SW La. officials map out plan to tackle coastal erosion

March 24, 2011 at 12:58 am

*published Mar. 24, 2011
BY VANESSA C. DEGGINS

Armed with information from a half-dozen studies, Southwest Louisiana officials spent Wednesday laying out possible coastal restoration projects and how to get them completed.

Lake Charles Mayor Randy Roach said one important factor would be to change people’s thinking.

“Everyone has this ‘deltaic’ thinking, they keep comparing us to southeast Louisiana, which is completely different. We have the Chenier Plain here,” Roach said.

When dealing with the Chenier Plain, the best option is multiple lines of defense, said Sherrill Segrera, a Vermillion parish farmer and member of the Acadiana Resource Conservation and Development Council.

“We can’t really do levees here, so we would need to work on rebuilding Chenier and marshland,” Segrera said.

A sore subject among the discussions was the now-stalled Southwest Louisiana Coastal Feasibility Study.

The study by the Army Corps of Engineers was authorized in 2007 and was set to be the first comprehensive look at Southwest Louisiana’s coast, focusing on Calcasieu, Cameron and Vermillion parishes.

It was also supposed to develop a plan to rebuild the Chenier Plain, barrier islands and coastal marsh.

Because of lack of funding, the study has been delayed and officials said the chance of completing the study soon is unlikely.

“If we had the money right now, the study could be done by 2012, with an optimistic implementation of 2020 — and Cameron and Vermillion don’t have that long to wait,” said Sidney Coffee, senior advisor for America’s Wetland Foundation.

“The corps is a group of good guys, but they are not going to change,” said Ernie Broussard, Cameron Parish planner. “The parish as a whole has elected not to dwell on the bureaucratic tape of the federal government and we continue to have our own robust agenda.”

The best option for a doable project is the Dredged Material Management Plan, a study that has been completed but has not been funded. It is a 20-year plan for effectively using material dredged from the Calcasieu River and Pass.

Coffee suggested that officials have projects prioritized in case something has to be dropped because of funding.

Sherill added that they shouldn’t think about building a project unless they factor in maintenance.

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