The rapid erosion of the Louisiana coast is having a big media moment.
Over the past five weeks, there have been five major pieces published on the coast’s plight, starting with an Aug. 28 interactive-graphic-laden collaboration between a national online newsroom, ProPublica, and a local one, The Lens, that chronicled the coast’s disappearance.
Then, a week later, Matter, an online magazine, posted a story by local food writer Brett Anderson arguing that Louisiana’s boot-shaped map is essentially a lie and should be redrawn to reflect land loss.
And now, in the past few days, three more pieces. One, in The New Republic magazine, focused on Plaquemines Parish and its odd role as both canary in the coal mine and enthusiastic solicitor of extractive industries that contribute to coastal loss.
The author of that piece, Nathaniel Rich, also penned a long profile of “quixotic historian” John Barry, architect of the audacious lawsuit filed by a New Orleans-area levee authority against the oil and gas industry, for The New York Times Magazine. And The Oxford American weighed in with its own lengthy piece on Barry and the lawsuit.
What it all means for Louisiana, if anything, is hard to say. Presumably, it can’t be a bad thing for a national audience to become more aware of the state’s precarious situation, though whether the attention will help to build a source of funding for the state’s $50 billion coastal restoration plan is anyone’s guess.
Covington work-release program remains idle
It’s now been nearly seven months since St. Tammany Parish Sheriff Jack Strain shut down a controversial Covington work-release program managed by a private company led by Strain’s longtime campaign treasurer, Marlin Peachey.
Strain took that drastic action immediately after the escape from the facility of an inmate who allegedly abducted his girlfriend. It followed a flurry of news reports questioning the management provided by the firm, Northshore Workforce.
A month later, it emerged that state Inspector General Stephen Street’s office — which generally probes corruption and fraud — was investigating the program.
Since then, there’s been little news about the work-release facility.
At the time of its closing, Strain said the inmates assigned to Northshore Workforce either would be transferred to a second privately operated work-release program in Slidell or else returned to the state Department of Corrections.
Even though both Strain and DOC Secretary Jimmy LeBlanc are enthusiastic proponents of work-release, on the grounds that it reduces recidivism and better prepares inmates to return to society, it doesn’t appear the facility will reopen any time soon — under the previous management or any other operator.
Nothing is in the works right now, according to a Strain spokesman, Capt. George Bonnett.
“Those decisions will be made at the appropriate time based on the needs of the community and our level of confidence that whatever group would operate it could do so in a manner consistent with our core mission of public safety,” Bonnett said.
Street, meanwhile, said he could not comment on the progress of his office’s investigation other than to say it is “still active.”
Compiled by staff writer Gordon Russell