It would be easier to understand the depth and the breadth of the feelings exposed during Monday’s special meeting held in Chalmette if the depth and the breadth of our coastal erosion problems affecting our entire state weren’t such a clear and present danger.
A couple hundred folks showed up at the St. Bernard Parish Council Chambers early last week to denounce plans outlined in the State Master Plan to create large-volume silt/sediment diversion projects on the east and west sides of the Mississippi River.
While we all should share some of their concerns about what a large-scale diversion could do to fishing in places like Shell Beach, Delacroix, the Biloxi Marsh and other St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes areas, the fact remains that if nothing is done scientists project there will not be a St. Bernard Parish nor a Plaquemines Parish sometime in the next 80 years.
That’s something that was lost in the extraordinarily vehement objections and harsh accusations hurled at Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority during the meeting.
After reading the State Master Plan and adding it to years of covering and observing the dramatic land loss across our coast, it seems that ignoring the effects of the Army Corps of Engineers to control the Mississippi River after the destructive 1927 flood has done more harm than good.
Those years have convinced me that the first real project to save our coast, or to try to restore any part of the hundreds of square miles we’ve lost in my lifetime, is to do anything and everything we can to try to let the Mississippi River do what it did during the thousands of years it took to create most of our state.
Fact is most folks in Louisiana live on land created by the deposits carried and left by the Mississippi River.
But when the Corps decided to build and maintain levees that the Mississippi River could never top, and built jetties at the mouth of the river to speed up water flow and carry valuable sediment out into the Gulf of Mexico where it would never be able to help a land-building continuum, once again we tried to control Mother Nature only to learn years later that we had failed miserably.
Now we face the only-too-clear fact that we will never have the coastal land masses we had even 30 years ago, and folks with land in places like Ascension, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa and Livingston parishes are residing today on future beachfront property. If you don’t believe that, then know that during the last 60 days, federal map makers have removed the names of several dozens spots on Louisiana’s coastal map because those places simply don’t exist anymore.
While it’s easy to understand why folks in the far southeastern reaches of our state are something more than upset by projects that could alter their way of life, the alternative, the real possibility their grandchildren will have to find homes north of Lake Maurepas should be a more sobering consideration.