Fishermen meet to discuss impact of Barataria Diversion Project

PLAQUEMINES PARISH, LA (WVUE) - Plaquemines parish fishermen met Tuesday night in Belle Chasse for several hours to discuss the impact of river water diversion into Barataria Bay in the name of coastal protection.

Even though many feel the project is needed to save the Louisiana coast, fishermen worry it will cost them their jobs. They insist the $1.3 billion Mid-Barataria Diversion Project would kill seafood.

Coastal land loss in Barataria Bay is legendary and the state's Coastal Protection Authority has a plan.

"The fast track is saying four to five years - that's not a lot of time," said oysterman John Tesvich

But those who gathered questioned the value of river diversions.

"The Mississippi River built the Delta, but that river took 3,000 years," said George Ricks with the Save Louisiana Coalition. "The river has one-fourth of the sediment load it had prior to 1952."

Plaquemines Parish fishermen believe the project will kill fishing as they know it in the Barataria Bay estuary and cause 6,800 people who depend on it to lose their jobs.

"With an output of 75,000 feet per second, Barataria Bay will go totally fresh," Ricks said.

The fast track plan is supported by Gov. John Bel Edwards and the Coastal Protection Authority.

"If you leave federal bureaucracy to do the things they tend to do, you'll never speed up the process," Edwards said in a previous interview.

Plaquemines Parish President Amos Cormier plans to stand in the way with a pair of ordinances designed to block the project.

"The goal should be maximizing sediment while minimizing impact to the fishery," Cormier said.

Those at the Tuesday meeting believe if the project moves forward, the state should be talking about how they're going to reimburse the thousands of people who may lose their livelihoods.

The fishermen say river diversions are not the coastal savior that many believe they are. They favor relocating dredge material by using barges to minimize the adverse impacts to fisheries.

Copyright 2018 WVUE. All rights reserved.