BISCO in the News

Donald Bogen Jr. - Thu Apr 04, 2013 @ 12:37PM
Comments: 165

Bisco attended the 2013 Gulf Gathering, a United Response to the BP drilling Disaster.


 Some great goals and next steps came out of this gathering.

1) Re-forming of the Public Health Work Group. In the coming week we will be contacting you to join the next call where we will begin to develop a more detailed campaign plan and set achievable goals.

2)   Gulf Citizen Advisory Committee for the RESTORE Council. An updated sign on letter will be sent around soon for folks to add their name to.

3) Plans for memorializing the 3rd year since the BP disaster are being developed by committees.

4)  Education and outreach committee to work on organizing community meetings to educate folks about restore and to empower coastal communities to be engaged in this effort. This committee will focus on expanding the goal of justice in our coalition and in restoration of the Gulf

5)  Committee to develop our new principles for restoration (Weeks Bay Principles II) will reviewing the draft next week. We hope to have those ready for release on April 16th

gulf_gathering_2013.jpgAttendess at Gulf Gathering 2013




Bisco, Patty Whitney sharing  a Panel, Creating a Stronger and More Inclusive Coalition.


The panelists will participate in a fishbowl conversation to discuss how disadvantated communities and communities of color across the Gulf coast became voiceless. Theis was a opportunity to look at how we move forward to ensure that all impacted communities are at the table and part of the restoration projects being proposed in their backyards.


Comments: 165
Sharon Foret - Tue May 08, 2012 @ 09:47AM
Comments: 214


Bayou residents worry about future protection

By Nikki Buskey, Staff Writer
November 3, 2011
Bayou residents are worried that the state, in the midst of overhauling its master plan for coastal protection and restoration, may write off smaller coastal communities in peril due to coastal-land loss.
The state has used tough language when it comes to the updated master plan, emphasizing that there's not enough time or money to save every community. Difficult choices will have to be made, officials have said, and soon.
“Change will come to coastal Louisiana whether we like it or not,” said Leslie Suazo, a communications manager with Brown and Caldwell, an environmental engineering firm. Suazo is doing outreach for the state's master plan process.
State officials met with bayou residents at the Dulac Community Center Wednesday night to address their concerns. The meeting was hosted by nonprofit organizations Bayou Grace, the Dulac Community Center, BISCO and the United Houma Nation Indian tribe.
The state Legislature requires a master-plan update every five years. A draft update is due in January, with a final version to be presented to the state Legislature in March.
Since 1932, coastal Louisiana has lost 1,883 square miles of wetlands that provide vital storm-surge protection, the equivalent of wiping the state of Delaware off the map. The Terrebonne Basin has lost the most, a total of 460 square miles of land, in that same time period.
State officials have traveled the coast in recent months to get public input on the new plan. During those meetings, officials have said the state plans to take a more-realistic approach and make the hard decisions required. They say there's not enough time or money to save everyone.
The state expects a windfall of coastal-restoration and protection money via oil-spill fines and increased oil revenue due starting in 2017. That could come out to between $20 billion to $50 billion over the next 50 years, said Natalie Snyder, a state Office of Coastal Protection and Restoration planner. But all the projects currently corralled under the state's master plan would cost more than $250 billion to build.
“We're in a situation where there are going to be tough choices ahead,” Snyder said. “I don't want you guys to sit around and think that someone is going to protect you when they're not.”
The state's goal is to distill the current plan's thousands of restoration projects into an ambitious but achievable list that can be used to solicit federal help.
The state plans to use a newly created prioritization tool, or a computer model intended to take the politics out of decisions by considering risk reduction, environmental benefits and cost. That will allow the projects that give the “most bang for their buck” to rise to the top, Snyder said.
But it's not just about money. The state also has tasked a committee with identifying important cultural areas that merit protection, Snyder said.
Bayou residents at Wednesday's meeting say they worry the “tough decisions” might mean sacrificing smaller Native American and fishing communities in lower Terrebonne to protect other parts of the state.
Many asked for a stronger role in determining what would be done to protect their communities.
“No community should be traded off. This isn't a trade off. It's a sacrifice,” said Janie Luster, a member of the United Houma Nation and a Dularge resident. “We're asking for a seat at the table.”
If it's determined that some communities can't be saved, Snyder said the state will consider options, including relocation.
“Nobody wants to see a culture destroyed,” Suazo said. “We can talk about home elevations or flood-proofing measures to help you.”
Clarice Friloux, a Grand Bois resident and member of the United Houma Nation, stressed that bayou residents should be given a seat at the table with the politicians, engineers and scientists in picking projects.
Many pointed to the sacrifices Terrebonne Parish has made to the industry that powers America, allowing oil-and-gas canals to be dredged. Those same canals allowed salt water to destroy the marshes that protected local communities.
“With all the barrels of oil that have flowed through here, I think we should get back some of what we lost,” said United Houma Nation member Kirby Verret. “Nobody should be expendable.”
Larger communities like Houma are more threatened than many residents think, and they'll be more vulnerable if bayou communities are allowed to slip away, said Alan Gibson, a Dulac resident.
“People in Houma don't realize we're the barrier island for them now,” Gibson said.
The new master plan is still being written, Snyder said, and it remains unclear which projects will make the cut and which communities will be left out.
An all-day meeting will be held in Houma in January, when the draft report is due, to ensure everyone gets their chance to weigh in, she added. You can learn more about the master plan at
Residents at the meeting stressed that bayou communities must have a voice in the state's master plan or risk losing everything. That means attending meetings, talking to state representatives and the people involved in the planning process.
“If you don't call, don't talk, don't tell them, these people will think, ‘OK. They're satisfied. They're willing to move,” United Houma Nation Chief Thomas Dardar said.
“Not doing anything right now is the worst thing you could do. If we do nothing, you will have to move. That's certain.”
Comments: 214
Sharon Foret - Tue May 08, 2012 @ 09:45AM
Comments: 211


