The Wild Side for Sunday, Sept. 2, 2012

As hurricanes go, Isaac was a middleweight.

He didn’t carry the knockout punch of heavyweights like Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike — or Betsy, Camille or Andrew.

What Isaac did was go 15 rounds with our state. He scored with a jab here, jab there, an occasional right hook, but, like most good middleweight boxers, when the fight was over we knew we’ve been in a fight, two black eyes and enough cuts and bruises to hurt for a long time.

Problem is the fight might not be over.

Folks around here continue to battle water, and more widespread floods than Katrina (certainly not more costly than flooding thousands of homes in the New Orleans area), and there’s more than enough tree-damaged homes, but that’s for news folks to sort out in the next days and weeks.

Outdoors concerns are that all the water in the Pontchartrain Basin, Isaac’s move over the Atchafalaya Spillway and the tidal surge into the coastal marshes will affect us for years.

That’s not to downplay effects of the storm on our fellow Louisianans, but Isaac will exact a price from fishermen and hunters, too.

While the early report from the Atchafalaya was that water levels were high and the water muddy, it’s the same report that surfaced in the first two days after Andrew and Gustav ravaged our country’s largest overflow swamp.

Remember 20 years ago when fish began floating in the Atchafalaya four days after Andrew passed. A week after Andrew’s departure, dead fish were everywhere, 175 million by state fisheries biologists’ estimates, and we were left with a huge hole in our recreational and commercial fishing adventures and ventures.

What’s little remembered from Andrew are the 7 million fish killed in the southern reaches of Vermilion Bay near Marsh Island.

The best we can expect from Isaac would mimic Gustav’s trip up the Atchafalaya, a passage that left us with isolated fish kills and nothing resembling Andrew’s mauling.

After seeing his rain and winds forces at work, where Isaac will leave the deepest scars is east of the Mississippi River.

When rivers and streams from the Amite River east to the Pearl River (throughout the Florida Parishes) settle, we will see fish kills caused by rapidly increasing levels of low dissolved oxygen in the water.

And while Isaac wasn’t strong enough to destroy valuable wetlands, cypress-tupelo swamp, piney ridges and bottomland hardwood habitat like Katrina did, it lingered long enough to push saltwater into much-improved waterfowl habitat and displace enough resident wildlife to leave hunters wondering about this and future deer, squirrel, rabbit and waterfowl seasons.

And what nobody knows is what effects this first major storm after the BP-Deepwater Horizon oil disaster will have on our state. That could be Isaac’s biggest impact on our state’s environs.