“The opening of the Bonnet Carre Spillway has put St. Bernard Parish fisheries at Ground Zero. The impact of the freshwater inundation has been nothing short of devastating for those who make a living from harvesting Louisiana seafood. The people of our parish are feeling the stressful effects of this natural disaster.
Financial losses by fishermen and seafood processors are significant and the disaster created by the opening of the spillway is threatening livelihoods and our culture. Families who have been fishing for a living for generations are faced with the realization that their trade is under siege.
Marine life is dying at record levels. Shrimp, oyster, crab and fin fish harvests are experiencing epic declines. Fishing tourism is negatively impacted. Every business that thrives from seafood harvesting is now undergoing financial hardships.
In 2011, a federal fisheries emergency was declared under similar circumstances. Today, Congress and the President must declare a federal fisheries emergency once again. I am calling on Congress and President Donald Trump to act swiftly to provide financial aid to our Gulf seafood harvesters and those businesses directly related to Gulf seafood harvesting.
Since 1992, the U.S. Commerce Department has declared more than 80 fisheries disasters under federal law. There is no good reason why U.S Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross shouldn’t submit and approve a declaration that would result in federal aid to affected Gulf seafood harvesters.
Our seafood harvesters should be treated with the same compassion and concern that was shown to farmers who suffered from natural disasters. On June 6th, President Trump signed into law a $19 billion disaster aid bill to help farmers in at least six states weather the natural disasters of flooding, hurricanes and wildfires. There needs to be a companion bill signed into law to help Gulf seafood harvesters and related businesses survive the draining of the Mississippi into our fisheries.
Gone are the days of 80s and 90s when the spillway opened only once each decade. The new norm is the spillway opening year after year. This year we experienced two openings for a record-setting length of time. We are operating on a 1928 plan, and with record amounts of water flowing down to Louisiana, we can’t continue to consider 1920s engineering to be good enough.
It’s time for Congress and the President to reexamine flood control policies. There needs to be better water and wetlands management throughout the entire Mississippi River basin. Congress should convene a comprehensive hearing on flood control and floodplain wetlands to consider ways to prevent regular catastrophic freshwater releases. 90 plus years after the 1928 Flood Control Act it’s time to rewrite a modern-day plan that better deals with the environment we are accustomed to today.
Finally, Congress must require the 30 other states that drain into the Mississippi to do their parts to manage the flow of water. Better management of water flow upriver may lessen the burden on Louisiana and the Gulf harvesting that supplies the world. Today, I am proud to have the full support of our Parish Council, State and Federal Representatives when calling for aid for our seafood harvesters and relief for St. Bernard through better management of flood control.”