Bayou Chene Floodgate Protection Project Celebrates Completion

Recently, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held to celebrate the completion of the Bayou Chene Floodgate, a long-heralded project designed to protect southeastern Louisiana parishes against backwater flooding from the Atchafalaya River, according to this article from the Houma Times.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony saw Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards joining the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), the St. Mary Levee District, and other state and local leaders to celebrate the completion of the $80 million flood control structure. CPRA Chairman Chip Kline commented on the impact that will result from the completion of the 446-foot floodgate by saying, “the completion of the Bayou Chene Floodgate is a gamechanger for the homes and businesses across this six-parish region. With its installation, nearly 30,000 residents will be protected from Atchafalaya River backwater flooding.”

The Bayou Chene Flood Protection Project, which was completed using funding from the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA) and in partnership with the St. Mary Levee District, is positioned to act as a permanent structure and prevent Atchafalaya River backwater flooding from impacting St. Mary, Terrebonne, Lafourche, St. Martin, Assumption, and Iberville parishes.

Governor Edwards commented on the ongoing problem that Atchafalaya River backwater flooding has caused for the past fifty years saying, “this region has relied on temporary measures to prevent backwater flooding since the 1970s. With the completion of this decades-long effort, the people of St. Mary and the five surrounding parishes can rest easier knowing they’re protected by a permanent flood control structure. I applaud the collaboration between CPRAand the St. Mary Levee District that brought this important project to fruition.”

Before the Bayou Chene Floodgate, rising water levels in the Mississippi River would cause the Morganza Control Structure to open during high water events, thus diverting water from the Mississippi River to the Atchafalaya Basin. When this happens, the excess water creates backwater flooding and threatens the surrounding area. Now, the new structure will eliminate the need to sink temporary barges in the Bayou in times of high water, a flood-prevention act that has needed to happen four times since 2011, costing between $5.5 to $8 million per flood each time. The overall Bayou Chene Floodgate Project was a long-term investment from CPRA to eliminate this recurring cost, so the $80 million costs will surely be paid back over the next century.

Governor Edwards said of the expenditure, “this is a tremendous investment — it’s going to pay for itself over and over and over again.” According to Gov. Edwards, those temporary solutions to the problem would take approximately 10 days to install each time a flooding event would occur, but now the Bayou Chene Floodgate will only take 10 hours to close.

The Bayou Chene Floodgate was a component of the 2012 Coastal Master Plan, and the efforts to complete the project were led by Louisiana Senator Bret Allain (R-Franklin) and State Representative Sam Jones (D-Franklin). Louisiana Sen. Bret Allain commented, saying that the impact of the project’s completion will be seen in the protection of 6,000 households and 1,000 businesses, totaling nearly 30,000 residents who will be impacted by the extra safety measure.

The executive director of the St. Mary Levee District, Tim Matte, spoke at the ribbon-cutting ceremony in a prepared statement in which he relayed the state’s increased confidence in dealing with the challenges that are brought along with a rising Atchafalaya River and also that the previous temporary measures would be effective but ultimately costly and risky. Matte said, “now with the completion of the permanent structure, we can close the Bayou in a timely manner, with minimal impacts to the navigation interests, minimal risks to team members, and with minimal environmental impacts to the region.”

The ceremony concluded with CPRA Chairman Chip Kline celebrating the ongoing $1.3 billion dollars that have been allocated this year for ongoing state coastal projects. Kline said, “we’ve got a lot more work ahead of us,” Kline said. “And I know that if we continue with the partnerships and collaboration and coordination we’re going to be successful in protecting the overwhelming majority of our citizens and restoring our coast.”

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Healthier Version of Smothered Chicken

Healthy eating can still resemble good, Southern comfort food despite its low-calorie count. Take for instance this recipe from EatingWell, the health-focused food blog; their recipe guide for cooking, preparing, and serving “Smothered Chicken Breasts in Onion Gravy” focuses on a gravy-heavy meal that doesn’t stack up the calories because a minimum amount of oil is used to make the roux base for the dish.

