Louisiana Archives - Clean Water, Land & CoastClean Water, Land & Coast

Coastal Restoration in Louisiana

Posted on: September 30th, 2015 by restoreit

Coastal Restoration in Louisiana

Reasons to Restore the Coast in Louisiana

The Louisiana coastline is one of the most fragile ecosystems in the world. The recent influx of rapid change on the coast means more land is being lost every day. The coastline of Louisiana acts as a buffer against natural disasters and without restoration, a larger portion of land and homes will be left vulnerable and exposed to nature’s unpredictable behavior. Causes of coastal erosion include oil drilling and canal dredging, natural disasters, increasing local sinking, increasing salt-water penetration, and global sea level rise. also contribute to the erosion of the Louisiana coast. Mitigating the damage that human intervention and drilling has caused over the past few decades is the top priority of coastal restoration in Louisiana.

mississippi river in Louisiana

National Life Support

Louisiana is the largest fish producer in North America. More than 1 billion pounds of fish are caught every year. Recreational value of the coast is over 1 billion dollars. Louisiana coastline is home to 5 million waterfowl and 70 threatened or endangered species. The coastline is much more than just a piece of land eroding. The coast has a direct impact on so many aspects of life, reaching way beyond the boundaries of the Louisiana state lines. It is a home for wildlife, national source of food, travel, jobs, tourism, and much more.

2012 Coastal Master Plan

The 2012 Coastal Master Plan was passed unanimously by the Senate the same year it was introduced. The master plan used scientific analysis and smaller-scale test projects to conclude its complete phasing process for coastal restoration in Louisiana. Includes several different types of projects. Hydrologic restoration, sediment diversion, marsh creation, barrier island restoration, shoreline protection, ridge restoration, oyster barrier reefs, bank stabilization, and structural protection.

Coastal Land Building

Rebuilding the coastline will support local wildlife like saltwater fish species, freshwater fish species, crawfish, alligator, oysters, muskrat, spoonbill, and other wildlife that directly or indirectly relies on the coastal vegetation and environment to survive.

Hydrologic Restorations

Hydrologic restorations will help to reverse the changes that oil drilling, building levees, new construction, and dredging canals have caused. Interfering with the natural path and tides of the coastal waters has caused ecosystem disruption that needs to be addressed before the situation becomes unrepairable.

Sediment Diversion

Reconnecting the river to its former estuaries using a sediment diversion and channel realignment method is another piece of coastal restoration. This process involved diversion channels for sediment to be built, allowing for basins to receive the sediment caught by the channels. With current sediment diversion processes, the greater the sand load is, the shorter the transporting distance has to be.

oyster barrier reef in louisianaOyster Barrier Reefs

Oyster barrier reefs have been one of the most affected pieces of the coast. Oyster larvae attach themselves to hard surfaces, usually other oysters. Without plentiful oyster reefs, oysters are no longer able to sustain their aquatic population. Oyster barrier reefs have proven to be a less disruptive solution of coastal restoration than concrete or steel bulkheads. The natural filtrations oysters contribute to controlling algae populations, which helps fish survive. Financially speaking, a higher oyster population means economic growth in the Louisiana fishing market.

Rebuilding Louisiana’s Coastline

Coastal restoration in Louisiana is being implemented in many different forms, as explained above. Restoration is important in order to reverse and slow the Louisiana land loss that increases every minute of every day. Combined restoration efforts will promote a better economy, home and land protection, and improve wildlife conditions and populations. Strategic restoration using multiple methods is the optimal choice for total restoration, since recreation by using dredged materials cannot be done effectively for large areas of land. c
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Tags: coastal restoration, Louisiana
Posted in coastal restoration | Comments Off on Coastal Restoration in Louisiana

Saving Louisiana

Posted on: December 11th, 2014 by restoreit

Saving Louisiana

President, National Audubon Society

Huffington Post.  Click here for story

Louisiana is disappearing. Every year, land mass equal to the size of Manhattan is lost–simply washed out to sea off the continental shelf in the Gulf of Mexico.

Louisiana’s crisis is out of sight and out of mind. When Katrina roared into New Orleans with no natural wetlands barrier to slow that killer storm, America cared for a hot minute.

But after that catastrophe and even after the BP oil disaster, there’s just no sense of urgency about the disappearance of America’s Gulf Coast.

That’s stunning when you take a giant step back: The Mississippi River Delta in Louisiana is the seventh-largest system of its kind in the world and one of only two in the Western Hemisphere. And the truly remarkable opportunity in front of us is that we have a chance to make amends, a once-in-a-lifetime chance to restore this magical, productive ecosystem of coastal wetlands.

It’s not just Louisiana’s people, economy, culture and wildlife that are at risk. The Mississippi River Delta is connected to a vast network of waterways throughout the heartland of America, contributing tens of billions of dollars to our national economy every year and supporting millions of jobs.

