[StBernard] Louisiana's Coastal Master Plan will destroy fishing, harm coast, opponents say at Monday meeting

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Tue Apr 30 22:15:52 EDT 2013

Louisiana's Coastal Master Plan will destroy fishing, harm coast, opponents
say at Monday meeting

About 300 fishing guides, commercial fishers and marina owners packed the
St. Bernard Council Chambers Monday night to show solidarity and discuss a
strategy to combat the state's Coastal Master Plan.

The residents are opposed to the plan's heavy dependence on sediment
diversions to combat erosion and subsidence in the coastal marshes. The
state currently operates three controversial freshwater diversions -- one at
Davis Pond on the west bank, one near Bayou Lamoque in Plaquemines Parish
and the other near the St. Bernard Parish town of Caernarvon.

Meeting organizers and attendees say the Caernarvon Diversion is responsible
for severe erosion in St. Bernard and upper Plaquemines parishes. They also
feel the diversion has driven away saltwater fish, shrimp and oysters, and
they're concerned their livelihoods will be destroyed if other diversions
are implemented.

One of the two largest diversions in the plan would be installed near the
town of Braithwaite, and it would dwarf the current Caernarvon Diversion.

"The one at Braithwaite is 250,000 (cubic feet per second)," Capt. George
Ricks, one of the meeting's organizers, told the crowd. "To put that in
perspective, when the Bonnet Carre Spillway is open at full capacity, that's
what flows through it -- 250,000 cfs.

"Those of you who shrimp and oyster have seen the effects of Caernarvon.
This one's going to be 31 times bigger, so you can see where our concerns

State leaders have acknowledged the limitations of freshwater diversions
like Caernarvon and Davis Pond, but they argue the ones that are part of the
Master Plan are different in function and scope because they are sediment

But Ricks doesn't feel there's much of a distinction.

"You still have to move the sediment in with fresh water," he said. "There's
no way around it."

Such a high volume of fresh water in the marshes will destroy fishing,
crabbing, shrimping and oystering, Clint Guidry, president of the Louisiana
Shrimp Association, told the crowd. The state would be much better off
employing dredges to mechanically build land rather than hoping the
MIssissippi River will do it, he said.

"This is going to be a huge impact on our coastal communities and our
coastal businesses," he said. "We're going to have a lot of money coming in
with the Master Plan in the next 20 years. Let's go do something with it.
Let's not build something that's going to wipe all you guys out, and then
come back five years later and say, 'Oops, it didn't work.'

"The guy who designed this plan is not going to be affected one bit. His
life goes on."

Meeting attendees listened to a 20-minute presentation from Pat Fitzpatrick,
a research professor of meteorology at Mississippi State University.
Fitzpatrick argued that the state's Coastal Master Plan is flawed, and is
based on hopes and speculation.

"The delta-building process is very slow," he said. "Even if it works, it's
going to be too slow."

View full size
St. Bernard Parish residents filled the council chambers Monday night to
voice their opposition to the state's plan to install large-scale sediment
diversions along the coast.
Todd Masson

The big issue, Fitzpatrick said, is that the Mississippi River carries
roughly half of the sediment it did a century ago, and even when it carried
a big load, it took several centuries to build the Louisiana coast.

Also, in the days before levees, the Mississippi River would flood the
marshes in a more uniform fashion, covering the flora with sheet water. This
would allow sediment to settle on the land, and further build it up,
Fitzpatrick said. The sediment diversions wouldn't accurately mimic the
pre-levee spring floods because the water would be channeled into the
marshes, Fitzpatrick said.

Some of the worst erosion in the world in the last decade has been in the
area impacted by the Caernarvon Diversion, including the marshes near
Delacroix, and Fitzpatrick told the crowd there's a reason for that.

"The Mississippi River has fertilizers and pollutants in it, and
organic-based soil, which is what Delacroix has, is very sensitive to
fertilizers," he said.

The issue is that when plants have easy access to fertilizers, they don't
grow deep roots, Fitzpatrick said. Then when strong storm surges move
through, they easily rip the plants from the soil base.

Capt. Jody Donewar, a recreational fishing guide, told the crowd he's
already seen the deleterious impacts of fresh water on the east bank of the
Mississippi River near his home port of Empire. The Bayou Lamoque Freshwater
Diversion was opened to capacity to push back approaching oil during 2010's
spill, and it hasn't been closed since, Donewar said.

As a result, fishing success in the area has plummeted, according to

"Since 2010, when Lamoque was opened, it's like trying to catch speckled
trout in a desert," he said, urging the crowd to stay engaged and make sure
the problem is not exacerbated.

Fitzpatrick acknowledged they'd have an uphill battle in stopping the
installation of the diversions.

"The biggest problem is that this is already somewhat law," he said.
"They've already passed this in the Legislature, but I don't think the
Legislature fully understood what they were agreeing to."

But Fitzpatrick said the Coastal Master Plan must be updated every five
years, and the next update is scheduled for 2017. Diversion opponents can
press their case between now and then, he said, but the clock is ticking.

"You can see why they're rushing this. They want to get a lot of this
started before the next Master Plan is written," he said.

St. Bernard Parish President Dave Peralta, a diversion opponent, applauded
the unity of the crowd, but also admonished them about their attitudes
throughout the process.

"I've seen times where all of our interests were divided, but this is great.
This is what will make us win," he said. "We've got a united front. We all
support the same cause. We know how important this is to us all. It's
important to show solidarity.

"But it's vital to continue to act in a truly professional manner. I know
this is a hot-button topic for all of us, but if we stay professional,
that's what will carry us forward."

P.J. Hahn, director of Plaquemines Parish's Coast Zone Management
Department, also attended the meeting, and said Parish President Billy
Nungesser is "behind the effort 200 percent."

More information about the StBernard mailing list