DONALDSONVILLE, LOUISIANA — Tour guides like to call Bayou Lafourche “the longest Main Street in the world.” The sleepy 65-mile stretch of water once lined with slave plantations now passes through dozens of small communities. More than 300,000 people rely on the bayou for drinking water.
Bayou LaFourche also happens to lie along a route of great interest to Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline.
The company wants to lay pipe a few feet under the mud as part of the proposed Bayou Bridge Pipeline. Activists call the Bayou Bridge Pipeline the “tail end of the black snake” — the Dakota Access Pipeline is the head. Bayou Bridge would funnel 480,000 barrels of oil per day over the final 162 miles to refineries in St. James. On the way, it would pass through eight watersheds and many fragile wetlands.
Activists gathered on Saturday to float down Bayou LaFourche and tell households along the way what’s about to happen in their backyards.
Often, “people in the communities we’re in don’t know about these projects until they’re already a done deal. They may even already be in the ground or they don’t find out until they start digging a hole to lay the pipe,” said Meg Logue, an organizer with the environmental group 350 Louisiana.
Southern Louisiana is already laced with pipelines, many of which are broken, abandoned, or leaking. Massive piles of sediment known as spoil banks mark the graves of defunct projects companies haven’t bothered to clean up. These spoil banks dam up waterways, which in turn worsens floods and builds up pollution.
The anger over yet another pipeline bubbled over in a recent meeting in St. James Parish, a petrochemical hub where the pipeline will terminate. St. James residents packed the permit hearing in August to express their concerns about Energy Transfer Partners’ track record and the risk of further contamination of the community. St. James, a mostly black, working class region, is colloquially known as “Cancer Alley” for its high rates of illness and pollution.
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