Atchafalaya Basinkeeper Dean Wilson points out relatively young growth on a spoil bank along the side of an existing-pipeline canal, the same corridor that would be used for the proposed Bayou Bridge Pipeline, Thursday, January 26, 2017, in the Atchafalaya Basin.

Preservation and enhancement of coastal wetlands is vital to Louisiana and the nation. Louisiana’s coastal wetlands are a unique and vital ecosystem that serve as the nursery for the fur and fishing industries, as a vital buffer against hurricanes, and support a vibrant tourist industry for families and sportsmen throughout the nation. The value of our wetlands is profound; the need to protect and enhance them is beyond question.

Louisiana’s gulf coast is also home to a vast oil and gas industry that also is critically important to our state and nation. Our modern economy depends on readily available, affordable and reliable sources of energy. While an ever-increasing percentage of our nation’s energy is being provided by renewable sources, such as solar and wind, fossil fuels will remain the dominant component of our energy mix for the foreseeable future, and Louisiana will remain a prominent supplier of those fuels.

In today’s polarized political climate, some would suggest that the infrastructure required to transport these important fuels poses an unresolvable conflict with the need to protect our wetlands. I disagree. I believe that as technology improves and regulatory requirements and industry practices evolve, fossil fuel infrastructure and wetlands conservation can exist in harmony. Sustaining a job creating economy for our state and nation requires both.

A good example and a case in point is the proposed Bayou Bridge pipeline project. This 162-mile pipeline would transport oil from a terminal hub located just outside Lake Charles to another storage and distribution hub in St. James Parish. While the pipeline will disturb modest areas of wetlands within the Basin, it will restore or create more than 7 acres of wetlands for each acre disturbed. Unlike some of the many pipelines that came before Bayou Bridge, it will be buried more than 4 feet below the surface and all disturbed areas will be restored fully.

Bayou Bridge will employ state of the art technology, displacing the far more perilous modes of truck, rail and barge/ship transportation. The pipeline will provide significant economic benefits to Louisiana, including jobs during construction, jobs at the pipe manufacturing facility near Baton Rouge and taxes paid to the state and parishes.

As a proponent of both coastal wetlands protection and smart, safe energy resource development, I believe the merits and the need for the Bayou Bridge Project are compelling. That’s why I have agreed to be a consultant for the project. As the project progresses through a rigorous and transparent permitting process with public input, I sincerely hope that the state will approve this important pipeline and use this as an example of best practice for our nation.

Mary Landrieu

former U.S. senator

New Orleans