photo of bayou
Image by JamesDeMers from Pixabay

Little is new in Louisiana’s annual plan for addressing the rapid filling-in of the Atchafalaya Swamp. Hampered by limited funding streams, the state’s $6 million Atchafalaya Basin Program pales in comparison to the state’s massive restoration efforts along the shoreline. Unlike the eroding, sediment-starved coast, changes to water’s flow through the Atchafalaya Swamp due to spoil banks from oil and gas canals over the years have led to too much sediment dropping into the basin. This has created problems for local habitats and fisheries and harmed the swamp’s ability to protect communities from flooding.

Governor Edwards has formed a Atchafayala River Basin Task Force to improve how the state maintains our swampland’s.

Brian Lezina, who leads the planning and research division for the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, said the new effort could bring the national awareness and funding necessary to tackle the basin’s issues on a larger scale. While the state can work on smaller projects to improve habitat, federally sponsored projects are needed to make the sorts of bold changes the region needs, such as introducing water on a larger scale. “It’s not going to be done with capital outlay, unfortunately,” said Lezina.

Of the states plans for water management, one contentious plan is the Corps of Engineers (COE) Buffalo Cove Water Management Program.

However, members of the Atchafalaya Basin Coalition have long argued against the project, stating that it has sped up the filling of the area’s once-deep swamps. Atchafalaya Basinkeepers Executive Director Dean Wilson said the coalition, which includes five groups, planned to file an injunction against the Corps if it moved forward with Element 10.  The group has also pushed back against the state’s $3 million, proposed East Grand Lake Upper Project, which has been in the works for about a decade. Lezina said that project would involve “bank shaving,” or lowering the height of some of the banks. This would allow water from the channels in the 72,000-acre region to overtop their banks longer, and thus “increase the amount of water that can move through the system.”

This looks like a case where the State, the COE, the environmentalists and industry are not talking to each other or having each comment on what is being done. If it hurts me – can it be changed? Nichols College is is building a coastal center aimed at looking at land loss in southeast Louisiana. This might be a good place to gather the different and competing groups.

Atchafayala Basin Filling up – will new Task Force Help?