State Responds After Coastal Restoration Projects Feared to Kill Oysters ‘Greater Concern is Completely Losing the Coast’

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NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) – Last week we spoke to the Chairman of the Louisiana Task Force who warned: the state’s coastal restoration plan will kill thousands of acres of oysters.

Now the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority is explaining their plans.

For years Jerome Zeringue has been an advocate for coastal restoration. The Thibodaux native now spends much of his time in Baton Rouge pushing the state’s Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast.

“We’ve already lost 1900 square miles since the 1930’s, but the potential is to lose an additional 1700 square miles if we don’t address this issue,” Zeringue says.

The 50 year plan has been in the works since 2007. It comes as a result of our dwindling coastline that began withering away in the 1930’s once the Mississippi River was surrounded by levees.

To turn back time the plan calls for several diversions along the river,  yet oystermen like John Tesvich say those diversions will kill our oysters. Tesvich, Chairman of the Louisiana Oyster Task Force, says just one of the diversions being researched today will flush out over 100,000 acres of oyster beds.

“You’re talking about destroying the oyster beds from Bayou Lafourche all the way to the mouth of the river. The whole West Bank of Plaquemines and Jefferson you are talking about wiping out,” warns Tesvich.

Zeringue says the cost effective diversions are necessary. He says they work with costly dredging efforts to keep sediment moving across the dying wetlands.

As for the oysters, “we’re concerned too, but of greater concern is completely losing the coast. The reality is if we continue to lose our coast we’re going to lose the oysters, and the fisheries that depend on this habitat,” explains Zeringue, “But there will be shifts. We don’t deny that there will be shifts, but the reality is those resources and reefs have traditionally been shifting North as we continue to lose our coast.”

The state maintains that they are at least five years out from completing the first diversion.

Jerome Zeringue says in the meantime they will work with oystermen to figure out where the shifts in production will happen, and the state will begin to help establish those areas.

The master plan allocates two-thirds of the budget to dredging, and while oystermen would like to see more dredging Zeringue says it would cost $2-Billion a year to dredge just to keep up with what we are losing. Zeringue says diversions help maintain.