The fate and fortune of Plaquemines Parish is tied to the ability to sustain the wetlands

By Bobby Thomas, Executive Director of the Plaquemines Association of Business and Industry

This month, the Restore the Mississippi River Delta campaign invited a few leaders of the Plaquemines Association of Business and Industry (PABI) on a tour of several coastal restoration projects along Barataria Bay near Myrtle Grove. Recognizing this as a valuable educational opportunity concerning a topic of utmost importance for the parish – coastal land loss – we gladly accepted.

Philips Photo 1Despite being one of its greatest assets, Plaquemines Parish has lost a significant amount of coastal wetlands since the 1930s, and for most in Plaquemines Parish, this isn’t news. Years ago, you might have needed a boat to experience this; now, you need only stand on a back levee. In recent years, we have heard about restoration projects being proposed, designed and constructed, but it was difficult to develop a realistic understanding of projects so large and inaccessible. Venturing out with Restore the Mississippi River Delta campaign made those details become as tangible as the ground beneath our feet, literally. Watching sediment flow out of a Mississippi River dredging pipeline to create land before our eyes in Lake Hermitage and then walking around on that land that was open water just months ago, it became clear that we are making noticeable strides towards restoring our coast. However, the land built today still needs to be maintained through tomorrow, otherwise we’re right back where we started.

To shed light on this, we also visited the freshwater siphon at West Point a la Hache. We traveled to the siphon via boat from Lake Hermitage,Philips Photo 2 passing ribbons and patches of coastal marsh grasses along the way, but as we approached the siphon, the foliage became larger, greener and denser and was reminiscent of Plaquemines Parish a century ago. This is an area where freshwater and nutrients from the river are still present, and it is evident that if we hope to maintain the new land we are building and the land we plan to build, we’ll need the river there, too.

The fate and fortune of Plaquemines Parish is tied to our ability to value and sustain the wetlands that protect us from storms and provide services so integral to our economy and culture. Thank you for inviting my fellow PABI members and me on such an informative tour.Philips Photo 3

Bobby Thomas

Executive Director of PABI