Thank you for your input

Published: Sunday, April 15, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.

Last Modified: Sunday, April 15, 2012 at 12:39 a.m.

BISCO is a local, nonprofit, grassroots organization working to improve the lives of residents in southeastern coastal Louisiana.
Our mission includes building up the capacity and voices of every day people to address issues of importance to them, to make their communities safer, healthier and sustainable.
We want to thank the many people who attended our community-wide forums to learn more about the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority’s proposed Louisiana 2012 Master Plan.
We especially want to thank those who made the extra effort to fill out one of our comment forms or to send in their own personal comments.
In all, the CPRA received over 2,200 comments on their draft plan, and we are proud to say that BISCO and these local residents played a valuable role in providing the CPRA with solid, heartfelt comments for the inclusion of projects that will benefit our area into the future.
Those comments were heard, and the final draft of the Master Plan includes more marsh restoration projects for Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes, as well as other needed projects. While Terrebonne and Lafourche will still need to work for more land-building and risk-reduction projects into the future, this is a really good start for this vital region of the state and country.
It is so rewarding to see the voices of local people raised in unity to request changes in the best interests of their communities, and then to see those voices be recognized and respected, with adaptations made based on those voices. This is the epitome of our mission.
We thank the CPRA and all of those who have worked so passionately for building a framework upon which we can base our long and arduous journey to coastal restoration and resilience.
We know adaptations will still need to be made, but we truly appreciate the effort of everyone involved.
Sharon Gauthe, BISCO Executive Director
Patty Whitney, BISCO Environmental Specialist
Comments: 211
Sharon Foret - Mon Apr 09, 2012 @ 09:58PM
Comments: 185