Nearly half of America’s bird species use the Gulf Coast at some point in their migration. And those birds are the indicators of the health of places. The imperiled Piping Plover flies across the entire country to the Gulf Coast from nesting grounds on the Canadian border, the Great Lakes and New England. A large number of those Piping Plovers depend on the Gulf Coast wetlands and the Mississippi River Delta for their winter survival.

Louisiana has developed a bipartisan coastal master plan that identifies 109 different projects that should be completed over the next half century to help preserve and expand existing wetlands.

We need to be far more careful about the slicing and dicing of coastal wetlands with canals and industrial infrastructure. We need to set up a structure of state and federal agencies with the authority to end the bureaucratic turf wars that have left some restoration efforts in limbo for years. Louisiana politicians and citizens need to keep the state’s ambitious master plan on track.

Federal and state authorities need to make sure the money from all sources–public and private–intended for coastal protection and restoration goes to protecting our wetlands, not to building civic centers and highways or to plug other holes in the state’s budget.

A recent study by Audubon underscores the urgency for preserving the coastal wetlands for birds. Nearly half of the birds in North America could lose over 50 percent of the areas where they live before the end of this century, according to 30 years of data collected and analyzed by Audubon. In addition to the Piping Plover, threatened species include Louisiana’s state bird, the Brown Pelican, and the Roseate Spoonbill, a showy pink wading bird with an oversized spoon-shaped bill.

The coastal plains of Louisiana and neighboring Texas are going to be critical “strongholds”–places that in the future will provide the right habitat for birds that are forced out of other ranges because the weather becomes too wet or too dry, too hot or too cold. These “strongholds” will give vulnerable birds a fighting chance to hold on in the face of climate change.

This is not Louisiana’s problem; this is America’s Great Delta. To see how you can take action, visit here.

David Yarnold is President and CEO of the National Audubon Society.

 

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Tags: coastal erosion, legacy lawsuit, Louisiana, wetlands
Posted in Jefferson & Plaquemines Parish, LA Coastal Parish News | Comments Off on Saving Louisiana

Opposition Mounts to Raceland Mitigation Project

Posted on: August 29th, 2014 by restoreit

Opposition mounts to Raceland mitigation project

Click here for story

More local officials have spoken out against a proposal that could cause dozens of Raceland landowners to lose their property as a result of efforts to compensate for levees and drainage work to protect areas surrounding New Orleans from hurricanes.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials say the project is tentative and years away if it moves forward.

North Lafourche Levee District Director Dwayne Bourgeois expressed doubt the corps would move forward on mitigation work in the area. On Wednesday, the levee district board passed a resolution opposing the project.

Following hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the corps developed the West Bank and Vicinity 100-year Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System.

The corps has targeted land in Raceland as part of three projects to offset the environmental damage caused by building and upgrading levees and floodwalls on the West Bank. Federal laws require the agency to replace any damaged wetlands with land elsewhere.

Sugar-cane fields and swampland will be reflooded and turned into wetlands as part of the so-called mitigation work, officials said. An estimated 60 property owners could be affected.

Should the corps move forward on the Raceland project area, they would need to perform additional environmental analysis and hold another public forum, project manager Tutashinda Salaam said.

“We’re a long way off from there, if we even move in that direction. We have a lot of analysis we have to do if we move forward. We heard all of the comments from the public. We’ve answered many congressional inquiries on this project. Obviously our tentative plan is still tentative,” Salaam said.

On Thursday night at a congressional election forum in Thibodaux, 11 candidates unanimously opposed the project. Republican House candidate Garrett Graves characterized the project as “one of the stupidest decisions to come out of a stupid agency in a long time.”

“Why in the world would you go there and take sugar-cane property? Why take this when you could restore wetlands that have been lost, go out to the coast and restore the wetlands,” Graves said.

Staff Writer Jacob Batte can be reached at 448-7635 orjacob.batte@dailycomet.com. Follow him on Twitter @ja_batte.

Tags: Louisiana, restore coast
Posted in LA Coastal Parish News, News | Comments Off on Opposition Mounts to Raceland Mitigation Project

James Gill: Tide Turning on Oil Industry

Posted on: November 17th, 2013 by restoreit

To read story click here

James Gill: Tide turning on oil industry

 November 17, 2013

 

It took a while, but the resistance is making headway.

The occupying forces, while not exactly on the run, may soon be forced to the negotiating table. The quisling government is starting to look rattled. Citizens want their country back.

Such is the current condition of Louisiana, which has been under the foreign heel of oil and gas so long that recompense for the massive destruction and exploitation seemed out of the question. Toxins leached into the shrinking wetlands and natural flood barriers washed away, but oil and gas were abundant and politicians cheap. The companies extracted billions of dollars and doubtless regarded the natives with contempt.

They still have some powerful collaborators, Gov. Bobby Jindal chief among them. But the tide seems to be turning.