This recipe was penned for EatingWell Magazine by James Beard Award-winning cookbook author Virginia Willis. Willis commented on the misconception that gravy automatically categorizes a meal as unhealthy by saying, “I love gravy; in my mind, there are rivers of it in heaven! Using a minimum amount of oil to make the roux reduces calories. The result is good, country-style cooking—always welcome on my weight-loss plan.”

Ingredients for the Smothered Chicken:

Directions for the Smothered Chicken:

  1. You’ll want to start this recipe by preheating your convection oven to 350°F. Then, in a nearby shallow mixing bowl, stir together your flout, onion powder, paprika, cayenne, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and ⅛ teaspoon pepper.
  2. Pat your boneless, skinless chicken breasts down with a paper towel to remove the excess moisture, and then dredge the chicken breasts into the flour mixture so that both sides of the breasts are coated evenly. Shave off the excess flour after you dredge each chicken piece, and save the remainder of your flour mixture to use later on.
  3. Next, heat 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil in a large oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil is properly spread throughout the skillet and heated, add your chicken breasts and cook them for about 1 to 2 minutes per side. Wait until one side of the chicken is browned, and then flip for the remaining side; you’ll only flip once. Afterwards transfer the chicken to a plate.
  4. Now, you’ll add in your onions, the remaining 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil, ½ teaspoon of salt, and ⅛ teaspoon of pepper to the pan and reduce the overall heat to medium. Cook the contents of the pan while stirring occasionally. Continue cooking just until the onions are a golden brown color, which normally takes approximately 5 to 7 minutes total. Once they’re browned, add in your minced garlic and cook until the pan’s contents are quite fragrant, which usually takes approximately 45 to 60 seconds.
  5. At this point, you’ll take the remaining flour mixture that you used to dredge the chicken breasts earlier, and you’ll tip the remaining mixture into the onions while stirring to coat them in the flour. Add the chicken broth to the pan and increase your heat to medium-high, bringing it to a complete boil while stirring often.
  6. After the pan is boiling, adjust the heat so that you’re maintaining a simmer. At which point you’ll add in your reserved chicken, any and all juices that have accumulated, thyme, and your bay leaf. Position your chicken so that they’re nestled into the onions, and turn them to fully coat them.
  7. Lastly, transfer your pan to the oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes. You’re going to keep the chicken in the oven until an instant-read thermometer that’s placed into the thickest part of the chicken registers at 165°F. Once it does, you can discard your bay leaf and serve!

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Trends Expected in This Year’s Summer Travel

With a lot of the world getting back to pre-pandemic vacation habits, the travel industry is expecting summer travel to explode in popularity in just a few short weeks, and thanks to this article compiling the top 2022 travel trends from Travel Pulse, you’ll be set to be at the forefront of what’s popular and in fashion in the world of travel.

Two strong indicators that the travel industry is set to return in excellent fashion this summer are that both international (specifically European) travel and domestic travel are expected to be incredibly strong and popular this year. Travel Pulse synthesized data from the vacation rental platform Vacasa and found that 63 percent of Americans are planning some form of travel this summer. Of those expected domestic trips, those vacation destinations are located near the water. Additionally, 75 percent of travelers are planning on only traveling domestically this year.

On the opposite side of the coin, international travel hints toward large returns as some of the initial data provided by travel insurance organization and Worldwide Olympic and Paralympic Insurance Partner Allianz detail that the expected travel from the United States to Europe in 2022 may soar to as much as 600 percent from 2021.

Additionally, it’s expected that about three-quarters of Americans heading to Europe will be spending seven days traveling while an additional 11 percent are expected to stay for eight days. While this initial data is encouraging in that it indicates that the public and travel industry are smoothly recovering, these projected surges are still below pre-pandemic levels.

Besides where vacationers are planning on spending their vacation time this summer, the question of when and how long was also at the forefront of research analysts seeking the 2022 travel trends. For instance, twenty percent of travelers surveyed expect to travel for longer than a week this upcoming summer, while the majority of 52 percent of respondents plan a long weekend vacation, and 38 percent plan a summer trip between five and seven days total.