Both of the candidates in the Lafourche Parish Presidents Run off election of 2011 have completed the BISCO questionnaire whch consists of nine (9) questions.  The answers provided by Charlotte Randolph and Jimmie Cantrelle are listed below.  Mrs. Randolph's answers are listed first followed by Mr. Cantrelle's.
BISCO listens to local residents and works with them to address issues they feel are important to developing just, healthy and sustainable communities.  As the number of people who live in poverty and the number of “working poor” increases, residents of Lafourche Parish are facing greater challenges.  These are issues of importance to our members, and we ask for your responses to these serious questions.   Your responses will then be distributed to our membership as well as local and social media outlets. 
Through our work with local communities, BISCO is aware of the serious and growing issue of homelessness in the Bayou Region.  If elected, do you have plans to address issues related to homelessness, and what are those plans?   Will these plans include the creation of a homeless shelter within the parish, including emergency housing services available 7 days a week?
Randolph: I recently met with representatives of Gulf Coast Social Services, an organization providing assistance to the homeless in Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes. The meeting was requested because this agency will be experiencing a budget shortfall in 2012 and, unless additional funding materializes, services will be cut. I am in the process of requesting that the Lafourche Parish Council amend the proposed 2012 budget to assist Gulf Coast Social Services with $25,000 in funding, allowing them to continue housing the homeless and providing support services.
Cantrelle: It is my understanding that currently there are no homeless shelters in the Lafourche area.  Therefore, people who are experiencing homelessness are likely to live on the street or in a shelter in nearby parishes or are likely to live in a car or camper or with relatives in overcrowded or substandard housing.  There are federal and state programs that can assist Lafourche in obtaining a shelter in Lafourche as well as transitional housing.   I plan to look into those programs and to work with local and state and federal resources and organizations to help lift the homeless citizens out of their circumstances.  As Parish President, I will try to find ways to better assist the individuals and families who find themselves homeless.
BISCO has advocated for years for the creation of a public transit system in the City of Thibodaux, and we are very happy that the City has begun service with its own public transit routes.   Our leaders are now very interested in learning of your plans for bringing parish-wide public bus services to Lafourche Parish.  What are your plans for this?
Randolph: The issue of parish-wide transportation has been discussed since the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when many New Orleans area residents were temporarily relocated in various parts of Lafourche Parish. Our Community Action Agency conducted a survey of permanent residents and learned that there is some interest. In the meantime, however, the Council on Agency received a boost in its revenues and thus expanded transportation services. This accomplished part of the goal but a gap remains. Community Action personnel and our Grants & Economic Development department continue to work together on potential funding opportunities.
Cantrelle: The Thibodaux transit program seems to be working well.  It is my understanding that Lafourche Community Action, the Nicholls State University Sociology Department and many dedicated organizations, BISCO included, did a parish-wide transportation study in Lafourche in 2009.  I will look into that study, as well as the City of Thibodaux study, and see how these can assist my administration in better determining public transportation needs and implementation parish-wide.
Neighboring Terrebonne Parish has been pro-active in participating in the Community Rating System of the National Flood Insurance Program, helping to bring down residents’ insurance rates by as much as 15 percent.   If elected, what are your plans for participating in this Community Rating System?   Why or why not?
Randolph: Lafourche was removed from the opportunity to participate in the CRS when Parish Councilmen granted variances from elevation requirements prior to 2004. This action cost residents with flood insurance their 5% discount and placed the parish on probation with the National Flood Insurance Program. Over the last 8 years, with the assistance of the parish District Attorney, we have successfully remedied this situation. Earlier this year, we received notice from FEMA that the parish is now in compliance and may apply to the CRS for discounts. But we must continue to strictly adhere to elevation requirements as well as building codes.
Cantrelle:  I plan to participate immediately and I will do everything I possibly can to reduce Flood Insurance Rates for our citizens.  Terrebonne Parish did it ... we can do it, too.
One of the major issues that BISCO Leaders are concerned about is the availability of decent affordable housing as well as home ownership programs.   What are your plans for increasing the availability of affordable housing for local residents?   And will you support the development of a “First Time Homebuyer’s Program” for Lafourche Parish?
Randolph: The damage from Hurricanes Gustav and Ike provided Lafourche Parish with $33 million for infrastructure projects and $3 million for affordable housing. Our plan for up 25 units is now being reviewed by the state for implementation. We are also advised that upon completion of the initial program, there may be additional funding available for additional homes. I support a “First Time Homebuyer’s Program” in addition to our affordable housing plan.
Cantrelle: I have been informed that a First Time Homebuyer’s Program already exists in Lafourche and is active through Lafourche Community Concerned Citizens and the Lafourche Community Action Individual Development Account (IDA).  The programs are funded through Southern University in Baton Rouge.
I also understand that a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) from the federal government of $36 million was given to Lafourche Parish to ensure decent affordable housing, a suitable living environment and opportunities to expand economic opportunities, principally for low and moderate income persons.
In 2009, Parish government held hearings for residents to have the opportunity to give their viewpoints on the housing, community and economic development needs within the parish.  In 2011, it appears to be still in the planning stage.  CDBG funds and other funding resources such as Louisiana Housing Finance Agency, Rural Development and others could be used to develop affordable housing.  I will work to help secure affordable housing for all who need it.
