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Orange Grove Opposition Letters Sent To USACE and Terrebonne Parish Government

These are the formal letters of opposition we sent to the Army Corps of Engineers and Terrebonne Parish government in reference to Orange Grove on behalf of recreational anglers.

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Letter Sent To Terrebonne Parish Coastal Restoration and Preservation

Mr. Mart Black
Director
Terrebonne Parish Coastal Restoration and Preservation Government Tower
8026 Main St., 7th Floor
Houma, LA 70360

Re.: Orange Grove Closure. LA DNR CUPNO P20200273 and TPCG Local Coastal Use Permit No. 1773, TP200315

Dear Mr. Black:

I am writing on behalf of my client, the Louisiana Sportsmen’s Coalition (“LASC”), to object to the approval of TPCG Local Coastal Use Permit No. 1773, TP200315, and the proposed approval of LA DNR CUPNO P20200273. These permits will enable the installation of gates which will block public access to canals in the Orange Grove Field in Terrebonne Parish. As you probably know, Orange Grove is one of the most popular public recreational fishing areas in the Bayou Black/Gibson area of Terrebonne Parish. The public has had the unrestricted use of this area for recreational purposes including fishing, hunting, boating, bird and wildlife watching, etc. for almost 70 years. The same can be said for many other canals in this area that are adjacent to or connected to the Intracoastal Waterway. Posted signs were installed last week, resulting in a public outcry objecting to the proposed closure.

Based upon a review of publically available information, it is my understanding that the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, Office of Coastal Management received an application for a coastal use permit (“CUPNO-P20200273”) on March 12, 2020,and acknowledged on March 25, 2020. The public notice date was March 30, 2020. On April 29, 2020, without a public hearing or public comment or input, your office issued Local Coastal Use Permit No. 1772, TP200315. Your office did issue a Public Meeting Notice of the Terrebonne Parish Coastal Zone Management & Restoration Advisory Committee for Tuesday, June 2, 2020 which includes an agenda item to approve CUPNO P20200273.

To say that the members of the LASC, as well as members of the general public who have contacted us, are alarmed and concerned, is an understatement. As a result, we are filing this letter objecting to the approval by your office of both Local Coastal Use Permit No. 1773, TP200315, and the proposed approval by your office of LA DNR CUPNO P20200273 due to the unconstitutional lack of due process to afford the public its legal right to the opportunity, ability, and access to provide input into these matters.

As you are aware, Louisiana is still in the midst of dealing with the Coronavirus Pandemic outbreak, and that Governor John Bel Edwards has issued at least 4 Executive Orders to deal with the matter including JBE Proclamation No. 25-2020 effective March 11, 2020 Declaring a Public Health Emergency due to Covid-19, JBE 2020-27(March 13, 2020), JBE 2020-29(March 14, 2020), JBE 2020-32(March 19, 2020), and a letter dated March 23, 2020 to President Trump requesting that the President declare a Major Disaster Declaration for the State of Louisiana as a result of the Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) global pandemic. These Executive Orders included a Stay at Home Order for the public, ordered business closures, travel restrictions, and closed all non-critical state and local governmental offices.

As a result of the impact and ramifications of these Executive Proclamations on the constitutional due process rights of citizens to participate and provide input into thegovernmental decision making process, and considering that the public’s ability and access to provide input into this matter was severely restricted by specific government order, violations of which were punishable by fine and/or imprisonment, we respectfully request that the permit application approval process immediately cease for CUP P20200273 and that this matter be removed from the agenda for the June 2, 2020 meeting of the Terrebonne Parish Coastal Zone Management and Restoration Advisory pending further input and review by the public in this matter. For the same reasons, we also request that the approval of Local Coastal Use Permit No. 1773, TP200315 be rescinded and revoked.

In closing, in light of the extenuating circumstances related to the state’s responseto the COVID-19 global pandemic, and its impact on the public’s constitutional right of due process and input into the deliberative process and activities of state and local governmental entities, we respectfully request that this application and review process be cancelled, and that the applicants be required to refile their applications in order to ensure that the public has full knowledge of the proceedings and is assured of its constitutional right to participate therein.

