HCR 68 Continues Study of Bayou Teche

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House Concurrent Resolution 68 by Representative Stephen Ortego has passed the Louisiana Legislature and continues the study of Bayou Teche for designation as a Historic and Scenic River under the Louisiana Scenic Rivers Act. HCR 68 focuses the study on the portions of Bayou Teche flowing through St. Martin Parish and St. Landry Parish. HCR 49 in last year’s (2012) legislature had requested La Dept of Wildlife and Fisheries to study inclusion of the entire length of Bayou Teche in four parishes. Three public hearings conducted in mid March of this year identified much more support for the idea in the northern parishes. The new concurrent resolution identifies the northernmost approximately 55 mile section of the bayou for Scenic Rivers designation. You can see the final resolution at http://www.legis.la.gov/legis/ViewDocument.aspx?d=838866&n=HCR68%20Enrolled

Opposition in the parishes of St. Mary and Iberia came from sugar farmers, barge operators and property owners who feared that regulation by LDWF would restrict their ability to conduct commerce. This despite assurances from LDWF Scenic Rivers program manager Keith Cascio that existing activities would be allowed to continue (grandfathered). In St. Martin and St. Landry Parishes property owners, tourist businesses and public officials made statements in support of designation because a state permit system for new construction within 100 ft of the bayou will help to protect scenic value and water quality along the bayou, and would increase LDWF oversight of trash and unauthorized pollutant discharges to the bayou.

The effort to obtain Historic and Scenic Rivers status for Bayou Teche is being lead by Sierra Club Delta Chapter with active support of Teche Project, a group that works to enhance public awareness and recreation on the bayou. The long term vision is for Bayou Teche to be the backbone of a scenic byway that supports boaters, bicycle riders, walkers and automobile tourists with historic stops and supportive tourism related businesses located along the bayou. Lots of work on the part of Teche Project and dozens of supporting partner organizations has already been done to clean up the bayou. Historic and Scenic Rivers designation is a natural fit for a vision that will enhance public appreciation of the waterway by helping to protect scenic value and water quality.

Public meetings will be held in communities along Bayou Teche this year in order to answer questions and gain support for a bill which would be introduced in the 2014 legislative session to make the formal designation. If you are interested in helping with this effort please contact Haywood Martin, Sierra Club Delta Chapter Chair at hrmartin2sc@gmail.com.

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