Jindal blew his stack a couple of months ago when the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority–East sued 97 oil and gas companies for despoiling the coastal zone. Jindal claimed that the Authority had exceeded its authority, which was demonstrably untrue, and that the lawsuit would interfere with the state’s coastal restoration master plan, although nobody in his administration has ever explained what inconvenience would result from chucking more money in the pot.

At any event, Jindal did not want oil and gas held responsible for their depredations. He threw John Barry, prime mover behind the lawsuit, off the Authority, and threatened to enact restrictions on its autonomy in next year’s session.

But that just became a little less likely, because it is suddenly all the rage to file suit requiring oil and gas to fix what they broke or pay compensation. Plaquemines Parish has sued 21 companies, Jefferson Parish seven, and their example will probably inspire others. Legislators may be loath to get in the way if the folks back home are keen to see oil and gas pay their debts.

Nobody, not even Jindal’s coastal guru Garret Graves, doubts that lawless oil and gas companies are responsible for much of Louisiana’s wetlands loss. Companies dug their canals and built their pipelines often without the requisite permits and routinely ignored the law that required them to restore the terrain they damaged.

Nobody doubts either that there won’t be much of a future for south Louisiana unless we arrest and ideally reverse the erosion. The only question is who should pay to fix the wetlands- you and I or the companies that laid waste to them?

That’s not exactly a tough call, although the Jindal administration, in demanding that the Flood Protection Authority drop its suit, preferred to stick the taxpayer with the tab. Now that the parishes are following suit, however, Graves is apparently more sympathetic to the idea of litigation. He justifies this change of heart by noting that the parishes’ suits are filed by elected officials, whereas the Flood Protection Authority is appointive, although what difference that makes is obvious only to him. The Authority has the same standing to sue as a parish council.

Graves also raises a familiar specter: greedy trial lawyers, working on contingency, will bag “a sizable percentage of the proceeds” if they prevail in the Flood Protection Authority suit. Sure, they will, but lawyers won’t be representing the parishes for nothing either.

As Barry points out in an online column, “well-defined guidelines” indicate that plaintiff lawyers in the various cases will cop about the same percentage. Besides, there really is no need to hide under the bed every time some Republican politician yells, “Trial lawyer!” Complex cases often take years, and there’s always the chance of losing.

But it is beginning to look as though no cases will come to court as demands grow for oil and gas to be held to account and the administration’s objections grow ever more cockamamie, a sure sign that there are no rational grounds for dispute.

Indeed, the Barry faction has always hoped a statewide settlement could be negotiated, and now Graves is starting to sing the same song. “Attempts to work co-operatively with industry would be a prudent first step in addressing any potential liability,” he said the other day.

That’s an improvement on the administration’s earlier pronouncements, but “Vive la revolution” would be more like it.

James Gill’s email address is jgill@ theadvocate.com.

Tags: erosion, legacy lawsuits, Louisiana, oil and gas, wetlands
Posted in News | Comments Off on James Gill: Tide Turning on Oil Industry

State Shuffling Dollars to Pay for Bayou Corne Sinkhole

Posted on: October 9th, 2013 by restoreit

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING — Sinkhole caused by Texas Brine’s failed underground salt dome cavern; Bayou Corne is out of frame, toward top of photo, in an aerial photo taken Sept. 26, 2013.

 

Jindal administration expects to recoup costs

BY MICHELLE MILLHOLLON

mmillhollon@theadvocate.com

October 09, 2013

 

 Click here for full story

Seventeen days into the new state budget year, the state Department of Natural Resources needed to borrow $8 million from the state treasury to meet the day-to-day expenses of Bayou Corne.

Months later, the money’s almost gone.

DNR’s biggest expense is paying CB&I to help with the science behind a 25-acre sinkhole in northern Assumption Parish.

The agency also is spending dollars on supplies, travel and personnel. DNR’s expenditures on Sept. 18, roughly two months after Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols signed the request for a seed of federal funds, already clocked in at $7.4 million.

Across state government, dollars are being shifted to pay for sinkhole-related expenses.

The Jindal administration banks on recouping the money through litigation against Texas Brine Co. and a Dallas subsidiary of oil giant Occidental Petroleum. To date, the state’s sinkhole-related expenses are approaching $10 million.

At issue: Who is to blame for the collapse of a Texas Brine well that punched a giant hole in the ground felling trees, releasing gas and threatening hundreds of homes. A suit was filed in August on behalf of all state agencies involved in the response to the sinkhole.

Meanwhile, Texas Brine launched its own legal battle against the Occidental subsidiary and three other companies.

Below Louisiana’s surface are towers of salt deposits rising from what used to be an ocean floor. Oil and gas companies mine into the salt to store butane and natural gas or to extract brine for industrial uses.

The state contends that Texas Brine and Occidental mined the Napoleonville Dome to the point that it became unstable, triggering a collapse that sucked in the earth and forced Bayou Corne-area residents to evacuate their homes.

