A shrimp boat works offshore in Cameron. (FEMA / Special to the American Press)
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 08, 2014 2:09 PM
More than 20 residents and officials on Tuesday heard about a draft feasibility report recommending $1.5 billion in coastal restoration and protection projects for three coastal parishes in Southwest Louisiana.
Officials with the Army Corps of Engineers, New Orleans District, presented their Southwest Coastal Louisiana Study at a public hearing in the Lake Charles Civic Center.
The plan outlines $1.1 billion in marsh creation, shoreline protection, reforestation and other related projects within Calcasieu, Cameron and Vermilion parishes. It also calls for $388 million to elevate, flood-proof or relocate buildings within the parishes.
The report recommends restoring 8,579 acres of marsh and two “hydrologic and salinity control measures.” It also includes protecting 5,509 net acres of shoreline and “planting seedling trees on 1,413 acres in multiple locations in Cameron and Vermilion parishes.”
Paul “P.J.” Varnado, the Corps’ project manager, said the draft plan excluded structural protection measures like levees because the cost to build them outweighed the benefits they would provide. But he said the study did use information from previous studies like the state’s coastal master plan.
“Traditionally, the Corps did extensive modeling, research and field work,” he said. “Now, we’re trying to be a little quicker and smarter about the things we do and not spend so much time, effort and money, and try to make an informed decision.”
Garrett Graves, chairman of the state’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, told The Advocate in December that he was unsure why the study did not include “structural protection for areas like Lake Charles, Delcambre, Abbeville and others.”
District 6 Calcasieu Parish Police Juror Dennis Scott said he supports the proposal and its focus on non-structural means to protect the coast. Scott serves as the parish’s coastal liaison.
“I like getting away from these levee structures,” he said. “I think this is stuff that can be done soon. It’s a lot of shovel-ready projects then, five or 10 years down the road, we could look at some other levee system.”
Lake Charles Mayor Randy Roach said the best protection “for our area is to protect Cameron Parish.” He said the City Council will submit a formal written response on the proposed study.
Roach said he had concerns about how the study and its projects would affect the culture of the residents in Southwest Louisiana.
Cyndi Sellers, a Cameron resident, said the salinity control measures should not be set up in a way that would hurt the commercial shrimping industry. She urged the officials to not move existing homes out of the parish.
“We have too few houses left in lower Cameron Parish,” she said. “We don’t need less of them; we need more of them in order to have economic development.”
Patrick Landry, an official with the CPRA, said he wants to see more restoration projects in the study, and that some marsh creation projects may duplicate projects that align with the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act.
Another public meeting is scheduled for Thursday in Abbeville. The public comment period ends Jan. 26.
Varnado said a final report will be completed by June and will be available for public review for 30 days after its release. After officials with federal agencies submit their final comments, a recommended plan will be submitted to Congress for review.
Comments on the draft plan can be mailed to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New Orleans District, Attn: Sandra Stiles, P.O. Box 60267, New Orleans, LA 70160-0267.
Comments can be emailed to SWCoastalAdmin@usace.army.mil.