Mary Tutwiler

Every grain of sand

by Mary Tutwiler

With the peak of hurricane season approaching, all eyes are focusing on Louisiana’s industrial Achilles heel, Port Fourchon. Coastal erosion at the tip of Lafourche Parish has exposed the energy hub directly to the Gulf of Mexico. Only a beach, which is daily washing away, stands between potential disaster and pipelines handling 90 percent of the crude oil coming ashore from the Gulf’s 3,700 offshore platforms, according to the Associated Press. That adds up to 15 percent of the nation’s crude oil flowing to inland refineries. The story states that “a direct hit from a strong Category 3 storm or worse could cripple the facility for weeks and create a national energy crisis overnight.”

While the beaches wash away, federal agencies including the Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Emergency Management Agency quibble over how the shoreline restoration projects and breakwaters will be funded.

“Every storm, the beach rolls back. We’re getting to a critical point now,” Chett Chaisson, the port’s economic development director told the AP. “We keep telling that story and the money just doesn’t come. We know that the port is going to be a little island out there in the water that you have to get to by an elevated highway.” But, he added, “if it totally goes, this country has a big problem ... It’s much cheaper to protect this port than it is to try and build it somewhere else.”