The Great Bayou Debate

The latest blog entry from Brianne Wood during her weeklong community rebuilding experience in New Orleans:

Wednesday, November 5

Today we partnered with Bayou Rebirth to plant and restore natural grasses and marsh plants.  We sat through a great presentation from Fish and Wildlife to discuss the impact and erosion occurring in the Delta and waterways of New Orleans. There are many issues surrounding why New Orleans got hit as hard as it did by Hurricane Katrina, followed by Hurricane Gustav.

Without going into the entire presentation, the gist was that there are a multitude of problems and very few solutions.  We need to find a solution to help the Mississippi River divert its water flow and silt deposits.  This will restore natural “speed bumps” to slow down hurricanes off the coast, contribute to the health and well being of the bayou, and most importantly eliminate unnatural land mass build up in the canals, which makes it impossible for the oil and trade industries to import and export easily.  New Orleans constantly has to dredge the bottom of the canals in order to keep it deep enough for transport, creating a sunken basin effect and putting New Orleans further below sea level. 

The question was raised as to why the city doesn’t allow the Mississippi River to run as it intends and wants to, or create overflow pathways which would eliminate the over distribution of silt and materials.  The answer was “people are in way.”  The best solution for the environment causes the most challenging solution for the people in and around the city.

Hmmm … I sat feeling torn.  Which side is right, which side do I support?

On one hand I spent the past two days helping a family rebuild the house and home they lost.   I felt pride and honor in knowing the ripple we were creating for the neighborhood.

Then I learn that unless affirmative actions are taken to restore the coast and create a natural shelf off the coast of New Orleans, hurricanes will have nothing stopping or slowing their path; the levees will more than likely be broken again and these same people will once again be in need.

I got my answer when we revisited Miss Linda Ebarb.  When I told her I worked for Timberland she told me her husband always wanted a pair of our boots but they were expensive and they couldn’t justify spending the money.  I told her to give me their shoe sizes and I would see what I could do, but couldn’t make any promises.  She broke down into tears and hugged me.  She said we had already given her so much, she couldn’t ask for anything else.  I knew in my heart then that supporting the Ebarbs and people like them is really what needs to happen, at least for the short term.  We need to give people back not just their houses but their homes and maybe we make things a little bit better, a little bit greener and give people a little more hope for the future.

What needs to happen is for pressure to be put on oil companies and other shipping companies to be part of the solution and not just part of the problem. That could have the potential to be our happy medium.  It wouldn’t be best solution for either party, but it sure would be a good place to start.

The great bayou debate will continue but for today, I did my part … I planted much-needed marsh grasses, got stuck in the mud and had a lot of laughs in the process.  This is my new favorite team building exercise; there’s something to be said for helping to pull your coworkers (sporting waist-high waders) out of a pile of stinky sloppy mud!

You can read more about the experience and impact Brianne and her teammates are having this week on the In Good Company blog.

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