By Chris Pulaski, National Wildlife Federation
Next in our Faces of the Delta series, you will meet Father Roch Naquin: Isle de Jean Charles native and current resident, priest and coastal restoration advocate.
Name: Father Roch Naquin
Location: Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana
Tell me about your connection to south Louisiana. I was born and raised about 100 feet from my current home in Isle de Jean Charles, La. I was born at 2:00 am on September 25, 1932 to Joseph and Irena Naquin, number four of six children (three boys and three girls). I joined the St. Joseph Seminary in St. Benedict/Covington area north of New Orleans and was there until 1962. I then served across southeast Louisiana until my retirement in 1997.
What does south Louisiana mean to you? It means home. It is the place where I grew up and the place to stay. It’s special because I learned to appreciate everything the area has to offer: livelihood, peace, food and outdoor opportunities (fishing, trapping, hunting and the ability to grow our own crops). Before the road to the island was built and before the television existed, there was more of a family sense of closeness. On Sundays, you would go from house to house to visit. Trips into town were rare and involved taking a pirogue to the highway and a bus from there to Houma.
What are your favorite things about the area? I still love the opportunities that the area has to offer, although it is a bit different now that you are required to have a license to hunt and fish. I love the sense of community and oneness of the community, the sense of quaintness that the island has (although not as much now that there are a lot of camps and marinas in the area) and the natural beauty of the island.
Why do you think coastal restoration efforts are important and what obstacles do you see hindering restoration? The Gulf is determined to expand. It will take over anything in its way unless there is real interference. It is doing its job. It is doing what it does best which is to destroy. The existing levees cut off sustenance so the marsh can't be nourished. So we are left at the mercy of the Gulf. Manmade canals provide access for saltwater and storm surge to travel further into the marsh, so the storms do not have to be as strong to destroy. The area used to not flood.
The needed sediment for restoration is in the river. We need to pipe or barge it to where it's needed. We need barriers closer to the big lakes. Unless that happens, the inland areas we are protecting now will one day become coast.
What do you fear losing if we don’t take action to restore coastal Louisiana? Seafood. The oil industry. The state and national organizations working on coastal restoration need to help paint the picture for the rest of the nation.
What should people around the country know about efforts to protect this area from another powerful storm that they don’t already know? A Category 5 storm would carry everything to higher land and put us on the beach. There is no stability in the areas.
How do you feel about the suggestion that the people of Isle de Jean Charles move? People don't realize what it means to uproot.
How do you think restoring the wetlands will help the people and economy of the Mississippi River Delta? Areas like the island could begin farming and trapping again. The fur industry could be rebuilt (raccoons and otters, not nutria). The fishing could be improved through increased health in the estuaries.