Texas Brine blames Occidental Chemical Corp., Vulcan Materials Co., Adams Resources Exploration Co. and Browning Oil Co. Inc.

The litigation will unfold in 23rd Judicial District.

Back when the sinkhole was 8.6 acres, DNR hired Baton Rouge’s The Shaw Environmental Group to deal with issues, such as determining how to vent off the methane.

CB&I later acquired Shaw.

DNR expected to pay CB&I $6.3 million as of Sept. 18. The state Department of Transportation and Development has spent nearly $1.4 million on feasibility studies, monitoring and equipment. The state Department of Environmental Quality spent $593,538 on a mobile air monitoring lab, command center, mileage and equipment, not including other expenses.

The treasury loan that DNR received came from federal funds. DOTD Secretary Sherri LeBas tapped into an emergency fund. DEQ and other agencies are using money from their budgets.

Deputy State Treasurer Jason Redmond said seeds — or treasury loans— are granted one fiscal year at a time. He said DNR must repay the money by Aug. 15, 2014.

LeBas said she spent dollars putting in place a monitoring system to pinpoint any problems in the highways and bridges near the sinkhole. She said she also spent money on feasibility studies in case a detour or a bypass is needed because of issues with La. 70. So far, she said, there is no indication of problems.

“We’re just being proactive and moving through the process,” she said.

Patrick Courreges, communications director for DNR, said his agency might need another treasury seed, given the speed with which the $8 million is being spent. He said there is no timeline for pulling out of Bayou Corne.

“The governor’s committed we’re going to be there,” he said.

In a prepared statement, Nichols, who is the governor’s chief financial adviser, said the game plan is for the state to recoup its expenses from Texas Brine.

“Texas Brine owes the state money, and we want to make sure they are held accountable,” she said.

Tags: Bayou Corne, environmental damage, John Carmouche, Louisiana, sinkhole, Texas Brine
Posted in News | Comments Off on State Shuffling Dollars to Pay for Bayou Corne Sinkhole

James Gill: Graves Shows Why Lawsuit is Needed

Posted on: September 26th, 2013 by restoreit

September 26, 2013

The Advocate

For full article, click here

Garret Graves, Gov. Bobby Jindal’s point man on coastal restoration, makes a compelling case.

He should by now have convinced all doubters that the state ought to sue the oil and gas companies that have spent about a century ravaging our wetlands.

That wasn’t Graves’ intention and it won’t happen. But put together all his public pronouncements, and that’s where logic leads.

Graves and Jindal actually want the companies to go scot-free, leaving you and me to pick up a tab that is bound to run into the billions. That’s why they are in the process of scuttling a suit filed by the New Orleans-area levee board seeking damages for the havoc caused by the canals and pipelines that criss-cross Louisiana’s rapidly disappearing marshes.

The reasons they give for doing so lead ineluctably to the conclusion that the board should indeed abandon its lawsuit, but only so the state can seek redress on an even larger scale.

Nobody doubts that oil and gas companies have played a major role in the wetlands destruction that has given storm surge an ever clearer shot at the New Orleans region. Graves himself has said, “I will be the first to admit there’s liability there,” and styles himself “no apologist for the oil and gas industry.” Well, he might as well be.

The levee board, in filing its suit, allegedly usurped the authority of the Jindal Administration and its Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, which Graves chairs. It is acting independently when the levee boards that were set up after Hurricane Katrina to replace the political fiefdoms of yore should be coordinating their efforts. The suit, against almost 100 oil and gas companies, is undermining the state’s master plan, wherein the salvation of the wetlands lies, according to Graves.

It is by no means clear how litigation designed to secure huge sums for coastal restoration and levee construction could thwart underfunded plans for coastal restoration and levee construction. John Barry, vice president of the maverick levee board and the leading proponent of the suit has said in any case that the proceeds would be spent in accordance with the plan.

But all these objections would melt away if the state took up the cause of seeking just redress for the environmental havoc caused by oil and gas. Since “there’s liability there,” doing nothing is a betrayal of the taxpayer.

So what else is new? Oil and gas executives must have spent many hours congratulating themselves on how easy it is to take Louisiana for a ride and having a good laugh at our expense. They will have many more opportunities to do so once Jindal has made sure the levee board lawsuit is junked and perpetuated the myth that they are our benefactors because we need their jobs and their taxes.

They need our oil and gas even more, as their fabulous profits attest. Those profits would have been much reduced had they not been allowed to renege on their legal obligation to backfill obsolete canals and otherwise repair the damage they have done to the wetlands. It has evidently proven cheaper to buy politicians.

When the current levee boards were established, supposedly independent committees were set up to provide two nominees for each vacant seat. But the governor then makes the call, so taking politics out of flood control always was something of a pipe dream. Now that Barry and the president of the Levee Board, Tim Doody, are up for reappointment, Graves has made it clear they are goners because they pushed the lawsuit that Jindal wants dropped.

