Groups Await Ruling On Pipeline Construction Halt Through World's Largest And Most Productive Wetlands

(Photo Credit: NBC News)

(Photo Credit: NBC News)

Atchafalaya Baisnkeeper, Gulf Restoration Network, Waterkeeper Alliance, and Sierra Club are suing the Army Corps of engineers for granting permits that will further degrade and cause irreparable harm tot he Atchafalaya Basin. 

In a recent article by KFLY's Channel 10 News, Jody Meche, president of the Louisiana Crawfish Producers Association-West, said the project will compound flood risks and other pipeline-related problems that have been mounting for years.

“We’re losing our basin,” Meche said.

Scott Eustis, community science director for the Gulf Restoration Network, said the basin is “the crown jewel of wetlands.”

“There is absolutely no place in creation like the Atchafalaya Basin,” he said.

The Basin is the largest and most productive wetlands in the world, rich in wild caught seafood, and over 300 species of migratory birds. It's also a major flood protection, absorbing flood waters from the Mississippi River and protecting millions along its path. 

Located in south Louisiana, the Basin is riddled with oil and gas pipelines that cause spoil banks or man-made levees that are already out of compliance which the Corps refuses to enforce, creating mounds of unaturally high silting that trap more sediment designated for Louisiana's disappearing coast.

"It's not just this pipeline," says Dean Wilson, ABK's Executive Director. "The problems will continue in the Basin unless the issue of environmental enforcement is resolved." 

The plaintiffs are suing the Corps on the grounds that the permits granted to construct the Bayou Bridge Pipeline, a project that finalizes the route of explosive crude oil from North Dakota to south LA refineries for export, were given illegally and prematurely without an Environmental Impact Statement which is required when irreparable harm could potentially be an outcome.

Energy Transfer Partners owned and operated, the pipeline is extremely controversial as the company has already leaked millions of gallons into wetlands across the US. Construction is currently halted on Mariner East 2 pipeline in Pennsylvania due to violations by the company and Rover pipeline which spilled over 150,000 gallons into Ohio wetlands in January.

Bayou Bridge Pipeline crosses over 700 bodies of water and lies in an already out of compliance corridor, according Atchafalaya Basinkeeper, a plaintiff in the case challenging the basis of the permit.

On February 8th, the groups presented testimony to a federal judge in regards to the preliminary injunction which pleads for construction to be stopped until the case has been settled.

In determining whether the Corps was capricious, Judge Dick has yet to rule on the grounds of the pending case. In court, she agreed with the plaintiffs, that irreparable harm had already been caused, but the groups await a ruling on whether or not construction must be stopped in order to prevent further irreparable harm including the demolition of the state's legacy cypress trees which stood prior to the Louisiana purchase alongside the danger of dredging in high water season which has the effect of backfilling swamps and brings more sediment into areas that are already unnaturally high.

During the hearing, attorneys for Bayou Bridge claimed the company would spend $20 million to mitigate the area of damage - their plans consists of regenerating hardwood forests nearly 50 miles outside of the construciton zone, where the company can reap carbon credits. 

"The state of Louisiana should not reward polluters with more incentives and tax credits to further degrade the swamp," says Wilson. "If anything, we should be making them pay for the damages caused and prevent the destruction of the wetlands alltogether by enforcing environmental laws."

Share if you think the Corps should enforce environmental laws in the Atchafalaya Basin and the world’s largest wetland to combat Louisiana's sinking coast and protect against major Mississippi River flooding.

Live footage: