extensive coastal land loss, deteriorating infrastructure. The cost to the U.S. of not taking heed is incalculable. We hope the ‘Storm Rider’ tour will illuminate these vulnerabilities and their far reaching implications,” Coffee said.

Further information on the route, ports of call, dates and adventures of the “Storm Warning” tour can be found on www.americaswetland.com and the blog of the “Storm Rider.”

To view the Storm Rider tour map graphic, visit the blog site link at www.americaswetland.com.