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  1. Cooperative Monitoring, Informational Flow and Management of Water Quality in Little Lagoon, AL Dennis Hatfield1*, Barney Gass1, Hugh MacIntyre2, Justin D. Leifer3,4, Lucie Novoveska3,4, Alice Ortmann3,4, Kyeong Park3,4, William Burnett5, Bezhad Mortazavi3,6, Mark Acreman7, and Robert S. Craft7 1Little Lagoon Preservation Society (LLPS), 2Dalhousie University (DU), 3Dauphin Island Sea Lab (DISL), 4University of South Alabama (USA), 5Florida State (FSU), 6University of Alabama (UA), 7City of Gulf Shores, Alabama Abstract Little Lagoon, Alabama, is the site of a collaborative effort by researchers and students from five universities and volunteers from Little Lagoon Preservation Society (LLPS) to assess water quality for science-based management. Water quality has been monitored bi-weekly at 4-5 sites in the lagoon since 2007 to describe and understand physical, chemical, and biological interactions. The effort, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), MS-AL Sea Grant, and Alabama Department of Conservation (ADCNR), has enabled researchers to pursue and test ideas generated from 3+ years of volunteer assisted research. Lagoon volunteers, trained and supervised by academic partners, sample five sites along dominant gradients in water quality in the Lagoon. They measure DO, salinity, temperature, pH, fecal coliform bacteria (FCB), and phytoplankton community composition. Further samples are collected for analysis of nutrients and microalgal pigments (HPLC). Community composition is based on microscopic identification of net plankton as part of NOAA’s Phytoplankton Monitoring Network (PMN). Volunteers enter the data into two publicly-accessible data bases. Physico-chemical and biological data are maintained by the Alabama Volunteer Phytoplankton Monitoring Network (ALPMN). Taxonomic data are also submitted to PMN. Data analysis and interpretation concerning the effort are presented by researchers to LLPS members, the public, government officials, elected officials, press and other stakeholders at quarterly LLPS membership meetings in Gulf Shores and in press releases. More detailed presentations by the researchers will be provided to all interested parties in yearly one-day workshops. Stakeholder education and facilitation of prudent management of Little Lagoon are primary goals of this effort. Rapid response management to protect the Lagoon during the Discovery Horizon oil spill necessitated significant interaction between researchers, industry, community, and government. Two tidal passes that connect the Lagoon to the Gulf of Mexico were effectively closed by City of Gulf Shores and FWS officials for nearly 4 months by constructing and maintaining sand berms across both channels (paid for and approved by BP). The berms effectively prevented oil from entering Little Lagoon during oil landfall and were designed to facilitate both opening the pass to allow drainage during periods of high rainfall and rapid re-closure during oil-contaminated flood tides. Sampling interval was decreased from every two weeks to every week based on concern with periodic, anomalous, bacteria levels during this period. Data and discussion of water quality in the lagoon were regularly provided to the City of Gulf Shores and stakeholders by LLPS and researchers during the closure. The data, researcher interpretations, and stakeholder communications were instrumental in a final decision to re-open Callaway Pass to tidal exchange. Funding Funding for the research and collaborations between academic partners and LLPS has come from state and federal agencies. Prior Funding ADCNR EPA Alabama Center for Estuarine Research NOAA National Coastal Data Development Center Present Funding ($1.2 million) ADCNR NOAA Sea Grant US National Science Foundation Mobile Bay National Estuary Program • Dr Hugh MacIntyre (Project Leader), Biooptical and Population Modeling Academic Research •Research in Little Lagoon by MacIntyre’s lab started in 2005. Collaboration with LLPS started in 2007. •Research Summary- 1) Water quality in Little Lagoon is not seriously compromised. Nutrient levels are comparable to Mobile Bay, with no evidence for widespread hypoxia. 2) Microalgal biomass is correlated with nutrient levels. Both groundwater and sediments are likely sources of nutrients. 3) Lagoon is a hot-spot for a toxic diatom (Pseudo-nitzschia spp.). Blooms are toxic but there is no evidence for intoxication/ecological consequences. 4) Fecal coliform bacteria are frequently well above regulatory thresholds. Abundance not correlated with any parameter measured to date. See presentations by Liefer, MacIntyre, Novoveská and Ortmann. •Ongoing Research- 1) What mechanisms underlie variability in nutrients in the lagoon? 2) What are the most likely origins of the nutrients? 3) What is the relationship between nutrients, flushing and microalgal community composition (i.e. Pseudo-nitzschia spp. vs. other species)? 4) What are the causes of toxicity in Pseudo-nitzschia spp? 5) What are the likely origins of the fecal coliform bacteria? NEWSLETTER LLPS Quarterly Membership Meeting Tuesday, October 19, 2010 Status of the Little Lagoon. The news media have been full of reports on the impacts of the oil spill, some good, some bad. What follows is Dennis Hatfield’s response to an email he received forwarding an especially poor piece of video reporting. Me-ma once told us “you don’t believe anything you hear, and only half of what you see”.  This is a totally irresponsible piece of amateur journalism.  