Inaugural Summit Sets the Stage for Bayou Lafourche Master Plan
By Chris Pulaski, National Wildlife Federation
The Bayou Lafourche Fresh Water District Commission hosted its first Bayou Lafourche Summit on October 10-17 at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, La. The purpose of the multi-day summit was to provide the public with an opportunity to identify the issues and solutions for the Commission to consider as they begin developing their master plan for the future of the Bayou Lafourche corridor.
The Commission hired All South Consulting Engineers to help conduct the workshops and meetings and to report back the findings and recommendations to the Commission. Throughout the week, as many as 225 people participated in the summit and identified over 200 issues facing Bayou Lafourche, as well as developing over 200 solutions for the bayou.
Bayou Lafourche was once a major distributary of the lower Mississippi River until it was dammed as part of the Mississippi River and Tributaries (MR&T) levee project in the early 20th century. The bayou runs for over 100 miles from Donaldsonville south to Port Fourchon and Grand Isle, La. It is the primary source of drinking water for over 300,000 residents of Lafourche and Terrebonne Parishes and provides source water for many businesses and industries including sugar cane production, ship fabrication and commercial fishing fleets. It is also used as a primary means of access for recreational enjoyment and home to thousands who live along its banks in historical homes and communities.
The daily topics consisted of: water usage, coastal restoration, drainage, tourism/recreation and economic development. Most of the issues centered on water quality and quantity, flow restrictions from existing structures and the lack of public awareness of the importance of the bayou. Some of the strategies for solutions included consistent dredging to improve flow and increase capacity, develop a plan that shows drainage watersheds and volumes, begin a public awareness campaign (including a 1-800-MY-BAYOU hotline to ask questions and alert problems) and defining who is in charge of the bayou and responsible for its care and well-being.
During the wrap-up meeting, members of the Commission thanked the audience for their participation and voiced their passion for why they feel the bayou is important. It is this passion that inspired them to join the Commission and that same passion exists with those who support the improvement of Bayou Lafourche. As part of the public comment, Chris Pulaski with the National Wildlife Federation suggested that the Commission look to the local and national NGOs working in the area for help in the form of scientific data, public outreach and local, state and federal support as they begin developing strategies for implementation of the solutions.
A draft of the report is by All South is due mid to late November and will be made available to the public for review.