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  • What About Blue? Lake Itasca to New Orleans

    On July 20, 2009, three kayakers—Kevin Lilly, Danielle Katz, and Brian Coggan—will embark on a 2300 mile journey on the Mississippi River. Kevin, Danielle, and Brian are traversing the length of the Mississippi to raise awareness and money for the global water crisis. The funds will go towards preserving US waterways and also to build wells for people in developing countries. They named their nonprofit What About Blue in response to all the attention given to thinking "green."

    The Mississippi is the second longest river in the USA, only 200 miles shorter than the Missouri. The Mississippi headwaters are in Lake Itasca, one of the many, many lakes in Minnesota. In the 1930's, the Civilian Conservation Corps moved the channel of water that starts the Mississippi to improve the tourists' experience! The CCC added a rapids for visitors to wade across. If you want to cross the Mississippi, this is the easiest place to do it.

    Lake Itasca isn't too far from the town of Bemidji, which houses a statue of Paul Bunyan. If you want to send off the What About Blue kayakers on July 20th, make sure you stop in Bemidji to catch a glimpse of Paul! If you can't make the send-off, consider giving them a donation.

  • The Moon, Dolphins, and Kevin Lily

    What do these three images have in common? The beings in each image are smiling! Although that might be true, the commonality I want to point out is water.

    Today is the 40th anniversary of the USA landing on the moon. Where are you going to get drinking water on a trip to the moon? You have to bring it with you. How are you going to make sure that the water doesn't grow nasty things in it during the trip? NASA invented silver ion technology to keep water pure for the astronauts on the 1969 Moon mission. That brings me to the dolphin.

    Dolphins do not tolerate chlorine. It causes their skin to rot. Dolphins in captivity need to be in chlorine-free pools. NASA's invention of silver ion technology for the Moon mission is now used to purify pool water for captive Dolphins. Silver-ion technology kills bacteria and algae. The resulting pool water exceeds the EPA standards for drinking water. Dolphins held captive for research no longer need to worry about chlorine rotting their skin. And that brings me to the third image—Kevin Lily.

    Similar to dolphins, Kevin and two friends (Danielle Katz and Brian Coggan) are mammals who will be spending a lot of time in the water over the next few months. Kevin's group left Bemidji, Minnesota today to travel the length of the Mississippi River. They are raising money for local, national and international charities working to alleviate the global water crisis. Their quest ends on October 10, 2009 at the 11th Annual Voodoo Music Experience in New Orleans, LA. Check out their website.

  • Week 1: Where are Kevin and his friends?

    Kevin Lily, Danielle Katz, and Brian Coggan, left Bimidji, MN on July 20, 2007 on an endurance journey whose purpose is to call attention to the world's global water crisis. One of their stops this week was Cass Lake.

    Cass Lake is not only a lake, but it's a chain of 8 lakes. Cass Lake is 15,596 acres. It has more then 26 miles of shoreline, and is as deep as 120 feet. I hope Kevin has a fishing pole, because this lake is packed with Walley, Perch, and Northern Pike. Interestingly it's second to Leech Lake in the number of Muskies caught annually. Leech Lake is where my brother got married a few years ago! So I know the area. Minnesota lakes are spectacular. In that part of the country it feels as if there is more water than land!

    Donate to their cause. The money they raise goes to local, national, an internatoinal chrities working to alleviate teh Global Water Crisis, including conervation, preservation, and purification projects.

    Read Kevin's blog First 5 days, Pizza Night, Camp Unistar & Bemidji State Beavers!.

    Track the WhatAboutBlue team.

  • Week 2: Where are Kevin and his friends?

    Kevin Lily, Danielle Katz, and Brian Coggan, left Bimidji, MN on July 20, 2007. (LINK) on an endurance journey whose purpose is to call attention to the world's global water crisis. Their GPS tracker shows that yesterday they were just past Palisades, Michigan and heading towards Hassman. Yup. They are in the middle of nowhere!

    The Bimidji Pioneer newspaper featured him in an article last week "What if Forrest Gump had Facebook?" and revealed that Kevin was neither a kayaker nor a camper until recently. WOW! And he's kayaking in mosquito country! That shows how dedicated Kevin and his friends are to raising money!

    As of this morning, Kevin has not updated his blog since July 29. Let's hope the mosquitoes have not eaten him alive!!!!

