Low-lying Port Fourchon is thriving, but without $50 billion in coastal restoration … it’s a goner
There is one place in Louisiana where a person can always find a job. Problem is, there are not many places to live there.
It’s Port Fourchon at the mouth of Bayou Lafourche which probably has the lowest unemployment rate in the nation. In addition to not having many places to stay, commuting is a problem.
Below Golden Meadow, 17 miles to the north, there is only a two-lane road, La. Hwy. 1, which lies only a few inches above the highest tides of the day. It doesn’t take much of a breeze to put it underwater in spots. Forget going there when a storm blows in the Gulf.
More than 90 percent of service work on offshore oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico is done out of Port Fourchon. Also, sea-going tankers from around the world unload their oil at Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP), just off the coast.
More than 1,300 big trucks travel that two-lane road every day to bring the supplies needed for those rigs. Many workers bunk up for seven days on and seven off the job so they don’t need a place to stay permanently. Sand was pumped in the area to accommodate businesses at the port. It is surrounded by wetlands as far up as Golden Meadow.
One gets a good idea of our coastal deterioration when he travels that route between Golden Meadow and Port Fourchon. Leeville, which is midway between, is no longer a residential community.
There once was solid land with houses on it but no more. Now there is only La. Hwy. 1 with marsh and a few businesses on each side.
When you ride atop the Leeville bridge and look southward, there is water everywhere. The highway curves through it.
Shell and The La. 1 Coalition sponsored a summit on the future of the area Monday at the Port Fourchon Operations Center. It was organized by Congressional Quarterly magazine which plans to publish an article on it in a future edition.
Serving as panelists were some of our state leaders who are trying to keep Louisiana’s coast intact. They were all concerned about the future of the area and the ability to get federal funding to save this valuable part of the country.
Not only is Fourchon the number one oil port, it is in the center of the most prolific seafood production area in the nation.
To service such industries, more than the two-lane highway that exists is needed. Work is underway on a raised highway between Leeville and Port Fourchon which will help the work force evacuate when the tide rises.
Though Congress voted to give Louisiana more royalty on future offshore oil production in the Gulf, most of that production won’t start until 2017.
The money will be dedicated to coastal restoration. Plans are to try and bond part of that amount so the work can start sooner. But that would provide only $1.5 billion right away. The job is expected to take up to $50 billion.
Consensus at the summit was that if a lot of the restoration work is not started in the next 10 years, it will be too late.
Much of the coast will be at the bottom of the Gulf. And important places that provide jobs for the people, like Port Fourchon, will be also.