Thank you for your assistance in this matter.

Letter Sent To U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Ms. Amy Oestringer
Project Manager
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers New Orleans District
Attn: Regulatory Branch 7400 Leake Ave.
New Orleans, LA 70118-3651

Re.: Orange Grove Closure. MVN-2020-00356-WQQ

Dear Ms. Oestringer:

I am writing on behalf of the Louisiana Sportsmen’s Coalition (“LASC”) to object to the approval of MVN-2020-00356-WQQ. This permit will enable the installation of gates which will block public access to canals in the Orange Grove Field in Terrebonne Parish. We request that your office conduct a public hearing to consider this application.

The complex of canals in the Orange Grove area is one of the most popular public recreational fishing areas in the Bayou Black/Gibson area of Terrebonne Parish. The public has had the unrestricted use of this area for recreational purposes including fishing, hunting, boating, bird and wildlife watching, etc. for almost 70 years. In addition, since their inception, these canals have also been utilized in the furtherance of the interests of interstate commerce by their use for recreational purposes, and also for commercial purposes related to the exploration and production of the oil and gas mineral resources in the area, commercial fishing activity, and sporting events such as local, regional, and national fishing tournaments, etc. The same can be said for many other canals in this area that are adjacent to or connected to the Intracoastal Waterway.

Posted signs and a cable have been installed blocking the entrance of the Orange Grove, resulting in a loud public outcry objecting to the proposed closure. Over 40 concerned citizens, some from as far away as Baton Rouge and New Orleans, attended a meeting of the Terrebonne Parish Coastal Zone Management and Restoration Advisory Committee in Houma on June 2, 2020 to voice concern and object to the approval of Local Coastal Use Permit No. 1773, TP 200315, and LA DNR CUPNO P20200273, while many others who could not attend called, sent emails, and posted on social media their objections to the approval of the proposed permits. The waterways and canals of the Orange Grove area are a regional and state resource, and the installation of gates blocking the public’s access to the Orange Grove area is a matter of great concern to the residents of Terrebonne, Lafourche, and St. Mary Parishes, and others from inside and outside of Louisiana who have enjoyed the use of public waters in these areas for generations.

In the instant case of blocking public access to the Orange Grove field, there is one additional factor that should be taken into account. In this case, and the others like it, the landowner voluntarily invited the public’s water on to his property by the dredging of canals that the landowner was under no obligation to do. They did this, of course, in furtherance of their economic development of their property for oil and gas production. As I mentioned in my letter, the public has had unrestricted access to these running waters since then.

In a nutshell, the waters in question are immediately contiguous to and in direct communication with the Intracoastal Waterway, whose purpose and function is to facilitate intra and interstate commerce in America. The water in question, is the same water that is in the Intracoastal canal, the only difference being that the landowner dredged and modified his land to purposefully invite those waters on to his property. He essentially took the public waters of the US to develop his own economic interest and is now trying to prohibit the public from utilizing the waters that it rightfully owns. 

Other significant issues of concern for the public are safety and navigation. As mentioned previously, the public has enjoyed unrestricted access to these canals for nearly 70 years. As is common, hunters and fishermen customarily travel in pre-dawn, post- sundown, and low-light conditions due to weather, fog, rain, etc. Installing gates or other obstructions to navigation will present an immediate and irreversible threat to the life and safety of the public accustomed to using these waterways. Furthermore, the installation of gates or other hazards to navigation would appear to be in violation of the requirements of the US Coast Guard, Department of Homeland Security found in 33 CFR Chapter 1, 33 CFR Part 2, 33 CFR Part 64, and 33 CFR Part 66, which address hazards to navigation located in the navigable waters of the United States.