    Donate to their cause. The money they raise goes to local, national, and internatoinal charities working to alleviate the Global Water Crisis, including conservation, preservation, and purification projects.

    Read Kevin's blog.

    Track the WhatAboutBlue team.

  • Week 3: Where are Kevin and his friends?

    Kevin Lily, Danielle Katz, and Brian Coggan, left Bimidji, MN on July 20, 2007. (LINK) on an endurance journey whose purpose is to call attention to the world's global water crisis.

    Here's what they've been up to:

    • Paddling 25 or more miles each paddling day
    • Eating mac and cheese with extra butter and Doritos.
    • Sitting in a tent to get out of the cold rain.
    • Missing family and friends
    • Visiting a family in Brainerd

    Donate to their cause. The money they raise goes to local, national, an internatoinal chrities working to alleviate the Global Water Crisis, including conervation, preservation, and purification projects.

    Kevin has a blog, but he hasn't been posting to it.
    Perhaps he is too buy paddling! But his team is tweeting regularly: @whataboutblue on Twitter.
    Track the WhatAboutBlue team.

  • Week 5: Where are Kevin and his friends?

    Kevin Lily, Danielle Katz, and Brian Coggan, left Bimidji, MN on July 20, 2007 on an endurance journey whose purpose is to call attention to the world's global water crisis. It looks like they are in Spring Lake, just south of Minneapolis. It's not really a lake, just a wide spot in the Mississippi River.

    According to Twitter (whataboutblue), they had a successful fundraiser in St. Paul, ate great sushi at SEVEN, and were hosted at the St. Paul Yacht club all week. Check out the daily report on their activities.

    Donate to their cause. The money they raise goes to local, national, an internatoinal chrities working to alleviate teh Global Water Crisis, including conervation, preservation, and purification projects.

    Track the WhatAboutBlue team.

  • Damn Good Jerky

    Have you ever backpacked? Hiked more than 10 miles at a time? Kayaked all day long? There is something about heavy physical activity that makes food taste great. After one week-long backpack that I did, I ate Grandma's frosted animal cookies and washed them down with a cold beer. At the time, I swore this was the best meal ever!

    The WhatAboutBlue kayakers—Kevin, Danielle, and Brian—are mid-way through their journey from Minnesota to New Orleans. They are using lots of energy each day paddling. They shot this video to extoll the virtues of Damn Good Jerky (which is made by Damn Good Foods in Stillwater, NY). Is the jerky really that good? Or is it because these kayakers are ravenous and delusional? You'll never know until you try it yourself!

    The kayakers like the jerky so much that they are seeking sponsorship from this company. If you like beef jerky, check out the jerky from Damn Good Foods. Encourage the company to help the WhatAboutBlue kayakers.

  • What About Blue Kayakers?

    More than 50 days on the Mississippi River, Kevin Lilly  of What About Blue? tweeted:

    "I am struggling... Body is aching, mind is tired and the river is only getting bigger and tougher."

    Is he ready to quit? Of course not! Neither are his team mates. Kevin, Danielle, and Brian are almost halfway to New Orleans.

    Listen to the daily river report. Help them raise money to help end the global water crisis.

  • Why Doesn't Kevin Have Pants?

    Kevin Lily and his friends Danielle and Brian have been paddling down the Mississippi River for over 2 months to raise money and awareness for the Global water crisis. (Donate here.) I've been following their adventures on Twitter. A few days ago, I saw this Tweet:

    "Chester, IL: its 50 degrees on our mississippi river sandbar, i have no pants, and im very cold as a result."

    Why doesn't Kevin have pants? Is this a temporary state? Or did he lose his clothes on the river? If you live near the Mississippi, please check where Kevin is and bring him some pants. (You can find his whereabouts on this GPS tracking site.) He still has a long way to go to get to the end of the Mississippi and the celebration in New Orleans!

  • Kevin's Kayak Sank

    Kevin Lily, Danielle Katz, and Brian Coggan, left Bimidji, MN on July 20, 2007 on an endurance journey to call attention to the world’s global water crisis and raise money to help solve it. They planned to end their journey in New Orleans in time for the 11th Annual Voodoo Music Experience. Like many adventurers, the three kayakers are discovering that their adventure is not following the plan. They arrived in Memphis, TN on Sunday, 70 miles behind schedule.

