Oct. 19, 2005 12:00
I want to say thank you to The Independent for the story about the runway built at Rockefeller Refuge ("Unclear Landing," Aug. 31). As a member of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Commission, I am very upset that LDWF spent in excess of $1.5 million to build a runway that LDWF does not need. In response to a letter that I wrote to Secretary Dwight Landreneau after learning of this runway being built, he wrote back and said one of the uses of this runway would be to evacuate the medically needy when a hurricane is approaching Cameron Parish. As you know, Cameron Parish took a direct hit from hurricane Rita. The patients of the hospital in Cameron and the residents of the nursing home in Cameron were all evacuated by ground ambulances. They did not use any helicopter ambulances in this evacuation and had the runway been usable, they would not have used the runway for fixed-wing air ambulances.

Cameron Parish was hit with a 10-foot tidal surge that washed away houses and moved barges across Highway 82, and the runway was covered by this tidal surge, so it was not used in hurricane relief and rescue operations after Rita passed. Rockefeller Refuge sustained major damage due to Rita. I wonder how much damage was caused to the runway by this 10-foot tidal surge? Because of this wasted spending on this runway that LDWF does not need, we have $1.5 million less money in the Rockefeller Trust Fund to repair and rebuild Rockefeller. This $1.5 million could have been better spent protecting the 23 miles of coastline of Rockefeller Refuge. The LDWF Commission does not have budget authority over LDWF to continue to throw away Rockefeller trust fund money in the future. It's typical old-time politics in Louisiana ' build a runway to pay back a political favor.