BISCO has conducted a strong advocacy campaign for the creation of a “Restoration Economy” for coastal Louisiana.   With the projected input of large amounts of monies from the BP Disaster as well as future GOMESA (Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act) funds, what are your plans to assure voters that local residents and businesses will play a priority role in restoring and protecting our coast, including plans for set aside funding, jobs and contracts for local people and businesses?
Randolph: The potential for coastal restoration funding is greater with GOMESA than with the BP fines. While Louisiana has proposed a plan for early restoration to the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force, we are cognizant of the primary focus of the task force: clean water. We anticipate that much of the money will be used to address the tributaries leading to the Gulf of Mexico to ensure their continued health. The public bid process disallows “set asides” to allow for the market to operate. We are attempting to be proactive, encouraging the area community college and technical schools to ramp up their efforts to train equipment operators for these potentially high-paying jobs. We are also in discussion with the Louisiana Economic Department to consider “coastal restoration” an industry, allowing for local innovators to play a role in its development.
Cantrelle: I assure our citizens that I will push for local residents and businesses to play a priority role in restoring and protecting our coast, including plans for set aside funding, jobs and contracts for local people and businesses.
Secretary Ray Mabus mentioned in his September 2010 plan for Gulf recovery that  “…a central component of the economic vision for the Gulf Coast involves diversifying the economic drivers that create jobs and wealth in the region.”BISCO understands through our research that this area is overly dependent upon the single economic driver of the oil and gas industrial sector, which leaves our economy vulnerable to rapid decline in the event of future downturns in that sector, as well as limiting residents’ employment options.   As parish president, what are your plans for diversifying the economy and tax base of Lafourche Parish with the inclusion and encouragement of multiple and varied industrial/commercial sectors?
Randolph: The oil and gas industry will be here for many years to come. Yes, we are dependent upon its continued success and are subject to its cyclical nature. But all industries suffer a downturn at one time and this one is no different. Terrebonne Parish is successful in its retail industry because of demographics and geography, yet this retail is heavily dependent on the service sector in St. Mary, Terrebonne, Lafourche and Assumption. The energy industry is the foundation for all of the other industries. I have always been an advocate of doing what we do best.
Cantrelle: I would like to meet as soon as possible after becoming Parish President with individuals like Dr. Loren Scott and others, who can give my administration the benefit of their wisdom to aid us in developing a diversified economy and plan for Lafourche Parish.  We have world-class talent here in Louisiana, and we should be taking advantage of the expertise of such people here.
BISCO is one of Louisiana’s strongest nonprofit advocates for coastal restoration and protection, and our members are very interested in learning of your plans for restoring and protecting our ecosystem and the communities that depend upon it.   Despite the seriousness of the destruction and the massive media coverage of this issue, we also find there are large numbers of residents who are unaware of their vulnerability because of this coastal land loss and other environmental harms.  What are your plans to ensure that ALL Lafourche Parish residents are made aware of this problem?
Randolph: I am not convinced that that statement is accurate. Coastal issues may not be the topic of daily conversations, but residents of Lafourche are certainly aware. To educate more, we have enlisted Thibodaux Mayor Tommy Eschete to participate in our discussions and to be an advocate for the purchase of flood insurance. If there is a less-educated area, it would appear to be in the northern reaches of the parish.
Cantrelle: My plans for restoring and protecting our ecosystem and the communities that depend upon it are to work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, if necessary, with any and all individuals, agencies, organizations, etc. to bring about meaningful results for these pressing problems. As far as making citizens aware of the coastal land loss and other environmental problems, my administration will develop a close working relationship with the media and agencies and organizations to disseminate any and all pertinent information to the people of Lafourche Parish concerning these problems.
As governmental and engineering plans are being developed for how to restore and protect our coast, BISCO is learning that many officials feel that not every coastal community can or will be saved.   If that is the case for communities in Lafourche Parish, BISCO has developed an “Honesty Campaign” where we encourage officials to speak openly and honestly about residents’ options for their futures and the possibility of them being “relocated.”   What is your position on the premise that residents should be informed openly and directly of the chances of their communities being relocated because of environmental non-sustainability?
Randolph: I am a member of the state Framework Development Team charged with producing a Five Year Master Plan by 2012. I agree that each step of the way residents should be advised as to what is being discussed.
Cantrelle: I’m for openly, directly and honestly informing the citizens of Lafourche about anything that affects them.
Working within these bayou communities, BISCO is well aware of the dangers facing our residents from multiple types and numbers of disasters.   What are your plans for ensuring that Lafourche Parish’s emergency plans are the most pro-active and up-to-date as possible and that residents are kept informed of those plans on a regular basis?
Randolph: We have formed a highly trained team in emergency preparedness. Grants have afforded us the latest in technology. And we have added a Public Information Officer to our staffing in order to instantly and continuously inform residents through print and broadcast media, as well as social media. This worked extremely well in calming the fears of and educating residents about their situation during the Morganza flood threat.       
Cantrelle: My plans for ensuring that Lafourche Parish’s emergency plans are the most pro-active and up-to-date as possible are to have the best people possible in place to handle the emergency preparation and implementation of those plans.  My administration will also be pro-active in communicating with our citizens.
Comments: 185
Sharon Foret - Tue Feb 08, 2011 @ 02:07AM
Comments: 229

