Over the last 23 years, the state has held 153 meetings on freshwater and sediment diversions from rivers in the state, resulting in more than 450 comments about the merits of diversions, Karim Belhadjali, with the state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, said Tuesday.
Those numbers reflect the attempt to gather public comments on the state’s effort to divert fresh water and sediment from primarily the Mississippi River into coastal wetlands to help with restoration efforts.
That’s especially true as the state progresses with more detailed research and planning into the first, and potentially very large, sediment diversion near Myrtle Grove in Plaquemines Parish.
“We do not, and have never, advocated doing nothing,” Sandy Nguyen, executive director of Coastal Communities Consulting, said of coastal restoration work.
The group started after the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010 to help fishermen recover, but has since become more interested in coastal restoration and diversions as well.
Nguyen said that while meeting with fishermen along the coast, he heard that fishermen want the state to focus on dredging sediment from the river and using it to build land for immediate results. The existing small freshwater diversions and siphons could then maintain those built wetlands, she said.
“No need to build more,” she said.
Nguyen thanked the state and state coastal authority leadership for working with her group to provide additional information about coastal restoration to fishermen, but indicated that fishermen want to be listened to as well.
With many fishermen having generational knowledge of the coastal waters and landscape, there is a desire for the state to not just listen to what they have to say, but seriously consider and act on their view of what should happen in restoration, she said.
Belhadjali, with the state coastal authority, said the state plans on building on its public outreach as it continues to put together the next state coastal master plan for 2017. One way is to organize additional fishermen and landowners focus group involvement.
The Expert Panel on Diversion Planning and Implementation was set up by the state and The Water Institute of the Gulf to review how the state is accomplishing its research and planning to develop a sediment diversion from the Mississippi River.
“In Louisiana, we have folks who are die hard that we must do this (diversions) while others are more hesitant,” said Kyle Graham, executive director of the state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.
Graham said the purpose is to serve as an outside eye on what the state is doing to make sure the appropriate questions are being asked in developing a potential future project.
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