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.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Spring Into Action with the Delta Chapter!

Spring is a time of regeneration, growth, and new beginnings. It’s a busy time for nature, and for many people, too. This spring is an especially busy one for the Delta Chapter. We’re as active as ever at the State Capitol as we continue to push for laws that protect the natural resources and citizens of Louisiana. We are working hard to recruit new leaders and plan new activities for our local Groups. We are planning on tabling at Earth Day events, festivals, and community events across the state. And we are trying our best to be the best grassroots environmental organization in the state. But to achieve these goals, we need your help. Help can come in a variety of ways, from volunteering to help make phone calls to supporters on important legislation, to helping to plan or lead outings and activities, to tabling at events to help spread our mission, to taking a leadership role in your Group or Chapter ExCom.

Take a minute to look through the list of upcoming events and volunteer roles and decide if there’s anything you can do to help keep the Sierra Club alive and vibrant in 2012 and beyond. You can also contact Woody Martin at 337-298-8380 or to ask about other roles you can fill. For our families, for our future!

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Request for urgent action - St. Martin Parish School Board wants to cut cypress forest

The St. Martin Parish School Board has contracted a logger to cut cypress from 640 acres in the Atchafalaya Basin. We are campaigning to get them to reconsider. School Board members are political people and we believe they will be influenced by a letter writing campaign. We need this to happen within two to three weeks. We have Tulane University Law Clinic lawyers working on this and they requested the letter writing campaign. Please at least send letters to the School Board President and Vice President. The same letter sent to more school board members is even better.
School Board name and address information is at
Sample letter is presented below this text. Please feel free to modify the letter with your own words.
Thanks for your help, Woody Martin, Sierra Club Delta Chapter

Sample letter:

Name and address of sender


Name and address of school board member

Dear Mr.

This is to request that St. Martin Parish School Board not cut trees, especially cypress, on Section 16 land in the Atchafalaya Basin. The Atchafalaya Basin is a unique and invaluable natural resource for the State of Louisiana and for our country. I am concerned that cutting of cypress trees in the Basin is damaging forever its natural character. I am informed that when cypress trees are cut they will never grow back because of changing water levels and predation of juvenile cypress by the invasive nutria. Therefore cutting of cypress does not qualify as silviculture because there is no natural regrowth of the same trees. Furthermore the trees could be of much more value to St. Martin Parish schools if they are left standing than if they are cut in a one time logging operation, after which they are gone forever.

I believe that St. Martin Parish School Board is taking the wrong path when it jumps to the conclusion that logging is the only way to make money on this land. There are at least three other options for making money on land with standing trees including ecotourism, conservation easements, and carbon mitigation bank credits. Any of these choices has the huge additional benefits of preserving the forest for its ecosystem and economic value to persons who fish, hunt and watch birds in natural forested wetlands, and the benefit of leaving cypress trees standing for appreciation by future generations. I believe that the School Board should look more broadly at ways to benefit from the value of the standing cypress forest before sacrificing that forest for a short term and relatively small economic return. In addition I believe that the school board should consider that the dollar value of cut trees does not come anywhere close to representing the true economic, cultural and spiritual value of the natural forest.

Thank you for your consideration of this request,


Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Delta Chapter Legislative Update, April 3, 2012

Sierra Club Delta Chapter state legislative strategy is getting better all the time. We are working a multi part strategy that includes ongoing discussion and working with our allies in the Louisiana environmental community. We started this legislative season with active support for election of several state legislators including campaign work for Stephen Ortego, active support for Jack Montoucet, and formal endorsement of J.P. Morrell of New Orleans. We initiated two social events for legislators, one in New Orleans on March 1, and one in Baton Rouge on March 21. The purpose of these events was to get ourselves and allied legislative advocates in the same rooms with legislators to enjoy a casual evening of food and conversation. We are receiving excellent feedback from legislators for these events. In New Orleans the Green Collaborative did the bulk of the work to organize the NO event. Our legislative lobbyist Darrell Hunt deserves major credit for coming up with the whole idea and for doing the cooking at our event in Baton Rouge.

Some legislative issues we are watching closely include legislative comment and approval of the state’s recently released Coastal Master Plan and legislative review of the state’s recently released report entitled “Managing Louisiana’s Groundwater Resources.” We are also watching the legacy oilfield battle between oil industry and landowners. There are a dozen proposed bills on this subject but the one to watch is SB 528 by Sen Gerald Long. The sponsor keeps holding it back from going to hearing because of rumored negotiations going on between industry and landowners.

Another big one to watch is SB 436 by Sen Long which would require Sabine River Authority to obtain approval for out of state water sales from each parish in its territory. This goes back to the flap a few months ago about possible sale of water from Toledo Bend Reservoir to out of state (Texas) investors. The State of Louisiana has never had a consistent plan how to deal with in state or out of state sale of water. A related  bill by Sen Long is SB 495 revises powers and duties of the Ground Water Resources Commission to include surface water, not just groundwater. Compared to other states Louisiana is just getting started on how to manage its ground and surface water resources.This bill was scheduled for hearing last week but was postponed, apparently due to ongoing discussion by interested parties.

Some other bills to watch:

HB 957 provides for the disclosure of the composition of hydraulic fracturing fluids. This bill would write into law and strengthen requirements that already exist in rules recently promulgated by DNR Office of Conservation.

SB 439 by A.G. Crowe Authorizes certain parishes to create a conservation district. This would allow formation of a conservation district in Washington Parish to receive penalty monies from Temple Inland for their toxic discharge that killed the West Pearl River.

SB 450 Walsworth prohibits dumping of electronic waste such as computers, televisions, cellular phones and other electronic devices into landfills and requires DEQ to adopt by March 10, 2014 a plan and standards for the collection and recycling of all electronic waste in the state.

HCR 49 by Stephen Ortego requests the Louisiana Dept of Wildlife and Fisheries to study Bayou Teche for inclusion in the State Historic and Scenic Rivers System.