Letter: Hearing missed the point

Thank you for the article, “Conflict on the Comite” by Jim Mustlan, which appeared on Page 1A of The Advocate on Sunday, Sept. 8.

The article does an excellent job of describing some of the challenges which are happening in the Comite River and many other waterways across Louisiana.

This state has one of the largest scenic river systems in the country, which includes more than 1,300 miles of rivers and bayous. The Comite River is one of the 64 rivers which are included in the Louisiana Natural, Scenic and Historic River System.

In 1972 the Legislature passed this natural resources protection law because sportsmen, boaters, swimmers, fishermen, landowners and hundreds of public officials around the state were concerned about the damage being caused by dredging, dams, river crossings for roads, pipelines and other activities in every parish.

The recent public hearing by the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission, which was held July 2 in Baton Rouge was not about the use of all terrain vehicles (ATVs) on the Comite River, but rather about the update of the management plan for Bayou Manchac.

For a few years, the staff of Wildlife and Fisheries has been developing an update of the management plan for Bayou Manchac, which would then be used as a model for updating the management plans for the rest of the 64 rivers in the scenic rivers system.

I attended the public meeting on July 2, and the majority of attendees spoke out in favor of being able to continue riding their ATVs in the Comite River. Not one of them mentioned the draft management plan for Bayou Manchac, and no one from the Wildlife and Fisheries Commission clarified what the public hearing was about.

The Sept. 8 article about ATVs in the Comite River was good, as were the accompanying photographs, but it failed to provide any information about the real purpose of the July 2 public hearing by the Wildlife and Fisheries Comission, which was to get public input and hopefully improve the update of the management plan for Bayou Manchac.

The Wildlife and Fisheries Commission and the staff of the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries should be able to provide more information so they will get clearer and more appropriate public input at the rest of the 64 future meetings on the Scenic River Management Plan updates.

Willie Fontenot

retired attorney general staff

Baton Rouge