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Corps Rapped on Delta Channel Management Practices
The Louisiana Wildlife Federation (LWF) has sent a letter to the state’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) supporting DNR’s charge that the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) is in violation of Louisiana’s coastal zone management regulations for its channel maintenance practices along the lower Mississippi River.
The federations’ October 25th letter to DNR Assistant Secretary Louis Buatt concurred with the state’s position expressed in Buatt’s October 13th letter to the New Orleans District commander that took the Corps to task for its lack of compliance. At issue is the deposition of sediment removed for navigation purposes near Head of Passes into the head waters of Pass-a-Loutre and South Pass.
This purposeful induced shoaling of Pass-a-Loutre is meant to maintain water velocity within the main navigation channel of Southwest Pass and therefore reduce the amount of dredging required for navigation. The shoaling at Pass a Loutre, however, is blocking much needed sediment and freshwater from feeding vital fisheries and wildlife habitats, and exacerbating coastal land loss.
Despite repeated requests from DNR and other agencies and organizations to change its dredging practices, the Corps has continued violating state regulations by damaging existing wetlands along the lower river as well as by not using the dredged material beneficially to build marsh to the maximum extent practicable.
“It is long past time for the Corps, and the navigation industry it serves with its channel maintenance work, to come into compliance with the imperative to not only restore as much of the Louisiana coast as possible but to prevent its further demise”, said the LWF in its letter.
Wetlands adjacent to Pass-a-Loutre that comprise the Pass-a-Loutre Wildlife Management Area and the Delta National Wildlife Refuge have been negatively impacted by the Corps’ dredging tactics, compromising habitat especially important for migrating waterfowl.
“It is not acceptable for the Corps to continue to operate its navigation maintenance program at cross purposes with conservation and restoration of coastal wetlands when simple adjustments in methods and attitude is all it would take to turn a waste into an asset,” LWF asserted.
The wildlife group’s letter was sent in support of the most recent iteration of the state’s demand that the Corps change its ways and manage dredged spoil in a manner that is consistent with Louisiana’s Coastal Resources Program.