A nationally representative United States survey from Wakefield Research that was conducted for Hilton Hotels indicated that more than half of the 1000 American adults who were interviewed are pet owners planning on traveling with their pets this upcoming summer. This statistic came out to 55 percent of respondents, while 98 percent said that, besides pets, their vacation travel plans are centered around wellness-centric travel.

Expanding on this trend and detailed further in the survey: “today, travelers are focusing on their overall well-being and will be looking for experiences beyond access to the spa and gym that focus on connecting the mind, body, and spirit – and wellness priorities vary from traveler to traveler. For example, Americans feel mentally refreshed on vacation when they get a feel for the local culture (41%) or turn their phone off and unplug (33%). Women, in particular, are likely to prioritize reconnecting with family and friends (46%), while men are likely to prioritize healthy eating (34%).”

The results of the Hilton-commissioned survey indicated that many Americans are planning to counteract career and industry-related burnout by engaging in relaxing vacations this summer. One key piece of data obtained through the survey indicated that of those interviewed, “Americans disclosed that, since 2019, they have failed to use all their paid vacation days, with 51% of those respondents admitting it’s because they feel guilty about taking time off.

In summation, the result of two years in and out of social distancing and isolation is that Americans are planning to venture back out into the world by way of traveling farther, staying for longer, and prioritizing relaxation, outdoor experiences, and generalized wellness above all else.

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This Agrodolce Sauce Will Transform Your Grilled Wings

The best recipes have a bit of unexpected magic to them, and this recipe from Bon Appétit is the perfect example as it allows you to transform your bag of frozen freezer berries that you bought on a whim into a sour-sweet Agrodolce sauce for crispy chicken wings that you’ll make time and time again.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds of chicken wings, drumettes, and flats (separated)
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 shallot
  • 1 10-oz. Bag of frozen mixed berries
  • 3 small handfuls of mint, cilantro, and/or parsley (any combination)
  • 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil, plus more for the baking sheet
  • 3 tablespoons. (or more) of apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup of honey
  • 3 teaspoons of Diamond Crystal salt or 1½ tsp. Morton kosher salt, divided, plus more
  • 1 teaspoon of. freshly ground black pepper, divided, plus more
  • ¼ teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes

 

Directions:

  1. You’ll begin this deliciously savory recipe by coarsely chopping your herbs to make approximately ⅓ cup of chopped ingredients. You can take 3 handfuls of your fresh mint, cilantro, and/or parsley in any combination you prefer, allowing for multiple variations of this recipe in the future. Transfer the chopped herbs to a small bowl, cover with a damp paper towel, and chill until you’re ready to use them. Then, cut your lemon into wedges, set it aside, and thinly slice your single shallot into rings.
  2. Next, heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once the oil is properly heated, cook your shallot rings while stirring occasionally. Cook these until they’re translucent, which should take approximately 2 minutes. Stir in either 1 teaspoon of Diamond Crystal salt or ½ a teaspoon of Morton kosher salt, ½ teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper, and ¼ teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes. After stirring in these seasonings, cook them along with the shallots until it’s all fragrant, which should take about 1 minute.
  3. Now, add in one 10-ounce bag of frozen mixed berries, ¼ cup of honey, 3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, and ½ cup of water to the shallot mixture in your pan and cook while stirring often to prevent sticking and burning. Continue this process until the berries are completely softened, they’re falling apart, and the agrodolce glaze that you’ve created is thickened. This should thicken up after about 15-20 minutes; afterward, taste and season with more salt, pepper, and/or vinegar if needed. Once it’s to your liking, remove it from the heat, and set it aside.
  4. Nearby, prepare a grill for medium heat. Alternatively, you can heat a broiler with a rack in the upper third of your oven. Pat your two pounds of chicken wings, drumettes, and flats dry with paper towels and arrange them on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle wings with the remaining 2 teaspoons of Diamond Crystal salt or 1 teaspoon of Morton Kosher Salt and ½ teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper. Press the seasoning to the chicken pieces to adhere, and be sure to sprinkle a light coat of oil on your baking sheet if you are broiling the wings.
  5. Grill your chicken and turn them occasionally with tongs in order to prevent any excessive charring until the pieces are crisp, deeply crowned, and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a wing registers at a reading of 165°. This should take approximately 15 minutes. If you’re using the broiler, broil the chicken for about 25 minutes and turn them over after about 15 minutes. Then, transfer the wings to a large bowl.
  6. Reheat your agrodolce sauce over medium until it’s warmed thoroughly and loose (about 1 minute). Pour the sauce over the wings and toss them to coat them. Transfer your wings and agrodolce to a platter and top them with chopped herbs. Squeeze the juice from 1 reserved lemon wedge over the wings, and serve the remainder along with the rest of the chicken for extra squeezing, as desired.
  7. Enjoy!

