Wetlands project faces opposition by residents

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - A proposed wetland restoration project is facing opposition by residents who live near the site at the end of Country Club Road. Phillip Guzzino is one of those residents.

"This is all fixing to disappear and turn into a marsh and a mudflat," said Guzzino. "For 17 years I've fished and swam and water skied on this open water and it's all about to be gone."

Guzzino's waterfront property faces a proposed project by Stream Wetlands Services Company to take dredged material from the Calcasieu Ship Channel and restore the Old River Mitigation Bank near the Calcasieu River Basin. The project will utilize 350,000 cubic yards of dredged material to create 165 acres of Emergent Marsh and enhance 55 acres of existing Emergent Marsh.

"The drainage issue is a major concern and the little bit of water that is going to be left back here is going to become stagnant," said Guzzino.

Guzzino isn't alone - some 50 neighbors met at his home to discuss their concerns.

"Potentially some health issues with the relatively stagnant marsh back there... A good mosquito growing population," said Nathan Bray, concerned resident.

"I'm concerned about the material they will be dredging - particularly what's in it. And the smell that comes from the dredged material. If anybody has ever been around dredges and around that type of activity it stinks," said Chris Baggett, concerned resident.

While residents believe the proposed project will degrade their property and ultimately destroy their way of life on the water, the company building the project says there will be no major impact to the community. In fact, according to Stream Wetland Services it will benefit Southwest Louisiana.

"Now there's been a lot of misconceptions about the project and its effects," said David Richard, Executive VP of Stream Property Management/Stream Wetlands Services Company.

Richard designed the project and said it's much like the one underway on Black Lake. They hope to convert the existing shallow open-water area back to it's original status of emergent wetlands and nourish an additional 55 acres of fragmented marsh.

"You can expect a brackish marsh. It will have birds, wildlife and fish and have the productivity of a normal coastal Louisiana marsh," said Richard.

Addressing the concerns, Richard said they'll test the dredged material for impurities. He explained once complete the marshland will provide coastal protection from future storm surge. According to Richard they've also met with Lake Charles City Engineers to discuss the concerns about potential drainage issues.

"There will be a 200 feet opening between the resident's bulk head and our particular project - which is more than adequate drainage for the area in South Lake Charles that this area will be using," said Richard.

For the now the proposal is in the public notice phase as the Corps of Engineers decides whether or not to move forward. Residents plan to appeal to the Corps of Engineers, who will ultimately issue the permit for the project. They're also considering legal action.

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