Saturday, April 21, 2012

Statement before Senate Natural Resources Committee

April 19, 2012

Statement before Senate Natural Resources Committee re:
HCR 31 to Approve the 2012 Atchafalaya Basin Plan

Haywood Martin, Chair, Delta Chapter Sierra Club
Representing some of our members who have very extensive knowledge of the Atchafalaya because they are out there on the water making a living in crawfishing, frogging or any of a number of other subsistence activites  year round.

We agree with notes under Current Challenges in the Basin, p 17 - Sedimentation that Since 1932 there has been a net accretion of sediment in the Basin floodway, converting much open water and cypress swamps to bottomland forest.

And we agree that spoil banks, oil field canals and natural levees inhibit the historical sheeting pattern of water flow, causing hypoxic conditions within nearly all of the large, interior swamps.

1)     We are against the "redistribution of sediments" plan. They are using east-west canals to move water full of sediments from the Atchafalaya River into deep swamps to convert more cypress swamp to bottomland forest. Elements of this problem are contained in the proposed East Grand Lake Project, Upper Grand River Flats projects and locations such as Coon Trap, Florida pipeline, Williams Canal, Work Canal and Bayou Sorrel Shell Field). 

2)     We are concerned that some dredging projects could be taken beyond natural width and depth conditions to create large straight oilfield access canals like the well known Bayou Postilion mistake. In this regard we are concerned about the Bayou Fourche and Big Bayou Pigeon projects. 

These first two points can be summed up by saying we are in favor of opening north to south flowing waterways to their natural width and depth, no more no less.

3)     We are concerned that the Atchafalaya Basin Program (ABP) proposing to use tax payers dollars to fix problems created by illegal activities on wetlands that also supposed to be protected by environmental easements (Brown Bayou, elevated road north of I-10), and Bristow Bayou. 

Our members realize there is a technical advisory group and public hearing process but feel that their voices have not been heard in regards to these very important issues. These members have intimate knowledge of how water and sediments move through the A Basin and care deeply that the remaining cypress swamp character of the basin be preserved. Our members and Sierra Club Delta Chapter respectfully oppose this plan in its current form.

But we do not intend to take our marbles and go home. We look forward to our continued participation in the A Basin planning process.

Despite our objections the A Basin planning process is much better than it used to be. The credit for this change goes to Rep Karen St. Germaine for her work on HB 1135 and HCR 26 in the year 2008 legislature.

Thank you for the opportunity to make this statement today.

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