The Secretary of the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries as administrator of Louisiana’s Scenic Rivers System is currently considering Bayou Teche, a 135-mile waterway that begins near Port Barre and flows to the Lower Atchafalaya River, for inclusion as a designated Historic and Scenic River in Louisiana’s Scenic Rivers System.
Bayou Teche was requested to be studied for the listing by a Louisiana House resolution presented during the 2012 regular session. The resolution’s sponsors were Reps. Stephen Oretga, Taylor Barras, Simone Champagne, Mike Huval, Sam Jones, Terry Landry and Bernard Lebas; and Sens. Bret Allain, Norby Chabert, Gerald Long, Jean-Paul Morrell and Dan Morrish.
Hearings are set in Baldwin, New Iberia and Arnaudville.
Friday’s hearing will be at the West Branch Library, 100 Charenton Road, Baldwin, at 6:30 p.m.
The system was created in 1970 by the legislature “for the purpose of preserving, protecting, developing, reclaiming and enhancing the wilderness qualities, scenic beauties and ecological regimes of certain free-flowing Louisiana streams,” according to the program’s website at http://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/scenic-rivers.
Some 3,000 miles of waterways have since been designated.
“These rivers, streams and bayous, and segments thereof, are located throughout the state and offer a unique opportunity for individuals and communities to become involved in the protection, conservation and preservation of two of Louisiana’s greatest natural resources; its wilderness and its water,” according to the state site.
There are two divisions of scenic rivers: “Natural and scenic,” characterized by such waterways as the Ouachita River in north central Louisiana, the Tchefuncte River in St. Tammany Parish and Bayou Chaperon in St. Bernard Parish.
The other division is “historic and scenic rivers” for which the Teche has been nominated. Examples are Bayou St. John in Orleans Parish and Bayou Manchac which runs from the Amite River to the Mississippi River near Baton Rouge.
With designation comes certain regulatory provisions. These include:
—Road, railroad, pipeline and utility crossings. Permits can be applied for.
—Prospecting, drilling and mining for natural resources.
—Signs visible from waters within a designated river.
—Piers, boat slips, bulkheads, houseboats and landings
—Activities, use and access
All existing residential, business, commercial and industrial interests as well as structures and uses are grandfathered if a waterway receives approval to the program.
“When a stream, river or bayou becomes a Louisiana designated Scenic River, that designation involves the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries in an important way,” said Keith Cascio, Scenic Rivers coordinator. “When new activities or uses of the bayou are proposed, LDWF looks at those activities from a unique perspective.”
Cascio said LDWF considers how the proposed new use will impact the bayou’s ability to continue or improve support in such areas as:
—Fish and wildlife resources
–Historical and cultural features
—Scenic and aesthetic qualities
—The general health of the bayou (ecology and water quality)
“In short, the ability of the bayou to continue to support (and hopefully improve) its present uses, condition and setting,” Cascio said. “There is an adage in real estate business that says ‘If you want to own property with a view, you need to buy the property and the view.’ In the case of a designated Scenic River, you can just buy the property because LDWF is charged with protecting/preserving the view.”
Cascio said all activities proposed that have a potential for significant ecological impact to a Scenic River and require a permit are required to go out on public notice. “This gives the public, particularly those who live along the bayou, the opportunity to have a voice in how such activities are undertaken,” he said. “LDWF takes comments from the public regarding such activities quite seriously.”
There are also potential benefits to agricultural operations adjacent to the bayou interested in participating in certain competitive government funded programs like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program that benefit the streams water quality, he said. Being adjacent to a designated Scenic River has a higher point value in the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service’s ranking system.
The public is invited to attend and provide comments. Written comments may be submitted now and will be accepted for a period of five days after the last hearing date. Written comments should be submitted to:
Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Scenic Rivers Program, P.O. Box 98000, Baton Rouge, LA 70898