Plaquemines Parish Council votes in opposition of Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion

The coastal restoration project is a topic of controversy in Plaquemines Parish.

Plaquemines Parish Council votes no on diversion project

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - In a unanimous vote, the Plaquemines Parish Council voted in opposition of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion Project-- the largest coastal restoration project planned in U.S. history.

The council voted 8-0.

But parish officials and local fishermen aren’t happy with the plans.

“The people of Plaquemines Parish do not want it. Plain and simple,” said District 7 councilmember Carlton LaFrance.

Shrimpers and oyster farmers from Plaquemines expressed strong opinions on the sediment diversion project, hoping for the parish council to vote against the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority’s (CPRA) project and a draft of the EIS.

“Let’s choose salt life. Not fresh death,” said oyster farmer Mitchell Jurisich, who is a third-generation oyster farmer in Plaquemines. Jurisich said he didn’t like the CPRA diversion project from day one.

“Oh it’s going to be a death blow to our industry,” he said. “We already seen what freshwater does. Freshwater and oysters do not mix. Now what you’ll hear from CPRA is a different animal. It’s a sediment diversion. Well, to move ounces of sediment, you need millions of gallons of water, which means they’re going to freshen up our estuary.”

The EIS draft by the Army Corps of Engineers shows the project plans would help build land by delivering more sediment through a man-made channel through a levee south of Belle Chasse, and relieve pressure on an already fragile levee system in Plaquemines Parish.

The study also highlights how it would reduce the height of storm surge in some communities across the parish.

The EIS draft also focuses on negative effects from the influx of trillions of gallons of fresh water and nutrients to the brackish waters where these parish fishermen fish-- like shrimper Acy Cooper.

“The freshwater is definitely going to push them [brown shrimp] out,” said Cooper. “We got good examples here-- Mardi Gras Pass and Vermillion Bay are two good examples of what’s going to happen to us.”

The CPRA said the public can still submit comments on the EIS draft until May 4, 2021, when a final version of the EIS will be released.

For Cooper, he just wants to be heard.

“You [CPRA] keep saying you wanna come up with a plan to save it, what they can do to make it right, well you’re not listening to us no matter what we have to say, so just listen to what we have to say,” he said.

While the project has received widespread support, many still have questions about the diversion’s sustainability. Certainly a controversial topic among those in the seafood industry who have seen what diversions have done to their business and livelihoods.

The CPRA said up to 24,000 acres of new land could be created with this diversion.

The draft EIS is a required step in the federal approval process. The Army Corps of Engineers and other federal agencies have to examine the benefits and costs of the diversion, as well as the negative effects.

Again, while public comments are still being accepted until May 4th, the Corps anticipates making a final decision sometime next year.

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