Capitol Hill Event: 

Congressional Roundtable: Jobs and Economic Opportunity through Gulf Coast Restoration

9:00-10:30 AM

Russell Senate Office Building

SR-432, enter via 428A


The roundtable will include brief comments from private sector leader representing engineering, marine construction, small business, and utility companies across Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas discussing the economic impact of coastal and marine restoration projects on their businesses and recovering coastal communities. The format will include time for attending staff to offer comments and engage the local leaders as well as staff from the Gulf Coast Congressional delegation and relevant Congressional Committees their perspective on pending legislative proposals and the ideas discussed.


Industry leaders, conservation, community and economic development experts will also discuss economic development and community engagement strategies to involve businesses, universities, state and local government, and nonprofits in collaborating to help industries connetect to coastal and marine restoration and sciences grow including findings from a new report from Oxfam American and the Center for American Progress.


Opening Remarks:

*Representative Jeff Landry (R-LA)

*Representative Cedric Richmond (D-LA)

*Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development, Brian McGowan


Moderator Paul O’Brien, Oxfam America , VP of Policy and Campaigns


Round Table Participants

  • Kate Gordon, Center for American Progress, Vice President
  • Jeffrey Williams, Entergy, Director, Corporate Environmental Initiatives
  • Mitch Andrus, Royal Engineering , VP of Engineering
  • Scott Kirkpatrick, Coast Builders Coalition President
  • Robin Barnes, Greater New Orleans, Inc, Vice President
  • Anne Peek, John C. Stennis Space Center, Chief of Applied Technology and Research
  • Patrick Barnes, BFA Environmental, President
  • Dr. Randy Brinson, Christian Coalition of Alabama, President
  • Leah Bray, Natural Capital Development, Vice President
  • Tuan Dang, Asian Americans for Change, Caseworker
  • Rev. Tyrone Edwards, Zion Travelers Cooperative Center, Founder
  • Chris Oberholster, The Nature Conservancy of Alabama, State Director
  • David Gauthe, Bayou Interfaith Shared Community Organizing (BISCO), Program Director
  • Howard Page, STEPS Coalition, Organizer


Then the luncheon presentation:


Please join the Center for American Progress and Oxfam America for a special presentation: "Beyond Recovery: Moving the Gulf Coast Toward a Sustainable Future"

February 9, 2011, 12:30pm – 4:00pm   Admission is free.     RSVP to attend this event

Following in the wake of the devastation wrought by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita before it, the Deepwater Horizon oil catastrophe beginning in April 2010 exposed the vulnerability of the Gulf Coast environment and economy to natural and man-made disasters—alongside the incredible resilience and determination of its residents as they fought to recover from yet another setback. The federal government took notice. President Barack Obama launched the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force, including leaders like Environmental Protection Agency administrator and task force chair Lisa Jackson, White House Domestic Policy Council chair Melody Barnes and Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere Dr. Jane Lubchenco who will join us, along with a group of Gulf Coast business, conservation and nonprofit leaders, for a conversation about the opportunities and challenges towards restoring the coast, sparking innovation, creating jobs, and protecting communities.

Oxfam America and CAP will also release a report analyzing the vulnerability of the economy and ecology of the Gulf region as both a challenge and an opportunity. The report provides recommendations for a regional ecosystem restoration plan to help coastal communities recover their past strength, promote the growth of new industries, and build a foundation for a new economic future.

