Levee blockade a mixed bag for coast

There was some good news and some bad news coming out of Washington last month regarding the Bayou State’s coast and the future viability of life in South Louisiana.

Actually, to say there was good news is probably a gross overstatement. The bad news was far worse than the good news was good.

The Bush Administration let it be known quietly to congressional sources that it would fiercely resist the so-called Morganza-to-the-Gulf levee that would provide some level of storm protection to 120,000 residents of South Louisiana.

The $900 million project was to be included in the Water Resources Development Act, which, after many years, is finally being moved to the congressional front burner.

And that’s actually where the good news comes in. Although many local and state agencies have fought hard for the levee project to be implemented, many environmentalists agree that Morganza-to-the-Gulf would be an unmitigated disaster for what’s left of our fragile coast.

You think we’re losing a lot of wetlands now? Just wait until there’s a Great Wall — an enormous earthen blockade — preventing natural hydrological exchange between the upper estuaries and lower estuaries.

And fishermen would feel the impact even more quickly than other residents. Thanks to coastal erosion and saltwater intrusion, young speckled trout and redfish are being found in estuarine regions that only decades ago held nothing but bass, sac-a-lait and bream. Many of these nursery grounds would be cut off by the levee project.

As it’s currently drawn up, Morganza-to-the-Gulf would have a dozen floodgates, which would remain open except when storms threaten. Proponents argue this would allow a free flow of water, and indeed it would — but nowhere near to the degree that currently exists.

So in that sense, it’s probably a good thing that the White House will do what it can to block the levee project.

But on another level, it’s very, very bad.

This administration has made it painfully clear in recent years that it intends to spend as little money as it can get away with on the “Louisiana problem,” and cavalierly blocking the Morganza-to-the-Gulf project without offering an alternative should be an additional warning sign to Louisiana — like we needed one — that the Bush White House sincerely doesn’t care if we fall into the sea.

And to make matters much worse, the administration also recommended Congress decrease funding for the Louisiana Coastal Area plan all the way down to $500 million. This is the same plan that will cost $14 billion to accomplish.

The only time the administration has assisted us in gaining substantial funding for our coast was when Gov. Blanco threatened to take her ball and go home by blocking any future Gulf oil leases in waters south of Louisiana.

Then, all of a sudden, the administration was falling all over itself trying to help us win permanent funding for coastal restoration.

But, of course, that money is a mere trickle for at least a decade.

What will be left of our coast in a decade?

George Bush doesn’t know, and yet again he’s proven that he just doesn’t care.

About Todd Masson 746 Articles
Todd Masson has covered outdoors in Louisiana for a quarter century, and is host of the Marsh Man Masson channel on YouTube.