To the Editor:
June 3rd closes the public comment period on the Army Corps of Engineer’s draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for the proposed $2 billion Mid Barataria freshwater diversion project, the latest and largest effort to help protect and restore Louisiana’s coastline by flooding vast amounts of acreage in Plaquemines Parish.
Proponents have traveled the state to convince the public that this plan is the only one that will work and that nothing else deserves consideration. Those of us who live and work in coastal communities, including Parish Councils in St. Tammany, St. Bernard and Plaquemines, respectfully disagree for reasons that are strong, clear and without contradiction.
One look at the $258 million loss to the state’s fisheries inflicted by the 2016 flooding of the Bonnet Carre’ spillway paints a stark picture of what will accompany this latest freshwater flood. In realty, the damage promises to be far, far worse.
While the state’s seafood producer organizations oppose the current plan, we are strong advocates for smart coastal restoration and protection that actually does more good than harm. Louisiana oyster harvesters and processors and our colleagues who shrimp, crab and fish for a living believe we can rebuild the coast without sacrificing the diversity of our estuaries and destroying current fish and wildlife habitat. Alternative options we have urged the agencies to pursue instead include dredging, which has proven its effectiveness and cost-efficiency in Louisiana time and time again.
Sadly, the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority is immovable from its plan to flood southeast Louisiana and do immense and irreparable economic, human, and cultural damage that could be avoided if other options were considered. We urge the Army Corps of Engineers to strongly consider the devasting realities facing our fisheries if this project moves forward as planned.
The oyster industry has been a major fishery in Louisiana for over 150 years, providing for almost direct 4,000 jobs with an economic impact of $317 million annually and feeding tourists and residents alike. As a fourth-generation oysterman, my greatest fear is losing our livelihood for the next generation who can no longer sustain this legacy or way of life.
The comment period for the public to weigh in on this freshwater flood project closes on June 3rd. We respectfully request that all who share our concerns about the detrimental, unintended but very real consequences of this $2 billion folly make their voices heard by commenting at CEMVN-Midbarataria@usace.army.mil.
Mitchell Jurisich, Chair, Louisiana Oyster Task Force
The views and opinions expressed in this content are solely that of the voting members of the Oyster Task Force, a board established in law to study and monitor the molluscan industry and to make recommendations for the maximization of benefit from that industry for the state of Louisiana and its citizens.