Bonnet Carre opening has oyster fishermen on edge

Bonnet Carre opening has oyster fishermen on edge

MISSISSIPPI SOUND (WLOX) - One proposed flood relief measure in Louisiana has Mississippi fishermen on edge - the planned opening of the Bonnet Carre spillway in Louisiana.

The concern is about how much freshwater will flow into the Mississippi Sound.

The spillway opening in 2011 prompted a disaster declaration for Mississippi's oyster industry because the reefs were damaged so badly by the freshwater intrusion; leaving oyster fishermen more than a little worried.

Oyster boats are docked in the old Pass Christian Harbor, and there's been little work for oyster fishermen this year during the 10-day season.

"I just bought a boat and can't make no money, so it's pretty frustrating," said Dickey Ray Payne.

Payne certainly isn't alone in his frustrations. Recent years have brought one challenge after another to the struggling oyster industry. The start of this season showed promise.

"There's oysters so thick you can get them in, in 45 minutes you can get 15 sacks," said Payne.

Instead, stacks of empty sacks lie aboard tied-up oyster boats. The season was closed by the red tide Dec. 11.

The timing couldn't have been much worse. Just as fishermen were getting news that the red tide was being knocked down by the cold weather, news came about the planned opening of the spillway.

"That's really going to ruin the oystering right there. They do that, it's. They do that, it's ruined. It might not even open none this year," said Payne.

But the opening of the Bonnet Carre spillway doesn't necessarily spell doom.

"The opening of the Bonne Carre spillway has not always resulted in damage to the oyster reefs. The one in 2011 obviously is the one that we remember the best, and that did do quite a bit of damage to our oyster reefs. However, that's not always the case," said Melissa Scallan, with the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources.

The DMR will closely monitor the reefs for any potential impact.

Meanwhile, Payne is making other plans for his new fishing boat.

"I'm trying to make it. Trying to get something going. Have to go crabbing or something I guess. I don't know.   I'm going to  make it work," said Payne.

The DMR will be closely monitoring the potential impact to Mississippi's oyster reefs. They'll have equipment in place to measure things like salinity and dissolved oxygen levels.

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