St. Bernard Parish president skeptical of freshwater diversions

St. Bernard Parish president skeptical of freshwater diversions
GF Default - Oyster Beds Closed

BATON ROUGE, La. (WVUE) - The St. Bernard Parish President said he is worried planned freshwater diversion projects could do more harm than good, after seeing the damage done to local seafood industry by the recent opening of the Bonnet Carre Spillway.

Despite a poll showing Louisiana residents support freshwater diversion, Guy McInnis said Wednesday (Aug. 21) he is skeptical.

As a member of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, McInnis was part of a tribute Wednesday (Aug. 21), to honor former governor Kathleen Blanco. Blanco died Sunday and was instrumental in creating CPRA.

Chip Kline, director of the CPRA, honored Blanco, saying her words are as true today as they were back in 2006.

“While she sat in this chair, she said, ‘Today we begin a new era. We need a coast to coast effort and not a patchwork plan,’” Kline said.

But under that backdrop, McInnis made it clear he was not ready to go along with major projects to build the Mid-Barataria and Mid-Breton sediment diversions in Plaquemines and St. Bernard.

“I’m not convinced. I’m a member of this agency, but I also lead a community of 50,000 where the largest economic impact is in seafood,” McInnis said.

He said the recent spillway openings and their impact on seafood shows him that freshwater diversions are harmful.

As the board moves forward with environmental impact studies, they showed pictures of the Bonne Carre Spillway to show how much useful sediment comes from the river. They also disputed a new study, which shows diversions such as Caernarvon may not produce as much new land as many thought.

CPRA engineer Rudy Simoneaux, however, said the projects will deliver plenty of sediment.

Though the debate over diversions rages on, the CPRA said a recent poll shows overwhelming support for their use.

Still, McInnis would not budge.

“I’m not gonna make this decision based on a poll,” he said.

Environmental impact studies on the new projects are expected to be wrapped up next year, and the board promised to be open minded.

“I respect you and our agency remains committed to addressing your concerns on these issues,” Kline said.

Boardmember Jerome Zeringue said he wishes Terrebonne Parish, which he represents, was closer to the river and it’s badly depleted wetlands could benefit from sediment diversions.

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