Since the board’s vote to sue was unanimous, it may be the remaining members will stick to their guns. Besides, if the committee is in a puckish mood, it could only nominate replacements for Barry and Doody who support the litigation.

But it is not in the nature of committees to be puckish, and Jindal and his pals in the oil and gas business will win in the end regardless. They will have no trouble passing legislation in the next session to emasculate the levee board.

Although Barry and Doody won’t be around by then, if you want to know why suing oil and gas is still a good idea, you could always ask Graves.

James Gill can be reached at jgill@theadvocate.com.

Tags: BP damage, environmental damage, Garret Graves, legacy lawsuits, Louisiana
Posted in News | Comments Off on James Gill: Graves Shows Why Lawsuit is Needed

Ground Gives Way, and a Louisiana Town Struggles to Find Its Footing

Posted on: September 26th, 2013 by restoreit

By MICHAEL WINES

Published: September 25, 2013
New York Times

To see article, click here

BAYOU CORNE, La. — It was nearly 16 months ago that Dennis P. Landry and his wife, Pat, on a leisurely cruise in their Starcraft pontoon boat, first noticed a froth of bubbles issuing from the depths of Bayou Corne, an idyllic, cypress-draped stream that meanders through swampy southern Louisiana. They figured it was a leaky gas pipeline. So did everyone else.

Just over two months later, in the predawn blackness of Aug. 3, 2012, the earth opened up — a voracious maw 325 feet across and hundreds of feet deep, swallowing 100-foot trees, guzzling water from adjacent swamps and belching methane from a thousand feet or more beneath the surface.

“I think I caught a glimpse of hell in it,” Mr. Landry said.

Since then, almost nothing here has been the same.

More than a year after it appeared, the Bayou Corne sinkhole is about 25 acres and still growing, almost as big as 20 football fields, lazily biting off chunks of forest and creeping hungrily toward an earthen berm built to contain its oily waters. It has its own Facebook page and its own groupies, conspiracy theorists who insist the pit is somehow linked to the Gulf of Mexico 50 miles south and the earthquake-prone New Madrid fault 450 miles north. It has confounded geologists who have struggled to explain this scar in the earth.

And it has split this unincorporated hamlet of about 300 people into two camps: the hopeful, like Mr. Landry, who believe that things will eventually settle down, and the despairing, who have mostly fled or plan to, and blame their misery on state and corporate officials.

“Everything they’re doing, they were forced to do,” Mike Schaff, one of those who is leaving, said of the officials. “They’ve taken no initiative. I wanted to stay here. But the community is basically destroyed.”

Drawls Mr. Landry: “I used to have a sign in my yard: ‘This too shall pass.’ This, too, shall pass. We’re not there yet. But I’m a very patient man.”

 

The sinkhole is worrisome enough. But for now, the principal villains are the bubbles: flammable methane gas, surfacing not just in the bayou, but in the swamp and in front and backyards across the area.

A few words of fantastical explanation: Much of Louisiana sits atop an ancient ocean whose salty remains, extruded upward by the merciless pressure of countless tons of rock, have formed at least 127 colossal underground pillars. Seven hundred feet beneath Bayou Corne, the Napoleonville salt dome stretches three miles long and a mile wide — and plunges perhaps 30,000 feet to the old ocean floor.

A bevy of companies has long regarded the dome as more or less a gigantic piece of Tupperware, a handy place to store propane, butane and natural gas, and to make salt water for the area’s many chemical factories. Over the years, they have repeatedly punched into the dome, hollowing out 53 enormous caverns.

In 1982, on the dome’s western edge, Texas Brine Company sank a well to begin work on a big cavern: 150 to 300 feet wide and four-tenths of a mile deep, it bottomed out more than a mile underground. Until it capped the well to the cavern in 2011, the company pumped in fresh water, sucked out salt water and shipped it to the cavern’s owner, the Occidental Chemical Corporation.

Who is to blame for what happened next is at issue in a barrage of lawsuits. But at some point, the well’s western wall collapsed, and the cavern began filling with mud and rock. The mud and rock above it dropped into the vacated space, freeing trapped natural gas.

The gas floated up; the rock slipped down. The result was a yawning, bubbling sinkhole.

“You go in the swamp, and there are places where it’s coming up like boiling crawfish,” said Mr. Schaff, who is moving out.

Mr. Landry, who is staying, agreed — “it looks like boiling water, like a big pot” — but the two men and their camps agree on little else.

Geologists say the sinkhole will eventually stop growing, perhaps at 50 acres, but how long that will take is unclear. The state has imposed tough regulations and monitoring on salt-dome caverns to forestall future problems.

