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PLENARY SESSION 5: luncheon keynote speech Investment and Sustainability on the Bayou Kay McKinley, PBS&J (Moderator) Michael Tidwell, Author of Bayou Farewell C onference chair Kay McKinley introduced key- there are some 4,000 oil platforms serving 35,000 wells note speaker Michael Tidwell, author of Bayou in the Gulf of Mexico stretching across a distance equiv- Farewell . She explained that the organizing alent to that from Washington, D.C., to Philadelphia, committee had asked Mr. Tidwell to discuss the nexus Pennsylvania. between transportation investment and environmental Mr. Tidwell cited National Academy of Sciences stud- sustainability. ies confirming the effects of climate change and provided Mr. Tidwell opened his remarks by noting that "forg- heartening information about tools to combat climate ing a sustainable future now" was an excellent and change in the United States. He noted that transporta- timely theme for the conference, particularly given the tion and policy professionals can support these efforts recent occurrence of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. by creating livable and walkable communities to reduce Mr. Tidwell recounted his experiences along the bayous greenhouse gas emissions. He indicated that if the cul- of southern Louisiana that serve as a marine transporta- ture, economy, and wetlands of southern Louisiana are tion highway for crabbers and shrimpers. to be preserved, we all need to move in a new direction. Mr. Tidwell related that southern Louisiana is one of Mr. Tidwell thanked conference attendees for their con- the fastest-disappearing land masses in the United States tributions and invited questions from the audience. and that 50 acres of land are lost due to erosion every day. The levees block the natural flow of the Missis- Question: With all due respect to everything that has sippi, which no longer deposits silt in the bayou. When been said, is it not true that New Orleans would not the silt is not replenished, it compacts and sinks. Today, exist today without its levee system? the bayou is starved for nutrients and sediments and is Answer: There have been many unintended conse- losing a land mass equivalent to the size of Manhattan quences of the levees. The Army Corps of Engineers has every 10 months. The degradation of the bayou's barrier developed a levee system that has tamed the three longest islands is the main reason why Hurricane Katrina was so rivers in the United States. The problem is that they are destructive. Mr. Tidwell urged the adoption of a system- completely plugged and do not drain. The levees have an atic environmental preservation program to rebuild the equal and opposite effect and are responsible for erasing wetlands and barrier islands of the bayou. a land mass the size of Delaware. The goals are to have Mr. Tidwell stated that the oil and gas industry has the river and the culture at the same time. We need to dredged 10,000 miles of navigation channels in the create sediment diversions in the levee system allowing interior of the bayou to provide access to these natural the water to flow out in the spring and deposit sediments resources, with the width of these channels having dou- in the shallow bays and rebuild the land mass. The goal bled in recent years. Mr. Tidwell indicated that today is to mimic the natural function of the river. 49
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