    I've been following them on Twitter (@whataboutblue). Things seemed to go badly starting on October 6, when Kevin's kayak sank in New Madrid, Missouri. Fortunately he managed to salvage it. Lots of rain there, coast guard warnings, and on top of that, Kevin almost got hit by lightning. The three made it to civilization in Memphis, but the weather prediction for the week is for lots of rain—thunderstorms most of the week.

    Driving, the last leg of their journey—Memphis to New Orleans—is 395 miles. By river it must be much longer. ( The Mississippi snakes its way southwest from Memphis, meanders to Baton Rouge, and then heads south east to New Orleans. )

    Let's hope the What About Blue paddlers can stay ahead of the bad weather and make up a few miles! Help lift the team's spirits by donating to their cause.

  • What About Blue Makes it to New Orleans

    On July 20, Kevin Lily and two friends (Danielle Katz and Brian Coggan) left Bemidji, Minnesota to travel the length of the Mississippi River. They are raising money for local, national and international charities working to alleviate the global water crisis. Their quest was supposed to end on October 10, 2009 in New Orleans, LA. If you've been following this blog, you'll know that late in the trip the fearsome three met with cold, rainy weather that caused delay. Today they are finally getting to their destination.

    On the evening of Octoboer 27, they were within striking distance of the end of the Mississippi. The Coast Guard was preventing them from completing the distance because of high river traffic. Not sure whether they made it to the end by kayak or by car, but it doesn't matter. They went the distance in my book. They are amazing. You can extend them your congratulations by making a final donation to their cause.

  • Losing Wetlands on the Louisiana Coast

    Kevin Lily of What About Blue fame is calling attention to the loss of coastal wetlands in Louisiana. The goal of the Gulf Restoration Network is to restore the Gulf of Mexico to a sustainable condition. This is an important issue, so I am reposting an article that Kevin recently posted. Please take time to read it or to visit the Gulf Restoration Network website. Here it is:

    "The loss of Louisiana’s coastal wetlands is one of the most serious environmental problems facing the country today. Louisiana boasts more than 4 million acres of wetlands, representing 40% of the nation’s total. These wetlands are among the world’s most diverse and productive ecosystems.

    Presently, Louisiana's wetlands are in a state of rapid degradation. 80% of the nation’s coastal land loss occurs in Louisiana. The state loses 25-35 square miles, or 25,000 acres, per year, the equivalent of one football field every 15 minutes. These losses are not only environmental and aesthetic, but commercial. Projected losses to the fishing industry by the year 2050 as a result of coastal land loss are a staggering $37 billion.

    Natural Deltaic Cycles

    The natural processes of coastal land formation are based on the sedimentary load delivered by the Mississippi River. Deposits of sand, silt, and clay made at the mouth of the river form the basis of coastal land and marshes. The sediments accumulate through flood overtopping and overbank sedimentation. These natural forces, known as accretion, lead to a net gain of 1-2 square miles per year in coastal land area.

    There are many forms of natural disturbance that contribute to coastal land loss. Catastrophic disturbance from hurricanes erode marshes and introduce excess saltwater into the system. Natural rises in sea level, mostly associated with the advance and retreat of glaciers, are also responsible for dramatic decreases in wetland area. During the last major glacial retreat 15,000 years ago, 40-50% of the existing wetlands were lost. The natural processes of the deltaic life cycle also include the breakdown of abandoned deltas and the subsequent loss of coastal land. Another form of natural disturbance to wetlands is subsidence. This is the general term for the gradual sinking of coastal land into the ocean. Subsidence is primarily due to the geological movement of deposits along tectonic fault lines and the compaction of loosely deposited sediments. Subsidence is one of the largest causes of coastal land loss, but cannot even begin to rival the human impact in either the amount of coastal land destroyed or the rate of its destruction.

    Human Disturbance

    Human disturbance has had a massive impact on the balance of wetland growth and decline. Since the colonization of America, over half of the original wetlands have been lost. In modern times and with the increase in available technology, this loss has accelerated geometrically. In the past 100 years, Louisiana has lost 20% of its wetlands, representing an acceleration of 10 times the natural rate.