Under state order, Texas Brine has mounted a broad, though some say belated, effort to pump gas out of sandy underground layers where it has spread. Bayou Corne is pocked with freshly dug wells, with more to come, their pipes leading to flares that slowly burn off the methane. That, everyone concedes, could take years.

The two sides greet all that news in starkly different ways.

State surveys show that one of the largest concentrations of methane lies directly under Mr. Landry’s neighborhood, a manicured subdivision of brick homes, many with decks overlooking the bayou and its cypresses. Yet only two families have chosen to leave, and while the Landrys are packed just in case, the gas detector in their home offers enough reassurance to remain.

Do you smell anything?” he asked. “Nope. Do we have gas bubbling up in the bayou? Yes. Where does it go? Straight up. Have they closed the bayou? No.”

The anger and misfortune are focused on Mr. Schaff’s neighborhood directly across state route 70, a jumble of neat clapboard houses, less tidy shotgun-style homes and trailers on narrow roads with names like Sauce Piquante Lane and Jambalaya Street. There, rows of abandoned homes are plastered with No Trespassing signs, and the streets are deathly quiet.

Candy Blanchard, a teacher, and her husband, Todd, a welder, moved out the day the sinkhole appeared. They now pay the monthly mortgage on their empty and unsellable 7-year-old house as well as the rent on another house. Mr. Blanchard drops by their former home each morning to feed their rabbits and cat, who have lived alone for a year because their landlord would accept only their dog.

The couple rejected an offer from Texas Brine to buy their home, and instead have joined a class-action lawsuit against the company. They will never return, she said, because they do not believe the area is safe.

“The point we’re at now is what the scientists said would never happen, that this would be the worst-case scenario,” Mrs. Blanchard said. “How can you find experts on this when it has never happened anywhere else in the world?”

Mr. Schaff’s home also fronts the bayou, and he says he is loath to leave. But investigators found gas in his garage, he said, and he says he is convinced that state officials are playing down the true scope of the disaster.

A wry, amiable man with a salt-and-pepper goatee and glasses, Mr. Schaff said he had planned to retire on the bayou.

“It’s my home. I want to die there, O.K.?” he said, fighting off tears. “I was going to retire next year, was going to do some fishing, play with my grandchildren, do a little flying. And now, this.”

 

Tags: Bayou Corne, Louisiana, sinkhole, Texas Brine
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Sinkhole Fears Spur La. 70 Realignment Plans

Posted on: September 3rd, 2013 by restoreit

Assumption residents divided on where to build detour routes if La. 70 closed

BY DAVID J. MITCHELL

dmitchell@theadvocate.com

September 03, 2013

Click here for full story

PIERRE PART — In Assumption Parish, you “make the round,” as people here say, only if you must.

The “round” is the long, long way between Pierre Part and Napoleonville when La. 70 is closed in the wrong spot.

Drivers can spend an hour and a half or more heading north through White Castle and Bayou Pigeon or south through Morgan City to travel between the two communities, just 19 miles apart through La. 70.

The more than year-old, growing sinkhole just south of La. 70 in the Bayou Corne area has raised worries about subsidence that could cut off La. 70 in just the wrong place. Commuters and school buses would be forced to make the time-consuming round, some fear.

School Board member Jessica Ourso, who represents the Pierre Part area, said the thought of what could happen on La. 70 and of school children passing the sinkhole daily gives her pause.

“I cringe every time I pass there, I kid you not,” she said.

In response, the state Department of Transportation and Development is in the early stages of a two-tiered planning process for a northern alternative: a temporary detour that could be built quickly in the event of a sudden failure, and then a more-permanent bypass.

The reception to the proposals — unveiled last month at a DOTD community meeting attended by 33 residents — has been divided.

Some, like Ourso, want a proposed four-mile-long bypass farthest from the sinkhole built right away, while others, including business people on La. 70, are wary of that route and favor a shorter temporary detour.

“We are examining both options because we do not know what, if any, impacts there will be from the sinkhole to infrastructure in the area,” Dustin Annison, DOTD spokesman, said in an email.

No cost estimates or time lines are yet available, he said. Annison added that any new route “would only be built if it were necessary to close La. 70.”

The northern edge of the sinkhole is 1,100 feet from the highway, parish officials said, and the sinkhole has been growing southward, away from La. 70.

Annison said ongoing monitoring of La. 70 and its bridges shows they are not subsiding.

But sitting in a front-porch chair last week at his home in Pierre Part off La. 70, Herman Mabile, 75, said DOTD needs to build the longer route soon.

“You’re getting away from all the mess right here,” Mabile said, pointing to the sinkhole on a map with the proposed routes.

“That mess right there, you can’t control it. There’s no way they can control that hole right there.”

Known as Alignment 1, the route Mabile prefers would tie La. 70 to La. 69 near its intersection with La. 996 along a looping path through the swamp. The bypass would start from a point on La. 70 west of the Bayou Corne area.

