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 21 Gambit columnist Clancy DuBos writes about the Mother's Day shooting, and how the stages of shock and blame and healing mirror those traveled by the same city following Hurricane Katrina. The city will recover, just as it did following the storm, by reaching out to help the people injured most seriously by the event, DuBos writes. It's how we heal, he says.
MAY 21 Here's a post on the Advocate (but buried on a subpage, not on the front) that reports something Louisiana Voice reported some time ago: a top DOE official lives in Los Angeles and "commutes" to Baton Rouge. The positioning of the story caused a stir on Facebook Monday, with several posters asking if the Advocate was covering someone's hiney. Sentell's stories on DOE are notoriously soft, and this one is no different: don't expect any hard questions in here.
MAY 21 Here's another post from blogger Tom Aswell about the "course choice" program. He's already reported on kids being signed up without their consent or knowledge, and has more here: For example, he tells of a six-year-old who was signed up for high school Latin. He also digs a little deeper into the sister companies of the main one operating in Louisiana; all of them seem to have complaints against them. Stinky.
MAY 21 Given the 80 percent cut in higher ed funding since he's been in office, it's clear Gov. Jindal would rather give tax cuts to out of state companies than have a functioning system, blogger Dayne Sherman argues in this post. The cuts have been such a disaster, Sherman says, that it will take 30 years to fix what's been broken. He says he believes the aim is to shut down most of the schools before Jindal leaves in 2016.
MAY 21 Blogger CB Forgotston says there are too many elections in Louisiana, and they're costing us too much money. The proof is in the pudding: turnout for most of these nonsensical pollings gets worse and worse, CB opines, even as millions of dollars that could be spent on health care or higher ed go down the tubes. The legislature must take action to stem the tide of pointless elections, he says.
MAY 21 Here's an interesting investigative piece by WVUE on the retirement benefits of some Jefferson Parish public employees. According to the story, the taxpayers are paying 100 percent of the retirement contributions of employees who started work prior to a certain date in April 1986 -- and have done for more than 30 years. It costs the parish millions annually, and might not be legal, the story reports.
MAY 21 This post on Bayou Buzz provides insight from Louisiana's intrepid pollster, Bernie Pinsonat, on the winners and losers from this year's legislative session. But to hear Bernie tell it, there's almost nuttin but losers: Jindal, the Republican party, the Fiscal Hawks all get big goose eggs in his win column.
MAY 20 This post on The Lens takes a look at a huge (either $500K or $250K) bill that one NOLA charter now has for school lunches. The RSD says the charter group didn't fill out the proper paperwork for federal reimbursement, but the story details how the RSD didn't ensure the people running the charter had the proper training, despite requests from hapless charter employees trying to fill out forms. Either way, somebody's asleep at the wheel.
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.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.