Bob Marshall is right in pointing out the deception of diversion proponents claiming a huge victory with the U.S. Corps of Engineers’ generally affirming overview of the Mid-Barataria River Diversion project in their draft environmental impact statement.
The Corps didn’t have to work very hard to put out the draft because the playbook for the project had already been written and vetted by the hired guns (consultants and lobbyists) working for the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority. Those of us that have been critical of the MBD had already expected as much.
Despite fanfare by diversion cheerleaders, as Marshall keenly points out, coastal restoration in Louisiana is not something that one project or $50 billion will cure. There is really no end in sight. Erosion is a long-term challenge requiring ongoing projects and expenditures.
However, the devil is in the details. Despite hype and lobbying around diversion projects by those with most to gain, the Corps has already proven through its own studies that river diversions and any marsh creation in general will not make a significant impact on flood protection for coastal residents. That’s just a fact — and facts matter.
CPRA continues to paint a rosy picture, telling us that large-scale diversions are of utmost importance to save the coast and New Orleans, while consistently downplaying the real human and economic negatives associated with this project. They continue to mislead the public.
Large-scale diversions cause serious displacement and major economic upheaval on certain sectors and communities. Although someone living in Baton Rouge or New Orleans may not have much to worry about, all Louisianans should be concerned and deserve to be provided a balanced analysis about all pros and cons of this project.
CPRA touts computer models that tell us how many billions of grains of sand will be delivered each second when the diversion is running. But they fall flat when asked about how many fishermen are going to be severely economically impacted and displaced from Lafitte, Grand Isle, Port Sulphur, Empire and Buras. It does not compute for them.
The MSD project is a daring, expensive major man-made redesign of our coastal estuaries — CPRA got that much right. The state and CPRA, however, should not be taking sides and cheering on their favorite project, while knowingly choosing to ignore the significant negative impacts that many Louisiana citizens will have to bear. We should expect all pros and cons are honestly and impartially put on the table, so that concerned citizens know what to expect.
JOHN A. TESVICH