Emotions run high at spillway town hall meeting

For now, there’s lots of fear and concern, but few answers about improving the situation.
Updated: May. 30, 2019 at 10:18 PM CDT
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D’IBERVILLE, Miss. (WLOX) - Concern is continuing to grow over the historic second opening of the Bonnet Carre Spillway in Louisiana. This second opening is now into its 20th day.

The move was done to prevent the Mississippi River from flooding New Orleans. Now, trillions of gallons of fresh river water is pouring into the Mississippi Sound. That was the topic of a town hall meeting in D’Iberville Thursday evening.

Emotions ran high at the standing room only meeting. Than Nguyen is an oysterman.

“Who’s going to take care of us?" Nguyen asked. "New Orleans is living and we’re over here, like, dying.”

With the opening of the spillway, every marine animal is in danger. That’s the word from oysterman Keith Hudson.

“All our oysters that we just did a relay on back in December, 18,000 sacks, there’s nothing," Hudson said. "There’s no live bait, the fishing industry’s down, you can’t catch crabs. It’s very devastating. Everybody’s upset.”

With dead dolphins washing up every day, potential tourists could look the other way. Linda Hornsby is Director of the Hotel-Motel Association.

“When you have an image of these dolphins, or other sea life, turtles, and that’s shared by social media, it’s hard to get that image out of people’s minds,” Hornsby said.

Businesses that supply the seafood industry are also feeling the pain. Dann Balius owns one.

“It’s getting pretty bad. We’ve not sold any dredges. We build oyster dredges and even in Louisiana it’s pretty much got it shut down where we’re at a standstill,” Balius said.

Even oyster aquaculture reefs off Deer Island have been decimated, according to Nguyen.

“I went out there this morning, grabbed it, brought it in-land and counted it - 85% is dead. And I’m not going to sell the other 15% because it’s a safety issue. So I threw everything back in the ocean,” Nguyen said.

Louisiana received a waiver from the Marine Mammal Protection Act prior to the opening, according to an engineer from New Orleans, Dennis Lambert.

“A lot of people in Louisiana talk about the waiver for the diversions as legislative relief, but these animals don’t understand that and they are suffering,” Lambert said.

For now, there’s lots of fear and concern, but few answers about improving the situation. Those in Thursday night’s crowd are hoping those answers come soon.

Here’s the toll as of Thursday night: 108 dolphins have washed up dead, as well as 141 sea turtles.

Meanwhile, as we first told you about on Tuesday, coast mayors are trying to set up a meeting with the Army Corp of Engineers in Louisiana to discuss the impact of the spillway opening on coastal Mississippi. That agency controls the spillway.

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