Nov 29, 2011 7:39 PM by Maddie Garrett

Saltwater Intrusion Causes State of Emergency

Vermilion Parish is now under a state of emergency because of severe saltwater intrusion. The problem has been building for several months and is caused by severe drought, several breaches in saltwater barriers along the Mermentau basin, and damage to the Leland Bowman Locks.

Vermilion Parish Police Jury President Wayne Touchet said he is worried.

"We are worried about the farmers who depend on the freshwater in the Mermentau basin," said Touchet. "The basin gives freshwater to every aspect of agriculture in the western portion of the parish."

Higher levels of saltwater intrusion threaten rice, crawfish, and alligator farming industries, not to mention the endangered whooping cranes that nest in the basin.

While there are many factors that contribute to saltwater intrusion, the Touchet points out there are only a few they can fix and they want to get started on those immediately.

"We can't make it rain and we can't get the Corps to go any faster on repairing the locks, they're doing everything they humanly can now. But one thing we can do is at least plug the breach in the Freshwater Bayou," said Touchet.

The damage at Leland Bowman Locks has gotten a lot of attention lately. But Chris Accardo, Chief of Operations in New Orleans for the Army Corps of Engineers, said it's not one of the major causes the high levels of salt water. The drought is the main cause.

"And a lot of people are trying to blame the damage from the lock on this problem and that's totally false. You had problems before the lock was damaged," explained Accardo.

Still, Accardo said the Corps is expediting the repair process. Meanwhile Touchet is pushing to repair breaches in other barriers along the Mermentau Basin, specifically at Freshwater Bayou.



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