Southern St. Mary Parish
Sunday, April 25, 2004
CC's Journal 15

Twelve year old Jesse Brumfield climbing on a tower deer blind that was moved like
a feather in the wind one quarter mile by Hurricane Lily. The marsh below was moved
with it and rolled up like furrows in a sugar cane field.

Crumpled, ripped up, and displaced one quarter mile (along with a thirty-foot tower deer blind) was a half-mile long strip of flotant marsh located just south of the Intracoastal Waterway in St. Mary Parish. I climbed the blind structure, which was leaning more than twice as much as the famed tower in Pisa, Italy, as Bart and Jesse Brumfield stood on the ridges of scrunched up marsh. It looked like an agricultural field with alternating rows and furrows as perfect as those of a sugar cane farm. A large lake exists where this marsh area formerly floated.

Bart, a sportsman and owner of a small engine repair business, told me this was not a direct problem of coastal erosion, rather, it was the result of Hurricane Lili's onshore winds and waves horizontally compressing this large patch of marsh and flipping it over (in early October of 2002) to where we stood. Later in the day a little to the south of that site I saw the retreating shoreline and conjectured that the storm's damage would not have been so great here if the shoreline had remained at its original location, and the wave shock-absorbing shell reefs that ran from Marsh Island across East Cote Blanche Bay still existed.

When walking on the surface of this flotant, it felt "spongy" and kind of like you were on a giant trampoline. We heard a river otter and saw black-necked stilts fly by. Wildlife stills lives here, but as Bart showed us more and more of these wrecked marsh areas, I could only speculate about the gravity of negative impacts on wildlife of successive storms.

Along the northern shore of East Cote Blanche Bay we looked at weirs that were built to retard salt water entry into canals but also apparently slow down high tide water return to the Gulf. Bart showed us numerous spots along a small unnamed bayou that had rivulets cutting through the thin edge of marsh between the bayou and the bay where the water finds a way to get back into the Gulf.

Though tidal sea level changes, of course, are unstoppable, according to numerous folks we talked to in the Franklin area, the tidal flow comes faster and higher after the above-mentioned reefs were dredged for shells used for surfacing driveways. Those observers called such dredging "greedy stupidity." That's because the dredging companies in the pre-1970's took the shells of both dead and live oysters, when they were supposed to take the shells of only dead bivalves. Sid Richard told me that one day he got a small sack of good eating oysters off one of the dredge barges.

I am inclined to believe that by now the greed is half gone, and the ignorance is almost all gone . . . . the locals, the scientists, and the government agents know what's going on. The problems along the coast change from region to region, and some of the solutions are known. We just need to stand together and implement them.

The strange thing is that despite the regrettable loss of wetlands in the past, we still see lots of marsh, wildlife, and beautiful plant life, but how much more sinking can we take? How many storms can we brace for before the total collapse of this wonderfully wild Louisiana wetland?