Impact of the National Environmental Policy Act

In 1969, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) became law, and in the early 1970s, the COE started preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on its plan to raise the levees and increase flow capacity by enlarging the main channel. The newly emerging environmental community was afraid that the deeper channel would hasten the drying out of the swamp. An agreement was reached between Thomas Kimball of the National Wildlife Federation and General Frederick Clark of the COE that levee raising could continue without an EIS, but that all other work would stop until the EIS was completed. The agreement stated that the COE would involve numerous agencies and individuals in this EIS effort.

The planning group was called the Steering Committee in the early 1970s and later evolved into the Agency Management Group (AMG). By 1981, the draft EIS, with a complex plan, was out for public review. The AMG plan, among other things, involved the purchase of greenbelts along numerous waterways in the basin for both forest preservation and public access.

A Public Relations Failure and a Political Reprieve

Just as the EIS was published, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, also a member of the AMG, made public its own plan to purchase the entire lower basin for the Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge. The five public meetings, instead of focusing comments on all facets of the AMG plan, degenerated into protests against the ''land grab." The public meetings were attended by 1,000 people and generated more than 4,000 written responses. Most complained about the proposed refuge or asked that the floodwaters be carried safely past Morgan City.

In 1982, Governor David Treen of Louisiana worked out a compromise plan that appeared in the Final EIS. The Treen plan called for purchase of 50,000 acres in fee for public access and purchase of flood control and environmental easements for over 367,000 acres of the lower basin to prevent construction of permanent houses and clearing for agriculture. The comprehensive plan, authorized in 1982, also included several features that restored wetlands or slowed their rate of degradation. These features are described below.

Inducing Flow, Reducing Sediment

Low "channel-training" banks will reduce the rate at which sediment spills over banks and fills back swamps, although these structures

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