A full-page advertisement that ran Sunday in a number of publications in Louisiana, including The Advocate, highlights the need for large, land-building diversions to be built along the Mississippi River as part of the state’s coastal restoration plan.
Andy Nyman, a wetland scientist at LSU, said scientists discussed the need to counter misinformation being spread about future sediment diversions. When nonprofit coastal groups offered to pay for the advertising space, Nyman and Mike Carloss, a retired official with the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, started working on a draft.
“I just figured it needed to be done,” Nyman said.
Large diversions that would take sediment from the Mississippi River into nearby marshes are part of the state’s overall coastal restoration plan.
“I think the coalition that paid to publish it would like to have seen it come out last fall,” Nyman said.
This “open letter to the citizens of Louisiana” is a way to get scientists’ opinions out to the public.
“The people I was writing for were people who are concerned about the coast but don’t get out to the coast much,” Nyman said.
Natalie Peyronnin, director of science policy, Mississippi River Delta Campaign with the Environmental Defense Fund, added: “It was important to us because there are scientists that have not had a strong enough voice in the discussion. It’s to show that scientists believe in science-based solutions, including diversions.”
Other groups don’t share those opinions.
The Save Louisiana Coalition asserts that large diversions will destroy the state’s seafood industry, won’t build as much land as marsh creation projects and more. The group is made up in large part of fishing industry representatives.
Other fishermen and women disagree that large diversions would destroy the seafood industry even if it would move some species around because of the change in freshwater and saltwater mixture.
“Louisiana should not allow exaggerations and speculations regarding the effects of diversions on oysters, shrimp and speckled trout, etc., to prevent action,” according to the letter signed by more than 25 individuals. “Wetland-building diversions will not destroy saltwater fisheries but instead will immediately push them farther from some parts of our coast.”
Nyman said he’s talked to diversion opponents and found that they have a lot more in common than in disagreement.
The letter published Sunday acknowledged that there will be changes in the fishing industry as a result of large diversions and that a discussion on how to handle that needs to happen.
“For instance, these diversions will put some commercial fishermen out of business, and we need to acknowledge that,” he said. At the same time, erosion of coastal land over the years has meant that where people used to raise cattle is now where people catch shrimp.
People lost their livelihood through the erosion of the land, but large-scale diversions mean there’s hope for the future, Nyman said.
“We realize that the environmental cost of diversions will be borne by a few Louisianans in this generation whereas the environmental and economic benefits will be spread throughout coastal Louisiana for generations to come,” the letter says.
The letter calls for policy makers to find ways to help the current fishermen through these changes.
“We believe that Louisiana should not enrich the present generation at the expense of future generations, i.e., we shouldn’t eat our seed corn, we shouldn’t harvest fish and wildlife faster than they can reproduce, and we shouldn’t manage coastal wetlands only for our generation,” the letter says.
The advertisement was paid for by the Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition which is made up of the Environmental Defense Fund, National Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation and the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana.
Follow Amy Wold on Twitter @awold10.