Feb 12, 2012 1:39 PM by Sharlee Barriere
Recent heavy rain has helped push out salt water that had been creeping north from the Gulf of Mexico and threatened the salt-sensitive rice crop in southwest Louisiana, where many farmers depend on surface water from canals to irrigate their fields.
The Advocate reports (http://bit.ly/zu6Efm) that figures from salinity gauges monitored by the Army Corps of Engineers show the level of saltwater in many Vermilion Parish canals has dropped from historical highs at the end of last year to near normal levels.
"Things are looking a lot better than they were," Vermilion Parish Police Juror Wayne Touchet said.
The drop in salt levels comes as the Army Corps is completing repairs to the Leland Bowman Lock near Intracoastal City.
The lock was built to keep salt water from flowing inland in the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, but more salt water than usual has been passing through because the lock was damaged when a barge struck it last September.
The corps has removed and repaired the damaged section, Touchet said, and the repaired section is expected to be back in place by next month.
A few dozen farmers filed a federal lawsuit last week against the company that owns the barge that struck the lock, seeking damages for saltwater intrusion problems that they blame largely on the damaged water-control structure.
The plaintiffs include ranchers, crawfish farmers and rice farmers who depend on fresh water from coastal canals.
"Technically, you have saltwater pollution," said Lafayette attorney Joseph Joy, whose firm filed the lawsuit. "Some people have reduced planting, and some people couldn't plant."