Opening remarks:
Kate Gordon, Vice President for Energy Policy, Center for American Progress
Paul O’Brien, Vice President of Policy and Campaigns, Oxfam America

Keynote speaker:
Lisa Jackson, Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency

Panel I: Restoring America’s Gulf Coast: The Challenges and Opportunities
Rev. Tyronne Edwards, Founder, Zion Travelers Cooperative Center
Ajulo Othow, Deputy Director, US Regional Office, Oxfam America
Scott Kirkpatrick, President, Coast Builders Coalition
Dennis Takahashi-Kelso, Executive Vice President, Ocean Conservancy

Moderated by:
Bracken Hendricks, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress

Keynote speaker:
Dr. Jane Lubchenco, Administrator, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Panel II: Regional Recovery Through Economic, Environmental, and Social Innovation
Patrick Barnes, President, BFA Environmental and Founder, Limitless Vistas
Robin Barnes, Executive Vice President, Greater New Orleans, Inc.
David Gauthe, Program Director, Bayou Interfaith Shared Community Organizing
Van Jones, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress
Anne Peek, Assistant Director, Project Directorate, NASA John C. Stennis Space Center

Moderated by:
Paul O’Brien, Vice President of Policy and Campaigns, Oxfam America

Keynote Speaker:
Melody Barnes, Chair, White House Domestic Policy Council

Closing Remarks:
John Podesta, President and Chief Executive Officer, Center for American Progress

February 9, 2011, 12:30pm – 4:00pm

Space is extremely limited. RSVP required.
Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis and not guaranteed.

A light lunch will be served at 12:00 p.m.

Center for American Progress
1333 H St. NW, 10th Floor
Washington, DC 20005

Map & Directions

Nearest Metro: Blue/Orange Line to McPherson Square or Red Line to Metro Center

RSVP to attend this event

For more information, call 202-682-1611.


Comments: 229
Comments: 125

Community Voices from the Gulf:

 A Briefing on the Ongoing BP Horizon Disaster

Wednesday, July 28th, 2:00 pm 
Longworth House Office Building, Room 1324 

July 30th will mark the 100th day of the BP Horizon Disaster. For those most impacted across the Gulf Coast, conditions continue to change as the full range of impacts makes landfall upon coastal and inland communities.
The Equity and Inclusion Campaign, a coalition of community and faith-based organizations throughout Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, invites you to hear firsthand reports, engage in dialogue, and uplift legislative solutions to meet the needs of the Gulf Coast. 
James Crowell: Biloxi NAACP
Deborah Delgado: The Repair S.H.O.P., Inc
David Gauthe: Bayou Interfaith Shared Community Organizing (BISCO)
Michael Fischer
: Bay Area Women's Coalition
Diane Huhn: Bayou Grace
Casey Roberts: Gulf Restoration Network
Grace Scire: Boat People S.O.S.
Aaron Ahlquist: Delta Working Group
Angel Truong: Asian Americans for Change
Elisabeth Gehl: Louisiana Association of Nonprofit Organizations
Dana Ennis: The Urban Conservancy
Comments: 125
Comments: 152

July 10, 2010

BISCO (Bayou Interfaith Shared Community Organizing) Director,  Sharon Gauthe has been chosen to be one of the presenters in the Community Impacts panel for the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling. 

This Commission was created by President Barack Obama, and is composed of seven members. The Commission will be holding its first public meeting, on Monday and Tuesday at the Hilton Riverside Hotel, 2 Poydras St., in New Orleans.

Members of the panel include Commission members Donald Boesch, president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Frances Ulmer, chancellor of the University of Alaska Anchorage,  Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, Terry Garcia, an executive vice president at the National Geographic Society, Cherry Murray, dean of the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and U.S. Sens. Bob Graham and William Reilly.

Mrs. Gauthe is honored to represent the communities of Lafourche, Terrebonneand Grand Isle and is anxious to put the issues experienced by the fishermen and businesses as well as non-profits on the table for the panel to have an understanding of the communities impacts from the ground level.  BISCO has held six community meetings in the three parishes and is also providing case management services for Catholic Charities on Grand Isle.

Comments: 152
Comments: 59

July 24, 2010

Daring to Pose a Challenge to the Oil Culture


DULAC, La. — In this region so threatened by the BP oil spill, it has often seemed to residents that the only thing worse than losing tens of thousands of seafood industry jobs would be to lose their other major job source: the oil industry.

Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican, has called the Obama administration’s moratorium on offshore drilling “a second man-made disaster”; fishermen mourn the destruction of their way of life and defend Big Oil in the same breath; environmentalists call for restoring the battered coastline, not changing the national energy policy.

So when Patty Whitney, a community organizer here in Terrebonne Parish, asked a question at a recent conference about the state of the Louisiana coast, it was all she could do to keep her voice from shaking.“We are constantly told, ‘You have to adapt to coastal land loss, you have to adapt because of the oil leak, you have to adapt to the new situation,’” she said. “When is our government going to adapt to new energy sources that aren’t harmful to our environment and the people who depend upon the environment?”

