October 31, 2017
Students from Tulane’s Environmental Law Clinic toured the Maurepas Swamp which is slated for restoration to help stop future erosion and storm surges.
Third-year law student Thomas Steinfeldt tours the Maurepas Swamp on kayak.
Ashlyn Smith-Sawka, Allison Skopec and Chris Halbohn – all third-year law students – on the kayak tour of the Maurepas Swamp.
Students from Tulane’s
Environmental Law Clinic got a first-hand look at the vast but struggling
Maurepas Swamp last week, and the continuing efforts to restore the wetlands.
Bob Marshall, an
environmental reporter and Pulitzer-Prize winner with the Times-Picayune, met
students and spoke to them about Louisiana’s rapid coastal land loss. The
students then traveled about 45 minutes to the Maurepas Swamp to see the
degraded wetland forest that was once lush with healthy cypress and Tupelo
Environmental attorney Beaux Jones,
associate with the New Orleans firm Baldwin Haspel Burke & Mayer, and two
naturalists led the students on a guided kayak tour on a bayou that meanders
through the swamp. The students were able to witness the harmful impacts that
levees, channeling, saltwater intrusion, subsidence, road-building, and logging
have had on swamp—making the surrounding areas more vulnerable to storm surges
Even in its degraded state,
however, the swamp was still a thing to behold with stands of cypress trees
draped in Spanish moss, alligators sunning on fallen logs, American Bald Eagles
soaring overhead, and wildflowers abundant throughout, said Corinne Van Dalen,
a supervising attorney with the Environmental Law Clinic.
"It was great to get the
students out to see and enjoy the kind of natural resources at issue in many of
suits they handle as student attorneys at the Clinic," she said.
During the tour, the students
also learned about a recently-funded Mississippi River diversion project that
will carry freshwater and sediment to the Maurepas Swamp with the aim of
restoring the area. Less than two months ago, Louisiana's Coastal Protection
and Restoration Authority (CPRA) announced that it had received a $14.2 million
grant to fund this diversion project. The grant was awarded by the Gulf Coast
Ecosystem Restoration Council from Clean Water Act penalties and is a key
coastal restoration project for Louisiana.
Jones was able to offer great
perspective about the project, having represented the CPRA as an Assistant
Attorney General for the Louisiana Department of Justice, where he served as
environmental section chief. The students peppered Jones with questions about
the diversion project while kayaking through the very area that will be
receiving fresh water and sediment designed to restore and enhance the forested
wetland, improve wildlife habitat, and provide storm surge protection.
Third-year law student Colin Casciato said he plans to stay in New Orleans and "one day return and see a healthy Maurepas Swamp."