Just last month I took an amazing airboat ride in the Barataria Preserve of Jean Lafitte National Historical Park, just 38 miles north of the Gulf of Mexico and saw alligators, fish, turtles, nutria, birds, Spanish moss, bald cypress (which can live to be 1,000 years old) and live oaks (that live hundreds of years, too). The guide, a Cajun who grew up in the area, discussed how these living things all were interconnected to make the bayou what it is. The air was sweet and clean and I could understand why people have loved this place and made a living of hunting, fishing and trapping. The bayou isn't just a swamp. It is a way of life!
The bayou is a French word meaning slow-moving waterway. It is an offshoot of the Mississippi River and forms a delta at the river's mouth. It took a thousand years of annual spring flooding for the silt and sediments to develop this unique region. But it's taken only the past 60 years of human activity to endanger it.
Saltwater intrusion and erosion threaten to destroy 60 percent of the bayou by 2040, said Richard Campanella, associate director of the Center for Bioenvironmental Research at Tulane University. He spoke recently at the American Planning Association (APA) conference in New Orleans.
The reason this is happening is due in part to the activities of the oil and gas industry. This oil spill will surely speed up the process.