What is good for coastal restoration is killing the state’s oyster beds.That’s the complaint from oystermen, who are asking that the state scale back the freshwater diversion projects, which have been running full bore since BP’s Deepwater Horizon exploded in April.
The governor ordered all freshwater diversion gates opened, allowing the Mississippi River to send torrents of water into the brackish bays on either side of the river, theorizing that the thrust of the river would push back the encroaching oil. Whether the river held back any oil is up for discussion, but a consequence of the deluge of fresh water is massive oyster kills in some of the most productive reefs in the state. Members of the state’s Oyster Task Force have been calling for a reduction of the freshwater flow, currently up to 8,000 cubic feet per second at the Davis Pond diversion, 16 times its regular flow, which is blasting water into Barataria Bay.
The upside of keeping the diversion gates open is that along with the water, tons of sediment from the Mississippi are washing into the bays, helping build land lost to saltwater intrusion. Freshwater helps marsh grasses take root, binding the soil, building land. Mixing freshwater with the salty tide restores the brackish balance that once built the Mississippi Delta, which is now collapsing. Scientists point to the healthy Atchafalaya River Delta, which, with its mix of fresh and salt water continues to grow.
In a story today in the Houma Daily Comet, Nicholls State oyster biologist Earl Melancon is calling for a reduction of the Davis Pond flow. Melancon told the Comet that up to 50 percent of the state’s oyster crop has already been killed. Louisiana produces more oysters than any other state in the nation; the oyster industry adds $300 million to the state’s economy yearly.
Oysters take two to three years to grow to market size. The state is already looking at a three to five year time period before beds killed by the freshwater can set spawn and be harvested. And that can only happen if the flow of freshwater is reduced now.
While oyster fishers are calling for the flow to be reduced, there is virtually nothing they can do to address the problem other than asking. A 2003 lawsuit, filed by oyster fishers with state leases, who sued the state over the opening of the freshwater diversion projects, resulted in a $2 billion award to the plaintiffs being overturned and the state’s “hold harmless” provision upheld. Oyster lease holders who claimed the freshwater killed their reefs received nothing.
This is the situation they find themselves in today. Meanwhile the diversions continue to pump water, hopefully building land. However the results of the diversions’ work has yet to be measured.
This is a difficult line for the state to walk, balancing the needs of the historic oyster industry with the catastrophe of the eroding coastline. The explosion of the Deepwater Horizon and the resulting oil spill will become a footnote when compared with the struggle to restore the coast and sustain the cultural heritage and livelihoods of those who live and work there.
MAY 17 Here's a column from James Gill, this time in the Advocate. Gill, who has jumped ship from the Picayune, writes about the absurdity of dueling polls in this post. The numbers are so wildly different, it is obvious that both sides are "cooking the books," he writes. In particular, he looks at Sen. Mary Landrieu, and how her recent actions in DC have been received by those polled. Gill's acerbic, amusing prose is a welcome addition to a paper so conservative as to be occasionally lacking in personality.
MAY 17 Blogger Tom Aswell continues delivering bombshells about the state education department and Gov. Jindal's education "reform" efforts. In this post, he reports that students in the Shreveport area have been signed up for a charter school without their knowledge or consent. Most interesting to Aswell is how this Texas-based charter (with ties to GOP types) got the personal student information it has, if the students didn't give it.
MAY 17 This post by JR Ball in the Baton Rouge Business Report is an interesting tongue-in-cheek look at recent Baton Rouge economic development efforts. Among the items he examines is the idea that gaining a Costco makes BR a "world-class city." (Really? All you need is a different brand of Sam's? MK!) This effort, and other recent ones, are all built on the taxpayer's back, with tax zones, tax incentives and tax rebates, Ball writes.
MAY 17 Blogger CB Forgotston is critical of the legislature's reliance on a revenue-estimating committee's decision to include projected tax amnesty income in this year's forecast. That's a problem, CB posts, because the deadline for these people to pay their taxes is June 30, 2014. So when do you think these people who haven't paid taxes in years are going to pay their taxes? Surely not before June 30, and that means the money won't be there for this year's budget, he argues.
MAY 17 Here's an interesting blog out of California by a Hollywood writer, attorney and academic named Brian Alan Lane. He blogs about higher ed, and was a whistle-blower in a scandal over false credentials. In this post, he takes aim at LSU's new top dog, King Alexander. It's convoluted and a little confusing, but it sure makes Alexander a lot more interesting than he was yesterday.
MAY 17 Blogger Robert Mann writes about the LSU Board's refusal to allow Dr. Fred Cerise to testify before the legislature about Gov. Jindal's plan to close down all the state's charity hospitals and dump the poor on the private system. It's hard to imagine anyone more qualified than Cerise to testify about that, so why would anyone try to prevent him doing so? Mann thinks it is because the powers that be aren't interested in hearing any truth about the plan.
MAY 17 This post on the Louisiana Sinkhole Bugle, a blog that notes developments in the Bayou Corne and Jefferson Island salt domes, talks about a proposed expansion of the salt dome storage under Lake Peigneur in Iberia Parish. Residents are working against it for several reasons, including two biggies: the sinkhole disaster in Bayou Corne and the continuing, unexplained bubbling on the surface of the Lake.
MAY 17 NOLA police arrested more people Thursday accused of either being involved in the Mother's Day shooting or hiding the suspect afterward, this Gambit story reports. The NOLA police chief said he suspects the whole thing was gang-related and throws out a challenge to the gangs: he's got informants now, he says, and he knows a lot more than the gangs want him to know. The people who live in the neighborhoods terrorized by gangs are ready to talk, he says.
Is it a crime for citizens to photograph, video, or take notes of a police officer in the line of duty, or a right protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution? Locally, such activity, as witnessed recently, will at the very least result in a night spent behind bars.
David Calhoun and Elizabeth “EB” Brooks are the first two employees of Lafayette Central Park Inc., the nonprofit charged with turning Lafayette Consolidated Government’s 100-acre Johnston Street Horse Farm property into a passive public park. Calhoun was named executive director, and Brooks is director of planning and design.
Episcopal School of Acadiana’s Dr. Joshua Caffery, chair of the school’s English Department, is headed to Washington, D.C., and the Library of Congress as the latest winner of the Alan Lomax Fellowship in Folklife Studies.