When is this going to stop?
The first time I asked this question, my immigrant grandfather said, “When God tells you.”
That was a little more than 45 years ago, two months before Hurricane Betsy ravaged south Louisiana and two years after an Arctic blast chased temperatures down into single digits statewide.
For a teenager, yes, there had been hurricanes, but nothing like Besty, and there had been cold weather, but nothing like seven days of subfreezing readings.
That question came up last week, after a paper-mill discharge began killing thousands of Pearl River fish.
Standing alone, the discharge of what state agencies are calling a “black liquor” from the Temple Inland plant in Bogalusa is tragic enough. Photos have documented the fish kill’s extent.
Now, when added to what’s happened during the past six years — four major hurricanes and the BP-Deepwater Horizon oil-spill disaster — the question lingers.
OK, so it appears we’ve survived the hurricanes, but not without deep scars. And we still don’t have a firm handle on the lingering effects from our country’s worst-ever oil spill.
Now, after what’s happened in the past handful of days, is that the sportsmen of Louisiana will have to give up another jewel for who knows how long.
Make no mistake, the Pearl River is a jewel. The fact the river flows through Louisiana’s most unique wildlife management area, the Pearl River WMA — possibly one of the most significant public recreation areas in the country — has to add some weight to the federal and state penalties that will be handed out in the wake of the massive fish kill.
This 35,000-acre WMA has the most diverse habitat of any state or federal lands in Louisiana: 60 percent is in upland hardwoods, 25 percent in cypress-tupelo swamp and, on the southern end intermediate, migratory waterfowl-holding marsh.
It’s possible to catch all freshwater gamefish species, catfish and, limit out on speckled trout and redfish.
Worse yet is this area continues to recover from Hurricane Katrina, not to mention that the fall months provide spectacular fishing, hunting and bird watching.
It’s tough enough to have to battle Mother Nature to live here, but when man-made tragedies are shuffled into the deck, it looks like we’re playing a losing hand.