On the stage, the panel of engineersand environmental policy makers looked at one another. “Who would like to take that question?”the moderator asked. The conference was financed by the state and by private donors — including the oil conglomerate ConocoPhillips, one of the region’s biggest landowners.

“You must be very brave,” another attendee, a professor at a local university, told Ms. Whitney during the break. “Or very dumb,” she replied.

Born and raised in Houma, one of a family of 10, Ms. Whitney, 58, has long considered herself a closet radical when it comes to oil. Her mission at the grass-roots interfaith group BISCO is to help the disparate and largely disenfranchised groups in this region — African-Americans, Cajuns, American Indians — develop a political voice.

As such, she has tried to keep her own mostly to herself. But that is not easy for a Southerner with a gift of gab, a self-taught historian and a mother of three who takes umbrage at how the sugar companies,the fur companies and the oil companies have each come to the region and extracted its bounty.

"America needs oil, Patty,” a brother who is an engineer for an oil company told her at a recent family gathering. “Then let them drill,” she retorted. “Let them drill in Yellowstone Park, in the Grand Canyon, in Puget Sound, off Martha’s Vineyard. Let them mess up their own places instead of just drilling in my beautiful Louisiana.”

And the spill, whose scope is still unknown, has prompted snippets of surprising conversations on the subject, even as the Senate on Thursday scrapped plans to take up a major climate change bill. Someone in church heard Ms. Whitney talking about the benefits of wind power the other week and signaled his agreement. Same with a woman in one of her community organizing networks.

"It’s at the point where people would consider talking about it, where before it was close to blasphemy,” Ms. Whitney said. “Me personally, I really and truly think the time is here, that even though it’s radical for this area, the idea of developing an alternative energy policy has come.”

Comments: 59
Sharon Foret - Thu May 20, 2010 @ 04:55AM
Comments: 61

Voices of the Gulf:  A Briefing on the BP Horizon DeepwaterDisaster

Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room 406

Friday, May 21st, 1pm

As the BP Horizon Deepwater Disaster unfolds along the Gulf of Mexico, coastal families and communities have been the first to feel the economic, social and environmental impacts.

The Equity and Inclusion Campaign and Oxfam America invite you to hear reports from advocates in coastal communities who will share their on-the-ground experiences and challenges in their communities, as well as proposed legislative solutions.

Reverend Tyrone Edwards, Zion Travelers Community Cooperative   
Brenda Robinson, United Houma Nation
John Zippert. Federation of Southern Cooperatives
Casey DeMoss Roberts, Gulf Restoration Network
Ya-Sin Shabazz, Biloxi NAACP
Rebecca Templeton, Bayou Grace Community Services 
Paul Nelson, South Bay Communities Alliance
Thao Vu, Mercy Housing and Human Development 
Michael O’Connell, Bayou Interfaith Shared Community Organizing (BISCO)

Additional CO-Sponsors:
21st Century Foundation
Amnesty International USA
Boat People SOS
Clergy Strategic Alliance, LLC
Every Church A Peace Church
Disciples Justice Action Network
For the Bayou
The National Advocacy Center, Sisters of the Good Shepherd
National Alliance of Vietnamese American Service Agencies(NAVASA)
National Congress of Black Women, Inc.
Bayou Grace Community Services
Bayou Interfaith Shared Community Organzing (BISCO)
Biloxi NAACP
Federation of Southern Cooperatives Land Assistance Fund
Gulf Restoration Network
Mercy Housing Human Development
N.O. Clergy for Restorative Justice/Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference
Praxis Project
South Bay Communities Alliance
United Houma Nation
Zion Travelers Community Cooperatives
Comments: 61
Sharon Foret - Tue May 11, 2010 @ 07:53AM
Comments: 126

Long-suffering tribe fears oil may strike final blow

Posted: Tuesday, May 11, 2010 4:50 AM
Filed Under:

Antoine Dardar
Kari Huus /
Antoine "Whitney" Dardar, a Houma tribal elder, has been fishing and trapping in the bayou near Golden Meadow, La., for his whole life.


By Kari Huus,

LA FOURCHE PARISH, La. -- The native Houma people, who have long relied on fishing and trapping in the marshlands of Louisiana, have been through a lot as a tribe.

They have been robbed of their lands, subjected to segregation, witnessed the steady erosion of marshlands and been displaced by hurricanes. Now, some fear the oil slick that threatens to invade the bayou could be the final blow to their culture and traditions.