But at Action Industries on La. 70 past Bayou Corne, Alternative 1 and two other two-mile-long bypass routes drew skepticism.

Some workers at the facility, which houses several businesses under one roof, would have to take the longer detour to work every day.

Roy LeBlanc Jr., manager of Shelby Gaudet Contractor Inc., said the company’s bread and butter is work for salt dome operators along La. 70. Alignment 1 would be a problem, he said.

“If you couldn’t pass there (La. 70), it would be difficult,” he said.

LeBlanc said he prefers the shorter detour route, if anything, and doubts Alignment 1 would be built because, he said, DOTD does not have the funding.

“I don’t see it happening,” he said.

Two one-mile-long detour routes are proposed and each detour would veer just north off La. 70 near Gumbo Street in the Bayou Corne area and parallel the highway until meeting La. 69.

Police Jury President Martin “Marty” Triche said the temporary detour seems to be the most practical way to keep traffic flowing, but he has heard constituent concerns about the permanent routes cutting off Bayou Corne and businesses.

“I am kind of like them (DOTD officials), sitting, looking and evaluating all the options,” he said.

Annison said DOTD is spending $735,000 for the ongoing feasibility study, which is expected to be finished later this month. DOTD also has a $400,000 environmental analysis under way that should be finished in the spring.

He said the state would pursue Texas Brine Co. of Houston, the owner of the failed salt dome cavern suspected of causing the sinkhole, for construction funding if needed.

Sonny Cranch, Texas Brine spokesman, said the company is focused on containing the sinkhole and removing natural gas caught in an aquifer under the community. The company is also buying out some evacuated Bayou Corne residents. As of mid-Friday, 29 of the 64 buyout settlements reached had been closed, he said.

“The issue of the re-route is something that we will address at the appropriate time,” Cranch said.

Phil Daigle, 47, a Pierre Part native and a pharmacist who works in Baton Rouge and Gonzales, said adding even 10 minutes to his commute is significant. He said the Alignment 1 bypass is not something he would favor, but maybe the detour.

Still, Daigle, whose brother evacuated from Bayou Corne, said video of the sinkhole swallowing cypress trees last month in less than a minute “hit home.”

“The video made me look at it (the sinkhole) differently, definitely differently,” he said. “Seeing them trees being sucked under, it just makes me look at it, you know, how far can it go.”

Tags: Bayou Corne, John Carmouche, Louisiana, sinkhole
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Louisiana Sinkhole Swallows Trees in Seconds

Posted on: August 22nd, 2013 by restoreit

By ABC News

Click here to see video

Aug 22, 2013 12:03pm

The power of a Louisiana sinkhole nearly 24 acres in size was captured on camera Wednesday when the sinkhole swallowed up trees and land in just seconds.

The video was captured  by officials with the Assumption Parish Office of Emergency Preparedness and posted on the parish’s blog.  The sinkhole sits in the middle of a heavily wooded space in Assumption Parish, which is about 50 miles south of Baton Rouge.

The sinkhole was nearly 400 feet deep with a diameter of 372 feet when it first opened in August 2012.  The opening forced a mandatory evacuation order for about 150 residences of the parish’s nearly 24,000 residents for fear of potential radiation and explosions.

Officials described Wednesday’s sinkhole event as a “slough-in.” The parish has been posting regular updates on and videos of the sinkhole, including a “burp” earlier in the day Wednesday – caused by air and gas from deep in the sinkhole bubbling up –  that raised the code alert to level three, the highest level possible.

 

All crew activity was halted in the area after Wednesday’s events, according to the city’s blog.

The sinkhole is now the source of a lawsuit between the state of Louisiana and Texas Brine Company, which owns a nearby salt cavern.

After being used for nearly 30 years, the cavern was plugged in 2011 and officials believe the integrity of the cavern may have somehow been compromised, leading to the sinkhole.

Gov. Bobby Jindal and Attorney General Buddy Caldwell announced earlier this month that the state will sue the company for environmental damages.

ABC News’ Christina Ng and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

Tags: John Carmouche, Louisiana, sinkhole
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Louisiana Suing Texas Brine Over Assumption Sinkhole

Posted on: August 4th, 2013 by restoreit

Louisiana Suing Texas Brine Over Assumption Sinkhole

Environment damage among complaints

BY DAVID J. MITCHELL

dmitchell@theadvocate.com

August 04, 2013

Click here for story

The state of Louisiana and Assumption Parish’s Police Jury and Sheriff’s Office raced against a looming legal deadline Friday to file a lawsuit against Texas Brine Co. and a Dallas subsidiary of oil giant Occidental Petroleum over the Bayou Corne-area sinkhole that emerged a year ago Saturday.

State and parish officials are seeking to recoup the costs of their emergency response efforts, while the state also is suing over the environmental damage allegedly caused by the Texas Brine cavern failure that led to the sinkhole.

