Wednesday, April 12, 2006


Sample Letter #1 (Environmental Focus)

Please consider the broader consequences of the proposed landfill in New Orleans East. The social, environmental and tourist industry losses are being ignored because of the appeal of a quick solution. There are no quick solutions for the devastation New Orleans has suffered especially when avoiding the long-term consequences of rash decisions and sacrificing the value of natural resources.

Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge encompasses 23 000 acres of the Eastern city limits of New Orleans. It represents the largest urban, national wildlife refuge in the United States and is one of the last remaining marshlands adjacent to Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Borgne. Bayou Sauvage protects New Orleans from storm surges and flooding as a part of the larger, natural Eastern hurricane floodplain.

According the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), there are stipulations restricting the
location of landfills in order to “ensure that landfills are built in suitable geological areas, away from faults, wetlands, flood plains and other restricted areas.” The Bayou Sauvage represents both a protected wetland environment and flood plain. The proposed landfill, adjacent to the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge violates these guidelines.

New Orleans city zoning ordinances were suspended by Mayor Nagin using his emergency powers, seven months after the storms, to ignore the EPA guidelines and zoning allowance of the property for light industrial use. This corresponded, coincidently, with the promise that 22 percent of the gross revenue generated by the landfill would go to the city.

Solid waste, including the deposition of construction and demolition debris can negatively impact
surface and ground water, while the associated dust from both the transport and deposition of the material may decrease air quality and visibility. This is crucial to consider in light of the fact that the Bayou Sauvage is a sanctuary for many types of Louisiana wildlife, as well as a delicate and endangered ecosystem working to protect New Orleans from floods.

Beyond the important environmental contributions and functions of this Wildlife Refuge, Bayou Sauvage is an important and successful tourist attraction within the New Orleans city limits. The Bayou Sauvage Wildlife Refuge receives 150 000 visitors annually, who come to canoe, hike, bike, bird watch, fish, crab, crawfish and visit historic sites.

New Orleans cannot afford to sacrifice more floodplains that protect the city, marshlands, that provide sanctuary to wildlife, and visitors' attractions, that help rebuild New Orleans tourist industry. For a couple dollars now and a quick solution, the long-term consequences of this landfill on the Bayou Sauvage Wildlife Refuge and surrounding areas have not been considered at environmental and economic level.

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