Coastal residents still unsatisfied with CPRAJun 24th, 2013 | By Candace Griffin | Category: Top Story
On June 17 the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority of Louisiana (CPRA), held a public meeting at the St. Bernard Council Chambers to discuss their 2012 Coastal Master Plan. Every seat in the house was filled with concerned fishermen and coastal residents anxiously awaiting their chances to publicly address CPRA’s board of scientists and officials’ proposals.
The Plan’s most controversial, and ardently opposed project is the Bonnet Carre sized river diversion that would be constructed near the St. Bernard/Plaquemines Parish line. The diversion would allow massive amounts of fresh water, as well as river sediment to stream into the marshes, destroying the now perfect salt-to-water ratio required to grow oysters and sustain the the natural habitat.
All of the residents and fishermen in attendance were appalled that CPRA would even propose this river diversion, and pleaded with officials to consider dredging instead.
“If diversions are the cure to coastal restoration, then the medicine is going to kill the patient!” exclaimed Captain George Ricks.
Many of the people from St. Bernard and surrounding areas rely on commercial fishing to sustain themselves, and this river diversion would tear away their livelihoods. As a result, there were many heated arguments between the Board and residents.
While this diversion is several years away from its possible construction date, if the diversion does happen “there are people who are going to suffer from the Master Plan,” said John Barry, who sits on the board. “And we’re not entirely sure of who those people are going to be.”
After hearing this the crowd was in an uproar, and demanded that the Board provide them with a map of the diversion’s exact location (if available) and a backup plan that will be undertaken if the diversion does not do what it is supposed to do.
“We don’t want to be lab rats for a project that may not work,” shouted Robbie Campo, owner of Campo’s Marina.
Garret Graves, Chair of CPRA, responded by saying that if the diversion did not work, then they would have to find some other appropriate action. Residents were upset with this answer, and still continued to adamantly, and publicly support the idea of dredging. One by one attendees stepped up to the microphone during public comment sessions to say that they were unified in their fight to combat the introduction of a river diversion.
“I anticipated a lot of emotion— It’s an emotional issue for me,” said state representative Ray Garofalo, when asked about CPRA. “My entire goal for arranging this meeting was so CPRA officials would learn exactly how we feel and what we think about the impact the Coastal Master Plan will have on us— and I believe we accomplished that goal.”
Residents and fishermen alike also want to be included in CPRA’s planning process, and given the chance to publicly vote on what projects will be undertaken. Graves said that he agrees, and will be taking it into consideration.
“The Plan is a living document, and we are required to update it every five years,” said Graves. “We still have time to figure things out.”
“One very important thing that we learned from the meeting is that the state’s Coastal Master Plan is a living, breathing plan‚Äîit’s always being revised and reshaped,” said Garofalo. “My hope is that they (CPRA) listened and they get it. Some good ideas were presented in public comment and I will work hard to make sure this leads to more productive meetings in the future to impact the Coastal Master Plan.”
Parish President, David Peralta also addressed the diversions included in the Master Plan at the June 18 St. Bernard Parish Council Meeting.
Residents from St. Bernard along with man from surrounding jurisdictions were present at the meeting and clearly sent the message that we are against such an action,” said Peralta. “I have contacted most of the area Parish Presidents and Mayors and also solicited their support in eliminating these diversions from the Master Plan.”
“My administration and the Parish Council have already informed CPRA of our desire NOT to implement such diversions that would result in large amounts of fresh water being diverted into our marshes which would bring both our commercial and recreational fishing industries great harm,” said Peralta.