Louisiana government’s suit, which was filed on behalf of all state agencies involved in the response, makes a claim, in part, under state environmental quality laws. Those laws allow assessment of up to $32,500 in civil penalties for each day of a violation and up to $1 million per day for intentional and willful violations.

Separately, Texas Brine filed suit on Friday against the Occidental subsidiary, Occidental Chemical Corp., and three other companies over the actions that Texas Brine claims the companies took leading up to the cavern failure. The three others are Vulcan Materials Co., Adams Resources Exploration Co. and Browning Oil Co. Inc.

All four suits were filed in the 23rd Judicial District Court in Napoleonville in Assumption Parish. The 23rd District also encompasses Ascension and St. James parishes.

About 350 people have been under mandatory evacuation orders for a year on Saturday as a result of the sinkhole, now 24 acres in size, which continues to grow in cypress swamp between the partially evacuated Bayou Corne and Grand Bayou communities. Texas Brine has been buying out some of those residents.

Gov. Bobby Jindal said in a statement Friday that the state remains committed to holding Texas Brine accountable for the damage it has caused.

“We have already pushed for buyouts for affected residents and are undertaking a thorough review of all of Texas Brine’s permits in our state,” Jindal said.

“This suit is just the next step in making sure Texas Brine does the right thing and properly addresses the mess it’s caused.”

Sonny Cranch, a spokesman for Texas Brine, said the company will review the lawsuits “and respond appropriately.” Occidental did not return a message seeking comment Friday.

Permitted in mid-1982, the Oxy Geismar 3 cavern in the Napoleonville Dome, a massive underground salt deposit, was closed in June 2011 after years of mining and a failed attempt by Texas Brine to expand it, state records show. Occidental is the landowner of the 40-acre surface site, as well as the subsurface, and received brine from the mine for industrial uses.

The state suit alleges that Texas Brine and Occidental mined the salt dome cavern “to the point that the cavern became structurally unstable, thereby causing the collapse of the cavern and damage to Louisiana’s waters, natural resources, and the State’s Coastal Zone.”

That claim tracks what state experts and consulting scientists have asserted since last year.

State experts also have argued that the cavern collapse triggered the release of crude oil and natural gas from deep sources outside the salt dome, allowing them to migrate into shallow areas underneath the Bayou Corne and Grand Bayou communities, presenting a risk of explosive gas accumulations in homes and garages.

The suit cites sinkhole-related environmental damage that includes tremors, continuing growth of the sinkhole, the presence of gas and oil in the sinkhole, accumulation of gas in the area’s aquifer, the presence of benzene in groundwater near the sinkhole and other contaminants in the sinkhole, including saline water, that could spread into surrounding freshwater swampland.

Under state Office of Conservation orders, Texas Brine is building a levee around the sinkhole to contain the contaminants but has had to bulldoze cypress swamp to do it.

The state suit also alleges that after the sinkhole emerged, the defendants “failed to immediately, consistently, and fully assume responsibility for the sinkhole response, as required by law.”

The Office of Conservation has issued nine orders or amended orders to Texas Brine in connection with the sinkhole and fined it $260,000 for alleged noncompliance last year.

The state suit, however, does not allege that Texas Brine and Occidental should have known the cavern would fail by being mined too closely to the salt dome face but claims the company is liable for failure of a cavern in their control.

Office of Conservation officials have noted for months that the type of cavern failure and sinkhole that formed are “unprecedented” and could not be foreseen.

The other private suits have alleged that Texas Brine and Occidental, and in some cases Conservation, had warning signs and should have foreseen the failure.

Texas Brine officials and Assumption Parish Sheriff’s Office and Police Jury officials said Friday they were filing the suits to preserve their potential legal claims.

The initial 200-by-200-foot sinkhole was found on Occidental property the morning of Aug. 3, 2012. Many attorneys, including Texas Brine’s, have said the clock on the one-year period to file a civil suit likely starts on that date.

Sheriff Mike Waguespack said Friday his attorneys advised him to file the suit before Aug. 3 as precaution. Police Jury President Martin “Marty” Triche said jurors employed a similar strategy.

Both officials said their agencies already have been reimbursed several hundred thousand dollars and about 80 to 85 percent of their costs.

“We’re open for negotiations, but we want to preserve our rights. We feel like we are entitled to 100 percent reimbursement,” Waguespack said.

Patrick Courreges, spokesman for the state Department of Natural Resources, said the Office of Conservation has spent $11 million so far on the sinkhole response and does not believe any agencies involved have been reimbursed by Texas Brine.

The Office of Conservation, which regulates salt dome operators, is the lead agency on the response.

Texas Brine officials said last week the company has adequate insurance to meet its obligations.

Bruce Martin, Texas Brine vice president of operations, told a joint legislative committee in February that the company has in the range of $10 million to $15 million in pollution liability insurance and $200 million in general liability insurance.

Tags: John Carmouche, Louisiana, sinkhole
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