Minden Press-Herald

Oct 01st

Coastal problems should concern us all

Sitting up here in the north Louisiana hills, our main concern is when in the heck is this drought going to end and when will we have some cooler weather. How are these harsh conditions going to affect our hunting seasons just around the corner?

Will the deer starve to death? Are there any acorns for the squirrels? Will the glowing reports of record numbers of waterfowl up north be lost in water holes that have dried up down our way?

While we lament our problems, most of which are weather related, our friends down along the coast have a completely different set of challenges they're dealing with. I was in Houma a couple of weeks ago and weather was not the problem for those folks like it is up this way. In fact, I saw dark skies, heard thunder and experienced a couple of nice afternoon showers.

The problems south Louisiana folks are facing are different and in many ways, much more serious than those we're having in north Louisiana.

Chris Macaluso, spokesman for the Louisiana Wildlife Federation, conducted a seminar for those of us assembled for the annual conference of the Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association. Macaluso detailed and highlighted problems coastal residents are facing, problems that will eventually impact the entire state and in some cases, the nation.

Louisiana is a leader in the production of seafood that the country depends on. As far as has been determined up to this point, the horrendous Gulf oil spill of a little over a year ago has not had the negative impact on our seafood industry. According to Macaluso, there is another growing problem that is posing a much bigger threat. It has to do with differing opinions as to management of the Mississippi River.

"The Corps of Engineers wants to keep the river open for the main purpose of allowing unencumbered commercial traffic all the way to the Gulf," said Macaluso. "This means basically that if the inlets to the river are closed, the river will be prevented from sending its waters and sediment into the marsh.

"A healthy coastline with resultant vegetation is created when sediment coming down the Mississippi is allowed to spill out into the marsh, creating the only real barrier to erosion that occurs when hurricanes lambast the coast. If that barrier is not there, storms send salt water surging into the marsh, killing the vegetation."

Writer John Flores has seen for himself the positive results when sediment is allowed to enter the marsh.

"When the Morganza Spillway was opened during this spring's big flood, some people were alarmed about the negative effect it would have on the habitat. After the floods ended and the gates were closed, I visited a spot where before, there was eight feet of salt water and you could catch shrimp there. Now, that area is dry land with lush vegetation growing, indicating what can happen when sediment is allowed to infiltrate the marsh," said Flores.

Macaluso echoed Flores' comments, noting that nature seems to know better how to take care of the habitat than do federal agencies.

"For centuries, the Mississippi River has been allowed to do its own thing and as a result, our marsh and coastline were healthy. Now that the course of the river is being altered, we're losing coastline at the rate of an area the size of a football field every day.

"Ideally, the river should be cut in some spots below New Orleans to allow water and sediment to spill out into the marsh. The river will still be able to accommodate commercial traffic while allowing our valuable marsh to be re-established," Macaluso said.

Up here in north Louisiana, we're 300 miles from the coast. Should we be concerned? Absolutely; otherwise, our descendants may be catching redfish instead of bass in Toledo Bend.

Glynn Harris Outdoors is proudly sponsored by DSK, Ltd. of Minden.






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