The collapse of Lake Cataouatche in St. Charles Parish into an open waterway with little vegetation protecting its perimeters is alarming. One of the purposes of our coastal restoration program is to keep vegetation along our shoreline to protect our coast.
Now it seems many of the waterways in south Louisiana are ready to slide into the Gulf of Mexico. When there is little vegetation and the waterways along the coast are subject to invasion by the Gulf of Mexico, we can wave goodbye to the protection it provides to the areas in which we live.
One of the major elements is to keep the Mississippi and other rivers flowing through our coast to build it up to resist the tides of the Gulf. This, to a major extent, is expected to be done with freshwater diversions provided along the rivers that will replicate the olden days when bayous and rivers in south Louisiana, unprotected by levees, overflowed regularly and left their fresh water to build up the coast.
Our coastal restoration plan calls for those diversions to push river water and sediment into the wetlands and build them up to where they can support vegetation and coast-saving wetlands. It is probably the only way our coast can be saved.
But the diversions put fresh water into our marshes and shove the salt water further out. In so doing, it puts the salty waters that are more attractive to oyster production further from the river.
Whenever a solution is found to an environmental problem, there is always a reason why it should not be done, provided by those who could suffer thereby. Such is the case with opening up the freshwater diversions along the coast of Louisiana.
The oyster fishermen claim that freshwater diversions, such as the one we have in St. Charles Parish, would push the oyster production out toward the saltwater Gulf of Mexico.
As a result, only 25 percent of the river water available is let through it when it should be open 100 percent.
We should, of course, all be anxious to help our oyster fishermen produce those delicious crustaceans that make life in South Louisiana so delightful. However, the diversions give us what we need in keeping a healthy coast with vegetation and sediment from the river to keep it solid.
We want to keep our oyster production alive also but that can be done in other ways that will not interfere with our efforts to build up our coast with the diversions. We need to proceed in that direction.