Sale of Toledo Bend’s water

January 27, 2012

http://theadvocate.com/news/opinion/1847057-123/sale-of-toledo-bends-water.html

As chairman of the Louisiana Wildlife Federation’s Coastal Restoration and Protection Committee, a lifelong outdoorsman and coastal resident, I have followed closely the recent stories and reports from across the state regarding the proposed sale of water from Toledo Bend Reservoir to the state of Texas.

I have seen firsthand the loss of thousands of acres of my favorite hunting and fishing areas in Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes, washed away by coastal erosion and saltwater intrusion resulting from man’s altering of the natural flow of our state’s freshwater river systems.

Political tampering with water allocations from the Toledo Bend Reservoir threatens to create a similar, potentially disastrous situation in southwest Louisiana. The long-term effects of this obviously rash decision could certainly endanger the future health of the entire Sabine River watershed below the impoundment dam, through accelerated land loss and increased saltwater intrusion, impacting wildlife, fisheries, homes, businesses and livelihoods all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.

While the marshes of southwest Louisiana historically have been more stable than those nearer the Mississippi River, they, too, are being damaged by salt water, slowly traveling up through the Calcasieu Ship Channel and the Intracoastal Waterway, not to mention, the devastating blows dealt from hurricanes Rita and Ike in recent years. These wetlands around Sabine Pass and Southwest Louisiana for decades have been some of the most productive duck and goose wintering grounds in the country, and the area hosts a tremendous farming, livestock and aquaculture industry. They provide great saltwater and freshwater fishing opportunities, and Toledo Bend is known throughout the nation as a premier recreational boating and fishing destination.

The Louisiana Wildlife Federation certainly understands the state’s need for ample drinking water supplies for its citizens and neighboring states, especially with the ongoing drought conditions the area is facing, but we also recognize the vital part that same water plays in protecting and sustaining the healthy, balanced environment of the Sabine River Basin, threatened, once again, by man’s intervention.

As a concerned sportsman, I believe that gambling for profit with one of our state’s most valuable natural resources and jeopardizing the future of one of our last reasonably stable coastal environments is unacceptable, recognizing that we have undeniable proof of what the mismanagement of our freshwater tributaries can do.

I and other conservationists across Louisiana urge our state officials and the Sabine River Authority to carefully and cautiously consider the effects of diverting more freshwater from the Sabine River Basin with a comprehensive water management plan before signing any contracts that further commit our state’s obligation to sell our precious natural resources.

Barney Callahan, chairman
Louisiana Wildlife Federation
Thibodaux