It is our belief that the continued use by the public of these areas WILL HAVE NO detrimental impact to conservation, economics, aesthetics, general environmental concerns, wetlands, historic properties, fish and wildlife values, flood hazards, floodplain values, land use, navigation, shoreline erosion and accretions, recreation, water supply and conservation, water quality, energy needs, safety, food and fiber production, mineral needs, considerations of property ownership, and, in general, the needs and welfare of the people. To the contrary, eliminating or restricting the public’s use and access to these areas WILL absolutely detrimentally and immediately impact conservation, economics, navigation, aesthetics, general environmental concerns, wetlands, historic properties, fish and wildlife values, navigation, recreation, safety, and others.

In closing, our group is sensitive and respectful of the rights of private landowners to enjoy their rights of property ownership to the fullest extent possible. However, when balancing the wishes of a landowner to restrict public access to an area that they have allowed unrestricted public access to for almost 70 years, coupled with the creation of navigation hazards to the general public, the detrimental impact on economics, the local, regional, and state’s economy, navigation, interstate commerce, and others by restricting access of the public to the navigable waters of the United States, we believe that the preponderance of the evidence clearly favors continued public access to these areas, and rejection of the landowner’s attempt to deny public access.

Thank you for your assistance in this matter.

Over To You

What do you think? Is this a stance you can agree with?

If so, why? If not, then how come?

Comment below!

Louisiana Sportsmens Coalition
 

Louisiana Sportsmen's Coalition is a grassroots organization based out of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The Coalition was formed in 2016 to preserve Louisiana's legacy as the "Sportsman's Paradise" and safeguard the future of fishing across Louisiana's waterways.

  • Charles says:

    👍👍👍👍👍👍👍

  • Seth says:

    Thank you! I agree. Keep us informed.

  • Randy Daigle says:

    I agree with everything said in the letter!!!

  • John Williams says:

    I support the efforts of Louisiana Sportsmens Coalition in preserving the heritage of lifestyle by continuing the pursuit in accessing the areas of our coast for fishing and wildlife/nature viewing for both fresh and salt water …. areas that have been available to the public for generations, but waterways that now seem destined to become private. I have no desire or will I trespass onto the property owners land. I would feel abandoned of the freedoms our country has allowed all of us to enjoy if these waterways were closed to the public. Our waterways in Louisiana, especially those of Terrebonne Parish, and yes I am biased towards my birthplace, are a treasure for all to behold.

  • jim says:

    I am completely in agreement with the message and content of the letters. The rights of sportsmen are being stolen by greedy landowners and corporations. Without the work done by this organization, all will soon be lost

  • Jimmy says:

    Well written letters, much better than I could do! I trust you will be posting their replies as you get them, Thanks.

  • Thomas Sevario says:

    Please keep our waters open for all to enjoy not just a select few

  • Ivy Bernard says:

    It is time to start holding politicians in Baton Rouge accountable for not addressing this issue in Terrebonne Parish and other parishes in the state. The property laws in La. are the reason some organizations will not come back to La. to host their competitions. Bass the most prominent. Sportsman Paradise is slowly being changed into Private Paradise.

  • Cecil Douglas says:

    Thank you for acting on my behalf to notify the boards of my request for reassessing the application’s submitted to earn a permit to close of this viable waterway that has always used by recreational fishermen to enjoy our sportsmen in this area. I pray the approval by these boards will be redacted and withdrawn. This will give sportsmen the opportunity to express their thoughts and concerns. Thank you.

  • Foster Guillory says:

    Ok..I agree and endorse your letters….BUT… if the landowners want to close these canals, fine, BUT, they SHALL be required to completely restore these waterways to their original condition…as it was 100 years ago…..at their costs….totally FILLED IN!! Not dammed by levies, blocked with gates/fences, but total coastal restoration, as it was prior to the landowners leasing their properties to oil companies, who dredged canals, exploring and producing oil and at a profit to the landowner. They both are guilty of wanton negligence and destruction of the coastal marsh environment. Our legislators should have required the land to be restored to it’s original condition and in that they failed miserably…..and THAT is why our coast is disappearing at such an alarming rate…it is time to contact our legislators, both state and national, and make the point that coastal erosion is caused by both the landowners and oil companies negligence…..Time to restore our coast by the people who destroyed it!!!!!

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