HENDERSON — Officials in Henderson are showing some support, with reservations, for the controversial Bayou Bridge Pipeline, a $670 million project that would cross 11 parishes and cut across the Atchafalaya Basin.
Henderson Mayor Sherbin Collette and mayor pro-tem Jody Meche, who is also an Atchafalaya Basinkeeper board member, say as long as the pipeline is built to code, they'll welcome the progress.
For years, pipeline companies and communities in the Atchafalaya Basin have had a choppy relationship.
"They left elevated spoil banks behind, which are like dams crisscrossing the whole Atchafalaya Basin in an east-to-west direction and it dams all of the water flow in the Atchafalaya Basin," said Meche.
"We're not against pipelines, but they should be put in legally," said Collette. "The way I'm saying that, dredge whatever you've got to dredge and lay the pipeline, but cover it. Put the land back flat to its normal state."
According to code, pipelines must be dug at least 6 feet below the basin's swamp floor. However, if the dirt isn't put back where it came from, damaging barriers called spoil banks form and disrupt water flow, plant and animal life.
That's exactly what Collette and Meche want to avoid with the Bayou Bridge Pipeline.
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"From what I'm understanding about this pipeline, they want to come in and they want to put it in one of the elevated spoil banks on an existing pipeline right of way which crosses the Atchafalaya Basin. We have a problem with that. We're not opposed to a pipeline crossing the Atchafalaya Basin. We're in favor of progress, but we want to make sure that they do it right," said Meche.
"I think I've seen the basin pretty much at its best," said Collette. "And now, we're seeing it at its worst."
The permit application for the pipeline does conform to federal safety standards; that's if the project is built exactly by the book.
"They shouldn't look for the cheapest, inexpensive way, quickest way to do it," Meche said. "They should do whatever it takes to do it the right way, to make sure that we keep our environment productive and healthy. No cutting corners."
A public hearing on the pipeline proposal is scheduled Jan. 12 at 6 p.m. in the Oliver Pollock Room of the Galvez Building in Baton Rouge.
See the KATC-TV story here.