Letter to the Editor: Our scenic rivers help with flood control

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

Nearly 50 years ago, the Louisiana Legislature found that “there exist in Louisiana many unique and diverse free-flowing rivers, streams, and bayous which should be preserved, protected, and enhanced for the present and future benefit of Louisiana citizens.” In order to assist in fulfilling its duties to protect, conserve, and replenish the natural resources of this state, the legislature established the Louisiana Natural and Scenic Rivers System.” (Louisiana Scenic Rivers Act)

As far back as 1970, lawmakers and the public recognized the need for our state to actively work on “preserving, protecting, developing, reclaiming, and enhancing the wilderness qualities, scenic beauties, and ecological regime” of Louisiana Natural and Scenic Rivers.

When we examine the problems posed by the unprecedented flooding Louisiana experienced in recent years, we see the most pertinent benefit provided by scenic rivers is their “ecological regime.” The extensive network of trees and plants bordering the scenic rivers can also form an absolutely essential part of our state’s natural floodplain management. They provide room for floodwaters while helping to absorb excess rainfall.

The Scenic Rivers Program also calls for a servitude along the scenic rivers where, generally, structures are not to be built. This buffer helps to prevent waterfront development that would worsen flooding and expose more property to damage, the cost of which could be borne by the taxpayers.

The Scenic Rivers Program is not the cause of the unprecedented flooding experienced by Louisiana in recent years, nor is the program making it worse. Eliminating or degrading the program will not solve the state’s flood problems. Dredging rivers and streams for flood control must be scientifically handled by qualified agencies, or it can make flooding worse. Shunting water faster out of one area without scientific planning can flood property owners and parishes downstream.

Any legislation that would remove a body of water from the Louisiana Natural and Scenic Rivers System, or seek to limit the protections of that system, should not be considered unless and until qualified experts have had the opportunity to evaluate completely the implications of the proposed limitations, especially the risk that the limitations could make flooding worse for people who live near scenic rivers.

Julie Rosenzweig

New Iberia, La.

Sierra Club Delta Chapter Director