It appears this individual has an axe to grind with COGS.  I would really appreciate you forwarding my “alternate” opinion to as many of these folks on your e-mail as you can.  Folks like Mayor Craft, Mark Acreman and others with the COGS, Barney Gass-Pres. LLPS, and 8 LLPS water quality volunteers supervised by several DISL researchers have worked tirelessly since mid May monitoring Lagoon waters and the pass, interpreting historical and real time data concerning health of the lagoon, opening and closing it when necessary, and basically preventing any Gulf water from entering the Lagoon till the recent opening.  Rapid response crisis management is the way things went for most of the closure period.  The decision to open the pass was not crisis management, was well thought out, and involved input from a number of knowledgeable sources.  Although consensus of scientific input, government officials, and grass roots types was it was time to open the lagoon for flushing, a conservative decision was made by the COGS to maintain the “L shaped” pass configuration which allowed for controlled drainage, easy monitoring during incoming tides, and rapid closure if necessary based on oil sightings.  The controlled drainage effort was working but was then complicated by heavy rains which rapidly pushed lagoon water levels to nearly 2’ above normal.  Water was up over our pier, yards were flooding in numerous parts of lagoon front neighborhoods, and low lying septic tank were being compromised by the high waters.  The pass and lagoon are also responsible for flooding/drainage of thousands of affected acres in the Gulf State Park, the BNWR Gator Lake, and ridge and swale topography in the west end of the lagoon watershed, which further complicated decisions and the effort.  During the high water period a straight channel was opened to the Gulf, the lagoon rapidly flushed over a period of 3 or 4 days, and normal tidal exchange has been the drill since.  I have respectfully tangled with COGS on many issues.  Not this one.  They get A+ from me.  If I had to lower their grade from a 100 to a 99 it would be for not being vigilant enough with sloughing channel wall erosion created by a fairly violent torrent of outgoing water following the recent opening of the straight channel.  Early on in the movie the author holds up hands full of tar balls which were from the eroding/sloughing pass channel walls which you can see in the background in the video.  The tar balls and small mats are previously deposited “sedimentary oil” which were eroded from those berm deposits.  Time and nature have oxidized and degraded them, which means they contain a high amount of relatively low toxicity asphaltenes, and a low volume of high toxicity volatiles (PAH’S).  Also note the brown color of the water.  It is stained brown because of all the outgoing fresh water (which is rich in tannin) during the filming, not oil.  Interestingly, before the pass was opened, 4 coastal experts were queried on this and they and I shared the opinion that:  1) based on greatly reduced oil in the system and the time the oil has had to degrade (evaporation and biological degradation), opening the pass was better than leaving it closed, 2) a small amount of sheen and tar balls were likely to “get into the lagoon” with pass opening, 3) the lagoon is currently a hot, oxidizing, microbial water body which would likely easily consume small amounts of oil getting into the system, 4) more oil is probably put into the lagoon on a heavy boat and jet ski day by those engines than would come into the lagoon now on a high tide.  Certainly some, probably a small amount, of oil made its way into the lagoon on recent incoming tides.  Most of it should be relatively benign, degraded tar balls.  Volatiles and sheen released during the erosion of the sedimentary oil deposits probably got into the lagoon as well.  That amount was also likely minor and the lagoon will consume it rapidly as it does with boat oil. My perception on this is that many more people were screaming to open the pass than wanted to keep it closed.  Several have accused us of “killing the lagoon” by keeping the pass closed so long.  I stick to my guns on this that the COGS captured a big prize on this one by not letting the wolf into the lagoon during critical oil landfall times and then some.  BP and the city promised to, and I believe they have “mined” the berms adjacent to the pass channel which were responsible for contributing this sedimentary oil to the system.  This should mean minimal or no more episodes like this.  The sky is not falling and chicken little was a bit excited and misguided here.  LLPS News Letter-Response to viral video • Justin Liefer, Pseudo-nitzschia dynamics and community composition • Lucie Novoveska, Alabama Coordinator for NOAA PMN • Dr Ruth Carmichael, d15N nutrient dynamics •Dr Alice Ortmann, bacterial dynamics, •Dr Kyeong Park, hydrological modeling A strong endorsement from area’s largest newspaper Phytoplankton and Bacteria Counts Sample and Data Collection Outreach Research findings are communicated to the public in response to direct questions by email and through other means: Academic researchers give public presentations on the research findings at LLPS’ quarterly meetings and will give joint presentations in annual one-day workshops Data are archived in searchable databases at NOAA PMN (http://www.chbr.noaa.gov/PMN/) and at DISL (http://habs.disl.org/phytoplankton.html) A response to YouTube video commentary on opening Little Lagoon Pass after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill