By Amanda Moore, National Wildlife Federation
A crowd of 300 gathered at a school auditorium in St. Bernard Parish last night for the Army Corps of Engineers' MRGO ecosystem restoration public hearing. The Corps presented the highlights of their draft plan for repairing damaged coastal wetlands as well as restoring some of the natural storm surge protection lost because of the infamous shipping channel.
The MRGO Must Go Coalition, a group of 17 environmental and community organizations, has been working with local communities and coastal scientists to critique the draft plan. Community leaders, parish officials, and large landowners echoed many of the Coalition recommendations, including: oyster reef restoration in the Biloxi Marsh and restoring eroded banklines along the MRGO channel.
One major hot-button topic at the hearing was the location of the proposed Violet diversion, which will reconnect the Mississippi River to swamp and marshlands for restoration. While the Corps proposes to locate the diversion in an open cow pasture, MRGO Must Go and a large contingency of community members support locating the diversion in the existing Violet canal corridor to avoid dredging a new channel through the parish.
Two more public meetings are planned in Waveland, Ms. on January 25 and New Orleans, La. on February 3, and the official comment period ends on February 14. View the Coalition’s recommendations and comment online at www.MRGOmustGO.org.