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Nicholls State University Announces Louisiana Supreme Court Justice as 110th Commencement Keynote Speaker

Nicholls State University has announced that Louisiana Supreme Court Justice John Weimer will be the keynote speaker at the 110th Commencement Ceremony, according to this news release from the school.

Born and raised in Lafourche Parish, Louisiana Supreme Court Chief Justice John Weimer returns to Nicholls State University to be the keynote speaker at the 110th Commencement Ceremony after having previously attended the school as a student and later having taught as a professor. Chief Justice Weimer was both an academic honors graduate and Hall of Fame graduate of Nicholls, where he also twice served as student body President.

Prior to his time on the bench, Chief Justice Weimer was also a full-time faculty member at Nicholls, teaching law and ethics classes for 16 years. During his time at the University, he received the Presidential Award for Teaching Excellence, was given the honor of being named to Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers, and served as director of the Free Enterprise Week Program at Nicholls.

Chief Justice Weimer left the classroom in 1993 when he was appointed by the Louisiana Supreme Court as Judge pro tempore for Division D of the 17th Judicial District Court. In 1995, he was then elected to serve as Judge for Division A of the 17th Judicial District Court, and he was re-elected in 1996 without opposition.

In 1998, Justice Weimer was elected to serve on Louisiana’s First Circuit Court of Appeals, and later Judge Weimer was then honored with the Outstanding Judicial Award from Victims and Citizens Against Crime as well as with the Outstanding Jurist Award from Crimefighters, Inc; both of these statewide organizations are dedicated to victims of crime. Later, in 2006, Justice Weimer was named as one of the leading judges in America by a national publication,The Law Dragon.

Keynote speaker, Justice Weimer, was initially elected to the Louisiana Supreme Court in 2001 when he was elected to serve as Associate Justice for District 6, which is comprised of the following parishes: Assumption, Iberia Lafourche, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. James, St. John the Baptist, St. Martin, St. Mary, Terrebonne, and a portion of the west bank of Jefferson, which includes Grand Isle. Twice, first in 2002 and again in 2012, Justice Weimer was re-elected to a 10-year term without opposition before becoming the 26th Chief Justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court on January 1, 2021.

Nicholls’ 110th Commencement Ceremony will be held on Saturday, May 14, consisting of four total ceremonies. Each ceremony will be held at David R. Stopher Gymnasium beginning first with the ceremony for The College of Science and Technology at 9 a.m, followed by The College of Liberal Arts at noon. At 3 p.m. The College of Education and Behavioral Sciences and the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute will hold its ceremony, and The College of Business Administration and the College of Nursing will be the last ceremonies of the day, commencing at 6 p.m.

It will be during the Commencement Ceremony for the College of Liberal Arts when the University will award an Associate’s Degree of General Studies posthumously to the family of Kennedi Foret, an honors student studying marine biology who was the victim of a fatal car crash on December 19, 2021.