was circulated in email chains and posted on the LLPS website (http://www.llps.us/newletters.html) Research activities, collaboration between the academic researchers and LLPS, and many items of interest have been reported in the Mobile Register, The Islander, and LLPS Quarterly newsletter. • LLPS • Training- DISL, PMN-NOAA, AWW • Data Collection- every two weeks, 5 sites, DO, Salinity, Ph, WT, AT • Sample Collection-phytoplankton net tow, bacteria, whole water for HPLC • Sample analysis- phytoplankton counts, bacteria counts • DB Entry- PMN-NOAA, DISL ALPMN • Public Meetings/Education • Participation w/COGS, ALDOT • Venue for public meetings, educational guest speakers •Dr William Burnett, groundwater dynamics Editorial, Mobile Press Register 2/27/08 • Dr Bezhad Mortazavi and • Rebecca Bernard, nutrient dynamics and benthic coupling Mobile Press Register-Sunday 2-17-08 Deepwater Horizon Lagoon Water Quality Stakeholder Distribution List Science/LLPS team State/Federal/Local Officials Hugh MacIntyre Amy King Bill Burnett Phillip Hinesley Alice Ortmann Steve Jones Justin Leifer Jason Dyken Lucie Novoveska Mark Acreman Kyong Park Joe Garris Bezhad Mortazavi Phillip Harris Rebecca Bernard Carol Dorsey LaDon Swan Robert Craft Barney Gass Jeremy Phillips Dennis Hatfield Charlie Baumhauer Vince Calametti Steve McMillan Carolyn Doughty Training LLPS Public Meetings Guest Speakers DISL & PMN-NOAA Data Entry Oil landfall imminent, Callaway and Ivan pass berms in place Berm construction Stockpiling sand for berm This is what we avoided Booms ineffective due to high energy Preparing 2nd berm for tropical protection • Management • Berm vs. boom decision by COGS, involved input and coordination from /with scientists, oversight, regulatory, grassroots, and legal entities • FWS-Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge had to close Ivan pass for full Lagoon protection, FWSdecisionto berm and boom Ivan Pass, assist to LLPS/COGS in logistics • Oversight approvals and temporary suspension of court order, ALDOT relieved of court ordered obligation to maintain channel during crisis • Additional pass channel and shoal sandhad to be rapidly dredged to supply construction of berms • Decision to add redundant berm for additional protection during tropical induced higher than normal tides • “L” shaped channel engineering for controlled drainage and rapid opening and closing pass • Public perception management on closure effects, management decision to err on side of caution vs. early opening of pass • Open pass for tidal exchange Slack water between berms Adaptive Management: City of Gulf Shores Response to the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Late April, oil landfall judged imminent Booms installed at Callaway Pass, ineffective due to strong incoming and outgoing tides Decision made to close passes using berms, involved City of Gulf Shores (COGS, lead organization), LLPS, ALDOT, FWS, ADEM, Coast Guard, Baldwin County District Court, BP, academic researchers. COGS declares State of Emergency, receives District Court approval to suspend court order May 2nd Callaway Pass closed, Ivan Pass closed by FWS several days later Continued biweekly sampling by LLPS volunteers and academic researchers to provide water quality data (DO, salinity, temperature, bacteria) to decision makers and oversight officials on health of lagoon during closure. Early July, sampling frequency increased to every week because of increased bacteria counts July 14 pass reconfigured to “L” shape for controlled drainage of high waters caused by heavy rains, pass routed to west then south for controlled drainage of high water, July 19 water levels returned to normal August 29 pass was returned to “straight” configuration Mid to late Sept bacterial numbers returned to pre-spill levels Lessons Learned/Future Direction Booms ineffective in high energy or high wave environment, absorbent booms somewhat effective in slack water in channel between dual berms Berms highly effective at preventing bulk oil from entering Lagoon, we were lucky no significant tropical weather during crisis “L” shaped channel highly successful at allowing for controlled drainage, facilitated rapid opening for drainage and rapid closure during “oily” incoming tides and for tropical weather induced tides Lagoon remained “healthy” during fairly long closure. Overall, surprisingly high salinities, dissolved oxygen good to adequate, micro and mega flora and fauna do not appear to be significantly impacted Decision to reopen Lagoon to complete tidal exchange in late August appears to have been a good decision Some “sheen” and some degraded tar balls have gotten into the Lagoon since opening, this was anticipated, and appears to be very much the lesser of two evils Future-continued sampling and assessment of water column and sediment near pass for hydrocarbons and chemistry, and trawl survey studies for comparison to historical data, determine likely source of bacteria Many diverse interests can and did work well together in a crisis mode High water due to heavy rains Bacteria level high Mobile Press Register- Weds. 7-21-10 Controlled drainage plan Mobile Press Register- Sunday 9-10-10 “L” channel for controlled drain Caught by Bill Munsell, LLPS member 10-16-10 Partial funding for this project provided by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, State Lands Division, Coastal Section, in part, from a grant by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management. Award #:NA09NOS4190169" Monitoring and ready for rapid closure on flood tide