Houma Nation Fears 'Trade-off' in Louisiana's Coastal Restoration

Houma Nation Fears 'Trade-off' in Louisiana's Coastal Restoration

ICTMN Staff
9/16/11

There's no missing it on the homepage of the 2012 Coastal Master Plan at coastal.louisiana.gov:

"Hard decisions are ahead."

There is much work to be done to repair Louisiana's coastline and to protect it from future floods and hurricanes. But the state stresses that it can't afford a complete solution, and that many factors will be weighed when deciding which areas get protection and which don't.

The United Houma Nation, a state-recognized tribe spread throughout six parishes in southeastern Louisiana, worries that their communities will not be protected under the 2012 Master Plan. Some areas dear to the Houma have been left out of the Morganza-to-the-Gulf levee system that is currently being built.

At a public meeting in City Park, New Orleans, Houma representatives told state officials that they felt their communities would be sacrificed in a "trade-off" that would save others.

"There’s no reason why any taxpaying system should be marked off as a trade-off community, especially considering the culture and heritage associated with it,” said Pointe au Chien resident Chris Chaisson, as reported at NOLA.com.

Maryal Mewherter, parliamentarian for the Houma Nation tribal council, added that, "If you use the word 'trade-off,' you’re committing environmental and cultural injustice." Mewherther said she would like for state officials to visit the Houma communities to discuss the plans in more detail.

Kirk Rhinehart, chief of the planning division of the Office of Coastal Protection and Restoration, countered that the revised plan does weigh cultural concerns more than previously. But, he said, due to financial limitations, there will still be hard decisions, and the state will help fix what it couldn't prevent. For instance, he said, if oyster leaseholders see their oysters killed by diverted freshwater, the state will help them find new locations for leases.

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