Plaquemines Parish, state of Louisiana locked in a stalemate over the biggest-ever coastal restoration project

Plaquemines Parish, state of Louisiana locked in a stalemate over the biggest-ever coastal restoration project

(WVUE) - For decades, many people in Louisiana complained about the glacial pace of efforts to restore the state's vanishing coast.

However, Plaquemines Parish President Amos Cormier is effectively saying "not so fast" when it comes to the state's plans for the largest coastal project in history.

Cormier has refused to send the parish council a permit request from the state, which would allow for soil samples on the site of the proposed Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion Project about 20 miles south of Belle Chasse on the west bank.
"There's a knee jerk reaction, oh, we have to speed things up," Cormier said.  "There's a reason to analyze things."

The $1.3 billion project is designed to divert fresh water and sediment from the river in an effort to mimic how the Mississippi built the largest river delta in the continental U.S.

When fully operated, the diversion would run at 75,000 cubic feet per second, enough to fill an Olympic size pool in just over one second.

Cormier and other critics fear massive amounts of fresh, polluted river water would devastate the brackish waters of Barataria Bay, ruining fisheries.

In January, the Trump administration agreed to "fast track" Mid-Barataria, potential shaving years off the normal permitting process.

Aides to Governor John Bel Edwards describe the agreement as allowing various federal agencies to work on a variety of issues simultaneously, preventing one issue from effectively halting progress on the entire project.

Cormier insists the state has prematurely awarded design contracts for the diversion.

"How can one say that one's going to keep an open mind about a project when you've already awarded the project and you're already spending money?"

The issue sharply divides some groups that have otherwise actively pushed for coastal restoration, pitting commercial fishermen against environmental groups, who argue the delta can only be sustained in the long run by reintroducing fresh water and sediment into the marsh.

"We engineered the delta's demise and we can engineer its rebirth," owner of the Woodland Plantation and an ardent supporter of the plans.

Johnny Bradberry, Chairman of the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, told a group of Plaquemines Parish business leaders this week the deal with the Trump administration in no way allows the state to avoid environmental laws.

"The CPRA is not just some cold agency out there, making decisions about your lives," Bradberry said. 
Bradberry promised to engage with parish government and stakeholders as the project moves forward.

"Why would we want to harm and provide less protection to the people elsewhere along the coast?  Why would we want to do that?  It doesn't make sense."

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