LETTER: Bayou Lafourche Project in need of support

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

Bayou Lafourche gives life to communities from Donaldsonville all the way to Port Fourchon.

It is the reason people from Ascension Parish all the way to the Gulf settled this part of our state. The bayou provides water for our industries, agriculture and drinking water for nearly 300,000 South Louisiana residents.

However, what was once the lifeblood of our part of the state has started to become a liability.

Last September, after Hurricane Gustav ripped through our area with high winds and Hurricane Ike followed close behind, Bayou Lafourche-area residents dealt with contaminated drinking water on top of the destruction from hurricane winds. Decaying plants and trees were stirred up from the bayou’s bottom, causing high bacteria levels and effectively killing life in the bayou. 

The Bayou Lafourche Freshwater District lost its source of fresh water. Houma, Thibodaux and every other town that drinks from the bayou got brown, foul-smelling water when they opened their faucets.

Making matters worse was the inability to move water from the Mississippi River down the bayou to fix the problem.

Years of uncontrolled plant and tree growth, dumping concrete and trash and building structures into the bayou have clogged it and made it impossible for fresh water to reach the communities that needed it most. 

The lack of flowing water from the Mississippi River down the bayou has also led to saltwater intrusion, posing an additional threat to communities as far north as Matthews and Raceland.

Thankfully, the problems caused by Hurricane Gustav have been remedied for now. But, our communities are not safe from experiencing contaminated water again in the very near future.

Tropical storms, hurricanes or drought this summer could lead to brown water coming out of our faucets again unless the problem is fixed for good.

The Bayou Lafourche Freshwater District is working to fix the problem and return the water flow to the bayou.

Some residents living along the bayou in Ascension and Assumption Parish have probably heard about an upcoming project to clean out the bayou and clear debris from the banks to let the water flow freely. Some may have noticed surveyors placing stakes with pink ribbons along the edge of the bayou. These stakes and this survey work is very important. They are entirely on land owned by the State of Louisiana and they mark the boundaries of the land that will be impacted by the dredging and clearing.

The Freshwater District is doing its best to avoid impacts to homes along the bayou.

Unfortunately, there are some structures that have been built into the bayou that must be removed. We are doing our best to work closely with residents to inconvenience them as little as possible. The slight inconveniences some may feel are small in comparison to the overall health and safety of the bayou and the residents of south central Louisiana.

In addition to bringing a reliable source of drinking water to residents, the project will also clean the bayou’s banks, making them attractive and inviting for fishing and canoeing and it will also stabilize the banks, reducing the threat of erosion.

The Bayou Lafourche Freshwater District asks for the support of Bayou Lafourche area residents as we move forward with this project. The safety of our communities and the survival of our bayou depend upon the success of this project. 

Hugh Caffery

Chairman, Board of Directors

Bayou Lafourche Freshwater District