“We still could make a living here,” says tribal elder Antoine “Whitney” Dardar, 74. “But now, with the oil coming, I don’t know.”

The tribe, which has about 17,000 members, has lived off the marsh for hundreds of years, and until recently many members made their living entirely off of marsh resources—moving from one harvest to another, season by season.

Protecting marshes
Kari Huus /
Lifelong fisherman and trapper Aubrey Chaisson Jr., a Houma tribal member, had to pick up other work after his fishing boats were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. He has watched the steady loss of marsh throughout his lifetime, and advised his own son to get out of the business.

“In May there was shrimping, then we would start crabbing, we caught redfish in the summer, white shrimp in August, and then trapped nutria in the fall and sold the pelts,” says Aubrey Chaisson Jr., who is in his 50s.

The Houma survived this way after the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, when the U.S. government took control of the region from the French. Unlike French and Spanish colonists before them, the Americans rejected the Houma property claims, says tribal historian Michael Dardar, who is the nephew of Antoine. The Houma were eventually forced out of their permanent villages to the north in Bayou Cane, and moved into this area deep in the marshes, where they traditionally had seasonal fishing villages.

“They ignored us and hoped we would wither away,” Dardar says. 

In the 1920s and 30s, after oil was discovered in the marsh area, the Houma suffered another land grab, according to Dardar.

“The Houma were mostly illiterate, and spoke only the Houma-French language,” he says. “A lot of people came in and (acquired) their property through a variety of methods.”

Many Houma people signed documents they were told were leases by the oil interests and others, but the papers turned out to be quit-claim deeds, Dardar says.  Later, hundreds of the documents held by the parishes mysteriously disappeared.

“We have no tribal lands,” says Laura Billiat, a member of the tribal council that represents more than half the Houma, who are concentrated in La Fourche Parish and neighboring Terrebonne Parish. “The oil companies and the politicians took our lands a long time ago.”

It is difficult for the Houma to do battle with either oil companies or the government because they are not a federally recognized tribe, though they have tribal status with the state of Louisiana. They lost a bid to gain federal status 20 years ago, in part because of opposition from other tribes. In addition, Dardar says, oil companies petitioned the Bureau of Indian Affairs against recognition of the Houma tribe.

Paradoxically, as commercial fishermen have had a harder time making money because of foreign competition, high fuel prices and erosion of the marsh caused by oil companies, many -- including the Houma -- have turned to the oil companies to supplement their incomes. And most will say they don’t oppose drilling, but wish there was more oversight of the oil industry.

Tommy Verdin
Kari Huus /
Tommy Verdin, a fisherman and Houma tribe member, was just recovering from losses sustained during Hurricane Katrina when the oil spill occurred. Verdin stands in front of his 60-foot trawler, Cherish, on Grand Isle, which is idled by the suspension of fishing.

“It’s a tragedy what they have done here. They have made a mess of my heritage,” says Tommy Verdin, who runs a large shrimp trawler.

But when Verdin came back to Grand Isle after Hurricane Katrina and found his home reduced to a slab and his boat badly damaged, he got his captain’s license to run oil supply boats.

“I had my back against the wall,” he says.

Aubrey James Chaisson, 36, says his father advised him when he was growing up that he should not go into the fishing business. So the younger Chaisson piloted boats for the oil companies for a while before becoming the Grand Isle fire chief. But he says he misses the life he knew as a kid.

“I feel I’ve been robbed,” says the father of four. “You can’t raise your kids as native Americans anymore.”

One pocket of Houma families is famously clinging to their traditional lifestyle on tiny Isle de Jean Charles in Terrebonne Parish, but their situation is becoming increasingly dire. Where there were 100 Houma families living there prior to the recent string of hurricanes—Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike—there are now only about 20, says historian Dardar.

Some of the others would like to return, but they face obstacles that include the cost of replacing destroyed homes with stronger, higher structures on land that is rapidly eroding and sinking. In addition, the road to the island remains damaged and is regularly submerged during high tide. The parish government says it doesn’t have the funds to repair it.

Add to those challenges the threat of oil.

“The tribe is at a crossroads,” says Kirk Charamie, program director for a Houma radio station who also acts as spokesman for the tribe. “We are tied to the land, the resources, the fish, the crab and shrimp… Not only that, but it’s where our families are buried. It’s our identity.”

Comments: 126
powered by Doodlekit™ Website Creator