It's once again that time of year when we look back a couple of centuries, and give a hearty mental and emotional salute to the brilliant men who conceived of and fought hard to produce a country where the people are actually free to choose their destinies.

And nothing says "independence" quite like shooting rockets into the air and watching them explode into brilliant colors, especially red, white and blue.

You like fireworks? Well, get ready, because you're about to see a bunch.

The State Land Office will any day now make public its official inventory of all of the coastal waters to which the state has a legitimate claim of ownership. Intricate maps of the coast will be accessible through the agency's website,, and they'll show in great detail which bayous, lakes and ponds belong to the state and which belong to private entities.

But the maps will also have a category that encompasses a significant percentage of the land and water contained in them: dual claims. These are water bodies and waterways that the state says belong to the people of Louisiana, but either a private corporation or citizen begs to differ. An example of what the state will release can be found on page 14 of this issue.

For all of us who feel all tidal waters should be open to the public — which is how it is in every other coastal state in the union — this ought to be great fun to watch.

When Boudreaux and Thibodeaux chase "poisson rouge" in a dual-claimed pond, and are subsequently arrested for trespassing, is the state going to go to court to defend their rights to be there?

It has every obligation to. I imagine if I tried to block access to a public holding — say, the capital building in Baton Rouge — the state would arrest and prosecute me for violating the rights of average citizens to access something that belongs to them.

Are the rights of anglers any less valuable?

Another question that will come up is, how often are these maps going to be updated? Louisiana is losing 25 to 35 square miles of coastal marsh every year. But, of course, it's not losing this land in big square-mile chunks. Like a swarm of caterpillars feasting on an oak tree, saltwater intrusion and subsidence are combining to devour the land by nibbling at every edge.

When these maps are released, they'll already be obsolete. Ponds and lakes will be bigger, bayous will be wider and water will exist in reality where land appears on the maps. Before very long, members of the fishing public, acting in good faith, will be scratching their heads wondering, yet again, whether a particular section of a particular water body is open to public access.

The state could solve all this by doing the right thing and proclaiming and defending the rights of citizens to access all tidal water.

But that apparently makes sense only for all other states, not Louisiana.

So instead, we'll get fireworks.

Happy Independence Day!