    The main forms of human disturbance are the river-control structures such as dams and levees, the dredging of canals, and draining and filling. Beginning in the 1920’s, large scale river-control structures, such as the Old River Control Structure, which diverts 30% of the Mississippi Rover water into the Atchafalaya River system, were built to ease flooding problems along the banks. These control structures led to a dramatic decrease in the sedimentary load which reached the mouth of the river and formed the basis of new coastal land.

    The construction of levees similarly affected coastal land. A large part of the sediment gathered by existing marshes is accumulated during seasonal flooding. Flood overtopping and overbank sedimentation, both vital to the survival of existing marshes, were dramatically reduced as large areas ceased to be flooded. River water also helped to reduce marsh salinity and provide nutrients, and its loss has resulted in the breakup and dispersal of large amounts of nutrient-starved marshlands.

    Canal dredging has had one of the most dramatic effects on wetland growth and regeneration. In addition to directly destroying marshes in the path of the canal, the plants are unable to recolonize, and thus the marsh is unable to regenerate itself. Once canals are dredged, most grow larger as the sustainable areas of marsh subsequently decrease. The largest and most destructive example of this dredging is the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO). Created in the 1960’s to facilitate the passage of ships to the Gulf of Mexico, the canal destroyed over 23,000 acres of wetland. The MRGO has now grown to 2 ½ times its original size and costs the government $7.6 million a year to maintain. Experts say that canals now account for 6.8% of Louisiana’s wetland area.

    Eutrophication is another major problem facing Louisiana’s wetlands. Caused by chemical and industrial pollutants, human waste and agricultural runoff, eutrophication literally means “overnourishing.” The excess chemicals present cause the wetland plants to die, breaking the marsh apart. In addition to these more indirect effects, human effect the wetlands by draining and filling them, destroying them for commercial use, and dumping pollutants directly into them.

    Proposed Solutions

    Fortunately, many have realized the plight of the wetlands and have mobilized against further destruction. Many preventative measures and replacement strategies have been conceived and implemented. One idea that has been put to extensive use in wetland restoration is that of river diversions. These function by pumping river water into ailing marshes, increasing sediment load and reducing salinity. Many of these diversion structures are currently in use, and an even larger structure has been proposed. The Bohemia Diversion would divert 30% of the Mississippi River into Breton Sound, creating 89,000 acres of new marshes over the next 50 years. Another proposed solution is the closing of the MRGO. An alternative canal would be formed through the Plaquemines Parish marsh and all sediment retention structures along the river would be removed. This solution would allow the mouth of the river to silt up and new wetlands to form. More creative solutions have also been proposed. One of the most practical proposals is vegetative planting, which places native plants in threatened systems, and allows the root systems to form a more solid basis for soil.

    In response to the problem of coastal land loss, both the federal and Louisiana state governments have met to propose legislation. The Breaux Act, passed in 1990, was designed to increase public awareness of the problem, and created a committee to investigate and recommend solutions to Congress. The state legislature has identified oil production as a major threat to coastal wetlands, with the dredging of canals for ships and pipelines and direct pollution posing problems. Many steps have been taken to limit the industry’s toll on the environment. According to current Louisiana law, if an action threatens even ½ acre of wetland an alternative solution must be investigated.

    Coast 2050 Plan

    The state government met in 1998 to devise a comprehensive plan for coastal land rehabilitation and conservation. The result of the session was the Coast 2050 plan, which addresses the culture, industry, and environment of coastal Louisiana. The plans operates by soliciting public opinion and recommendations and attempting to resolve conflicts between restoration goals and coastal zone development and infrastructure. It seeks to develop a scientifically and technically sound plan with special attention to ecological and economic resources.

    One facet of the plan already in effect is the Caernarvon Diversion project, which pumps river water into the marshes of Breton Sound and will preserve 16,000 acres of wetlands per year. So far, the effected area has experienced a net yearly increase of 5.9%. The plan also includes other projects such as the Davis Pond diversion, while promoting legislation to close MRGO and reverse other such harmful trends.

    Despite these efforts, coastal land loss in Louisiana remains a major problem. Losses due to human activity might soon become irreplaceable. One harrowing estimate projects that the projected land loss by the year 2050 would form a one-foot-wide strip of land that would reach from the earth to the moon and back 11 times. Louisiana’s wetlands are vanishing. Without significant action, they could soon disappear forever."