Friends of New Orleans
Locals head to California for spill talk
By Nikki Buskey
Bayou residents are headed to San Francisco later this month to talk about life in south Louisiana in the year since the Gulf oil spill.
The meeting, hosted by the nonprofit Friends of New Orleans, has Terrebonne and Lafourche residents, including fishermen and United Houma Nation Indian tribe members, traveling across the country to share their insight on the Gulf’s recovery.
Locals say it is important to spread the word about continuing problems.
The hope is to drum up support for Louisiana as the spill and its aftermath begins to fade from national memory.
“There are pockets of people who still see this as a real and ongoing issue, but a whole lot of people may not be aware that this is still a problem,” said Rebecca Templeton, executive director of Bayou Grace, a social-service and environmental nonprofit in Chauvin. She’ll be speaking at the gathering.
Other residents who’ll be speaking are:
– Lance Nacio, a shrimper, owner of Anna Marie Seafood in Dulac and leader of the White Boot Brigade, a fishermen advocacy organization.
– Brenda Dardar-Robichaux, former chief of the United Houma Nation.
– Kirk Cheramie, manager of the United Houma Nation radio station.
– Diane Huhn, environmental-outreach volunteer coordinator for Bayou Grace.
– Sharon and David Gauthe, co-founders of Bayou Interfaith Shared Community Organizing, a nonprofit multi-faith advocacy group.
Templeton said many environmental problems related to the oil spill may still be developing. LSU researchers recently discovered oil-related reproductive and development problems in small marsh fish.
“There are still problems with the claims process even all this time later. And the shrimping season is a disappointment, and fishermen are fearful of it getting worse,” she said.
Even those who have tried to pursue job-retraining programs have difficulty taking advantage of them because they don’t know how they’ll support their families while they’re enrolled, she said.
Dardar-Robichaux said locals went to Washington, D.C., last year on a similar trip. They went to talk with lawmakers and relay what’s happening on the Gulf Coast.
“Unfortunately there’s a perception that our life is back to normal,” Dardar-Robichaux said. “Our people our safe. Our beaches are clean. And those of us who are living here every day know that’s not a reality.”
Sharon Gauthe said she wants to use her time in California to emphasize that coastal-land loss continues.
“We are losing our land, and the people too,” Gauthe said. “We want to make them realize how valuable this area is to the rest of the country.”
It’s particularly important given that Congress is currently considering a bill that would send oil-spill-fine money back to the Gulf Coast to be used for restoration work, Templeton said.
“It’s time for all of us in coastal Louisiana to reach out to people we know in other parts of the United States and engage those people into caring about and advocating for things that will help us survive,” Templeton said.
Staff Writer Nikki Buskey can be reached at 857-2205 or firstname.lastname@example.org.