Tempers flare as community discusses coastal restoration project

Louisiana

PLAQUEMINES PARISH, LA – AUGUST 22: An aerial view of Scofield Island, a recently restored barrier island that stands between the Gulf of Mexico and Bataria Bay on August 22, 2019 in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana. Barrier island restoration is part of Louisianas multiple lines of defense strategy. The state is rebuilding 52 miles of barrier islands, barrier headlands and ridges which help provide a first line of defense to coastal communities and coastal ecosystems against hurricane storm surges. The non-profit conservation organization SouthWings provides a network of volunteer pilots that advocate for the restoration and protection of ecosystems throughout the Southeast. The organization regularly provides flights to community leaders, researchers, policy-makers and the press. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

BELLE CHASSE, La. – Hundreds of Plaquemines Parish residents don’t like the state’s plan to rebuild Louisiana’s coast and they’re worried about what they say the plan will destroy.

Residents are worried about their homes, the fishing industry and the overall impact of the environment. The goal of the meeting Monday night at Belle Chasse Middle was to create a dialogue, but emotions were running high.

One man told the Coastal Protection Restoration Authority, “You shouldn’t be asking a bunch of lay people to come up with alternatives.” Another man said, “What you’re telling me isn’t solving any problem.”

Tempers flared as residents demanded answers from the CPRA. The agency is studying the benefits and impacts of the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion project.

If approved, the project would renew the state’s shrinking coastline with river sediment from the Mississippi.

Many residents at the meeting do not support that idea and feel like they’re not being heard. They’re worried they’ll be forced out of their homes and paradise will be ruined.

“You don’t know my blood pressure right now,” said Joann Dusang. “They think they know what they’re going to do, but they don’t know what they’re going to do.”

The CPRA said sediment diversion is the state’s best chance at restoring, building and sustaining wetlands.

“”It’s not just a one size fits all solution,” said Bren Haase the executive director of the CPRA. “It’s going to take rebuilding our barrier islands, it’s going to take rebuilding our ridges and it’s going to take rebuilding our marshes and we believe it’s going to be reconnecting the river with its coastal wetlands.”

The CPRA maintains if nothing is done, the Barataria Basin is expected to lose an additional 274,000 acres of land over the next 50 years.

“We’ve got to use every tool in the tool box at this point in time and we can’t leave anything on the table,” Haase said.

Last week, the Plaquemines Parish Council voted unanimously against the draft environmental impact statement for the project.

Parish President Kirk Lepine said, “This project has taken off a greater magnitude than we ever anticipated. Yes, we do want to see land. Yes, we want to see Plaquemines Parish built up again, but at what cost?”

The public can still comment on the EIS until May 4.

Here’s a list of the scheduled public meetings:

Woodpark Community Meeting
Wed 4/14, 6 PM (Port Sulphur YMCA)

Happy Jack Community Meeting
Fri, 4/16, 12 PM (Port Sulphur YMCA)

Hermitage, Suzie Bayou, Deer Range
Wednesday, April 21, 6 PM
Lake Hermitage Volunteer Fire Department

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