Additionally, during the ceremony, the University is set to award an Honorary Doctorate of Science to Dr. John Heaton (BS ‘81), the President and Chief Medical Officer of LCMC Health. Dr. Heaton is being honored for being one of the most respectful and well-respected clinicians in the state of Louisiana and for being a passionate advocate for patient safety and quality above all else.

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Benny Cenac Supports The Bayou Community Foundation and the Completion of the First Two Homes in Dulac for Hurricane Ida Victims

The Bayou Community Foundation (BCF) and community volunteers recently celebrated the completion of the first two homes built in Dulac, Louisiana through the Foundation’s Hurricane Ida recovery programs, according to The Houma Times.

The dedication ceremony allowed for residents, state and parish leaders, and nonprofit partners to come together and celebrate the building of the first two homes to come out of the BCF’s many partnerships and recovery programs centered around Hurricane Ida. Many sponsors, donors, volunteers, and community partners collaborated to bring these two homes from being nonexistent to ribbon-cutting quality

The team at Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) built both homes in Dulac thanks to a $850,000 grant from BCF’s Bayou Recovery Fund for Hurricane Ida Relief, a $100,000 from long time BCF supporter, Benny Cenac, and other community donations.  Also contributing, was support from the Governor’s Hurricane Ida Relief and Recovery Fund.

What’s remarkable about this project is that the grant funds merely were used to purchase building materials, while the actual construction labor was provided at no cost by MDS volunteers. Outside of MDS, homeowners contributed both insurance costs and FEMA proceeds they received toward construction costs, and appliances were donated by the nonprofit, Rebuilding Together Bayou. All of this community collaboration resulted in the construction and unveiling of two homes for families, such as Abraham and Robin Parfait and their two sons, who lost their home along with all of their belongings after Hurricane Ida’s winds ripped off the roof of their family home.

Money raised for the Bayou Recovery Fund will allow MDS to ultimately construct 10 new houses and complete 40 or more major home repairs in Dulac. This will allow for 50 families to be able to return home after retreating from Hurricane Ida’s ravaging of the area.  “After Hurricane Ida made landfall here on August 29, Bayou Community Foundation recognized that our community’s recovery depended on providing homes for the neediest who lost so much. We are grateful to MDS for sending volunteers to Dulac and working with us to fill this critical housing need,” a statement from Bayou Community Foundation President, Henry Lafont, read.

Looking forward, MDS built the homes to withstand future storms that will hit the area. Ranging from two to three-bedroom homes, these houses are built for storm resilience as part of the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes “Strong Homes Initiative.” This initiative provides donated services along with products to upgrade homes to be of the IBHS Fortified hurricane wind standard, meaning that these houses can withstand up to 160 MPH winds and are elevated to well above the FEMA requirements.

At the Dedication Ceremony, it was announced that multiple donations were received. According to a press release from BCF, one major donor to the BCF Bayou Recovery Fund announced a challenge grant designed to continue the funding of home rebuilding and repair work in Dulac this fall. According to The Houma Times, “the Ray & Kay Eckstein Charitable Trust Fund has committed $500,000 to support the project with the challenge that BCF raise an additional $500,000, providing at least $1 million to fund another building season with MDS beginning in October 2022.”

Benny Cenac’s support of Bayou Community Foundation

 Arlen “Benny” Cenac has been a longtime supporter of the Bayou Community Foundation and the work they do to sustain the communities of Lafourche, Terrebonne, and Grand Isle. In addition to his most recent donation of $100,000 for recovery efforts made post Hurricane Ida, he also made a sizeable donation during the height of the pandemic to assist businesses dealing with the complications of shut downs and quarantines. In addition to countless other donations and acts of support, Benny Cenac is proud to be a founding member of the Bayou Community Foundation. BCF was founded in 2012 by a group of business leaders and philanthropists who recognized a need for a community foundation to strengthen human services, education/workforce development, and coastal preservation efforts in the local area, and to assist in natural disasters and other emergencies.

If you are interested in supporting Bayou Community Foundation and the Bayou Recovery fund, please visit https://www.bayoucf.org/disaster-recovery/ to make your donation or get involved.

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