So Much Diversion on This Louisiana Diversion Project

It appears as though, not surprisingly, politics and money have long been involved in the three-billion dollar Mid-Barataria Diversion Project on Louisiana’s coastline.

The project is pivotal to the state’s coastal master plan to restore a century of lost wetlands and damage from the largest oil spill ever to occur in US waters back in 2010, when the Deepwater Horizon suffered an explosion and sank, causing the largest oil spill ever to occur in US waters. Reparation fees paid by BP, however, have created once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to restore Louisiana’s coastal wetlands and fish habitat.

In other words, it would undo more than just oil spill damage, perhaps a most fortuitous treasure produced by the law of unintended consequences.

However, there are politics here that are apparently producing some strange handshakes. One involves Republican Lt Governor Billy Nungesser, who is trying to kill the venture before it can even get off the ground. According to at least one source, this is because Nungesser’s friends in the oyster business either want the project killed or more money. Additionally, the oyster harvesters have teamed up with a far far left environment group called Earth Island Institute out of Berkeley, California to file suit to stop the project.

Earth Island Institute is an international environmental organization and fiscal sponsor to more than seventy-five projects working in the areas of conservation, wildlife protection, climate change solutions, women’s environmental leadership, Indigenous communities, sustainable agriculture and food systems, community resilience, environmental justice, and more. The organization also includes a legal division, Earth Island Advocates; a youth leadership program, New Leaders Initiative; and an award-winning magazine, Earth Island Journal. Founded in 1982 by legendary environmentalist David Brower, Earth Island Institute is one of the leading environmental activist organizations in the United States.

Not exactly what one would traditionally dub “conservative.”

Here is a passage from the specific article on the website, from those against the diversion:

Local commercial fishing organizations, health advocates, and conservationists filed a lawsuit today to halt the massive Army Corps of Engineers Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion Project in Louisiana.

The purpose of the project is to attempt to build up sediment in the Basin, which is subject to erosion, subsidence, and sea level rise. But in doing so, the project will introduce fresh water into a saline environment, bury existing wetlands, and release extensive toxic contaminants into the Basin environment.

Serious impacts include disruption and a likely end to many local fishing companies that are critical to the local economy and provide sustainable jobs to many local residents. Fishers are well aware of the impacts of these kinds of massive projects on the local habitat that they depend on for their livelihoods and work to preserve for their way of life.

“This project is the single biggest man-made disaster to ever hit Louisiana fisheries,” said Mitch Jurisich, a fourth-generation commercial fisherman and plaintiff. “We rebounded after the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. We won’t rebound from this. It will wipe out fisheries, our culture, and our way of life. It will be over for my son and grandchild.”

West Plaquemine’s Parish supports the largest oyster fishery in the U.S. and a vibrant local economy. The fishers here grow oysters by creating coastal reefs and protecting water quality. Jurisich is proud to be an environmental steward. “Living oyster reefs are indicators of good water quality and an invaluable part of ecosystems — like coral reefs,” he says. Jurisich is president of the Louisiana Oyster Task Force, and he owns Delta Marina in Empire, Louisiana, that services a large local fishing fleet.

There will be more on the specific Plaquemines side of things to come in a future article.

The diversion project has undergone extensive permitting and approval processes over the last decade-plus. It was even fast tracked by the Trump administration. All in all, about $2.9 billion in oil spill penalties are projected to be spent. So, it’s not technically state money, but it is money that the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and a group of federal agencies called the “Trustee Implementation Group” has earmarked for Louisiana to be spent on the project.

My source said, as so many do, that s/he would prefer the following information be used as “background” without quotes. S/he said s/he worked not to embellish any of it, but a lot of it was shared from lawmakers and others who know the ins and outs, but aren’t ever going to say them on the record. Make what you will of it, reader:

The prospect of losing the $420 million investment [on both pre-project construction and construction] already made in this project and the possibility of additional penalties paid from state funds is extremely troubling. I’m not sure the state’s coastal fund or general fund can absorb hundreds of millions in penalties for not moving forward with this project without jeopardizing other vital coastal restoration and hurricane protection projects.

I’m not hearing a lot of arguments against the science behind this project. This has become a political debate. For 50 years, coastal wetlands scientists and fisheries and wildlife biologists have been warning of the kind of collapse we see in the Barataria Basin and recommending the river be reconnected to its delta. The science behind the project has been more rigorously examined than any other project in state history. There are certain to be some impacts to fisheries as they are now,  but the positive effects far outweigh the negatives.

The Lt Governor was on the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority in 2012 when the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion was in the coastal master plan and he voted to approve that plan. He is on the CPRA board now and just two months ago voted to approve a 2025 fiscal year plan that included more than $400 million in spending on the project. The legislature, including representatives from Plaquemines, Jefferson, Lafourche, have all consistently voted to approve Master Plans and Annual Plans that call for sediment diversions. It’s hard to make sense of why he would vote to approve the project multiple times, give CPRA the go ahead to spend money but then try to stop the project from being built after the money has been spent and when the state could face significant financial penalties for not moving forward.

Certainly, there will be negative effects to oysters in the immediate outfall area of the diversion. But there is also roughly 30-40 square miles of open water north of Grand Isle that will become suitable oyster habitat when the project is operating. Right now, there is virtually no oyster production in western Barataria Bay because, in part, the salinities are too high. That area could become prime oyster habitat in the next decade. We also have to consider the effects on other fish like redfish, crabs, flounder that will all benefit from the project. All of those fish have seen season closures or reductions in limits in the last decade because production is down with marsh loss.

I have heard from multiple local small and large businesses who were working with the main contractor to supply boats, steel, electrical work and materials. Some of them have spent money already to buy and build equipment needed for the project, and now they are being told to stand down. Some of them are concerned they will have to absorb the costs, which is going to be very difficult. They don’t want to be tied up in litigation. They want to be a part of building this project.

In recent Senate Natura Resources and Transportation Committee meetings, it was revealed by Senators Patrick Connick and Gary Carter that if construction does not move forward, the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority–or the state’s general fund–could be liable for anywhere from $250-$500 million in penalties for contract violations. The money for the project comes from two restricted pots of money that flow from fines that followed the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, both of which are by law dedicated to specific projects that address damages from the spill.

Should the state find itself in litigation with the contractor hired to do the project or have to pay the penalties, it seems that money would have to come from state funds. CPRA Chairman Gordon Dove told the committee, in effect, “If the state has to cover those penalties, we have the money, [but] we don’t want to spend the money but we can.”

Here is the Fox 8 news segment on the hit the state could take, which includes the connection to the oyster industry and its families, which in turn connects to Republican Nungesser.

It is true that politics make strange bedfellows at times, but this seems a little beyond that, especially in the minds of those whose lives will be drastically affected. It’s a huge mess that crosses party lines, and once again, while we don’t know for sure, it appears this could be a classic case of money talks.

May everyone named directly or referenced indirectly ask forgiveness and do penance for their sins against America and God. I fight this information war in the spirit of justice and love for the innocent, but I have been reminded of the need for mercy and prayers for our enemies. I am a sinner in need of redemption as well, for my sins are many. In the words of Jesus Christ himself, Lord forgive us all, for we know not what we do.

Jeff LeJeune is the author of several books, writer for RVIVR, editor, master of English and avid historian, teacher and tutor, aspiring ghostwriter and podcaster, and creator of LeJeune Said. Visit his website at, where you can find a conglomerate of content.



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