Entergy Louisiana Donates to Nicholls Tour Tuesday Initiative

It was recently announced that Nicholls State University’s program that strives to bring underrepresented students to campus for collegiate tours, the Tour Tuesday initiative, recently received additional funding for its longevity, according to this news release from the school. Since its inception in 2016, Nicholls’s Tour Tuesday initiative has accounted for nearly 1,000 Bayou Region high school students to tour the campus. Luckily, thanks to a $10,000 donation from Entergy Louisiana, this exciting program can continue.

Renee Hicks is the Assistant Vice President of Institutional Effectiveness, Access, and Success at Nicholls State University, and she commented on Entergy’s contribution by saying “Entergy Louisiana has been a tremendous partner to Nicholls State University in identifying students in our region who may have thought college wasn’t an option for them. When we get students here and show them all Nicholls has to offer and explain the different financial avenues they can utilize to attain a college degree, their outlook changes to one of hope.”

The Tour Tuesday initiative allows Bayou Region high school students from underrepresented groups an opportunity to see what can be offered by higher education. In order to make the most of their program, Nicholls works with high school guidance counselors from the Bayou Region in order to identify the low-income or first-generation high school students who meet the admissions standards at Nicholls.

CEO of Entergy Louisiana Phillip May commented on investing in Nicholls’ Tour Tuesday program by saying, “a community’s quality of life is directly tied to educational and workforce opportunities, which is why it’s so important that we support initiatives like Nicholls’ Tour Tuesday program. Our youth are future leaders, innovators, and lawmakers, and this tour is another way we can provide tools and resources that can help them reach aspirations right here, at home, in Louisiana.”

This $10,000 donation wasn’t the only gift that Entergy Louisiana had given to Nicholls in 2023, as this news came just after it was announced that the company had donated $160,000 to the Nicholls State University Coastal Center.The donation was intended to support the Coastal Center Coast, Climate, and Culture Literacy Program, which is designed to bring organized presentations, publications, group tours, exhibits, and an additional web page to the program.

Nicholls’ Coastal Center, which is scheduled to begin construction in 2023, will be an institution that works directly with the Bayou Region Incubator in order to help small businesses and create jobs that are specific to the Bayou community and the Nicholls Farm to help test the real-world application of the center’s coastal research. Additionally, the Coastal Center will also serve as an educational resource that’s accessible to the public.

Entergy’s Phillip May commented on the company’s commitment to this program by saying, “this program is dedicated to preserving the Louisiana coastline. In partnership with Nicholls State University, Entergy is committed to enhancing coastal education and outreach initiatives that are impactful today and in the future. Coastal restoration and protection are not only important to us but directly benefit the communities we serve.”

Entergy Louisiana, LLC brings its service to approximately 1.1 million electric customers in 58 Louisiana parishes. In Baton Rouge, Entergy Louisiana is also able to provide natural gas service to approximately 96,000 customers. Additionally, Entergy companies employ approximately 4,5000 people in the state of Louisiana, and about 2,200 Entergy retirees reside within the state. Thanks to Entergy Louisiana’s two donations to Nicholls, future generations will be able to enjoy more of what the University’s campus and Louisiana’s coastline will have to offer.

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Louisiana Travel’s Feed Your Soul Wins Showmanship Award at 2023 Rose Parade

Earlier this month, the spirit of New Orleans and the rest of Louisiana was alive and on display in Pasadena, California at the 2023 Rose Parade, especially with Louisiana’s Feed Your Soul parade float, presented by Louisiana Travel. According to this article from The Houma Times, the float was designed to showcase Louisiana in both a classic and reimagined light, and it turned out to be a great success.

Louisiana’s Feed Your Soul float, presented by Louisiana Travel, was designed as a way to honor what representatives call “the best of what Louisiana has to offer.” The float itself featured 21 Louisiana fair and festival queens from across the state and a former patient of Shreveport’s Shriners Hospital. Aesthetically, the float depicted an undisputed icon of Louisiana culture and history– the riverboat, which is also known as the paddlewheel steamboat. This riverboat was decorated extensively with live flowers, leaves, and seeds to recreate the foliage and aesthetic nature of the Louisiana wetlands.

Before the float took to the streets of Pasadena, California, Louisiana Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser was asked about Louisiana’s participation in the parade, to which he said, “we’re excited to return to the Rose Parade to showcase all the ways you can Feed Your Soul in Louisiana. All of our riders are an excellent representation of the celebratory spirit of Louisiana. We love a parade in Louisiana and we will be kicking off carnival season a few days early [in] January when our float rolls through the streets of Pasadena.”

Louisiana’s Feed Your Soul float, presented by Louisiana Travel, also served as an opportunity to represent convention bureaus, visitors bureaus, and tourism boards from across the state in the form of five premier sponsors. Those sponsors included the Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission, Natchitoches Convention & Visitors Bureau, Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau, Tangipahoa Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Visit Baton Rouge.

The theme of the 134th annual Rose Parade was titled, “Turning the corner,” which asked premier sponsors to share how their area of the state had turned a corner into a brighter future. This float proved to be a great success, as it won the 2023 Rose Parade’s Showmanship award for the most outstanding display of both showmanship and entertainment. According to The Orange County Register, the float was among 23 award-winning floats at this year’s Rose Parade.

Lt. Governor Nungesser commented on how Louisiana fits this theme by saying, “t is thrilling to be joined this year by our sponsors and to host these 20 Louisiana queens aboard the Louisiana float. All our efforts in the travel and tourism industry in Louisiana are focused on working with our local partners to drive visitation to every corner of the state. As I always say, if you can eat it, shoot it, catch it, or dance to it, we name a festival after it in Louisiana. This year’s riders are wonderful stewards of our festivals and culture, but also outstanding members of their community that demonstrate the welcoming and neighborly nature of Louisianans.”

The Louisiana Office of Tourism had invested $350,000 to produce their entry in the 134th annual Rose parade, but according to Assistant Tourism Secretary Doug Bourgeois, the “faux steamboat is meant to lure onlookers from around the globe to visit the Bayou State” as it is a “is a promotional bargain for the state.” Outside of the Rose Parade, this was the second time in two months that a Louisiana-themed parade float had been present on a national stage, due to the $1.4 million alligator float that took to the streets of New York City in November’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. With these multiple Louisiana-themed parade floats being showcased nationally, soon more and more will come to Louisiana to be enriched by the deep-seated culture that the state has to offer.

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Federal Funding for Louisiana’s “Hurricane Highway” Likely on the Way

Louisiana’s “Hurricane Highway” might finally be next in line to receive federal funds to repair a collection of widespread ecological damage from the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet (MRGO) shipping channel, according to this article from NOLA.com. The Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet shipping channel is a 76-mile channel constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers during the mid 20th century that provides a shorter route between ships traveling from the Gulf of Mexico to New Orleans’ inner harbor Industrial Canal via the Intracoastal Waterway, and ever since Hurricane Katrina struck the area in 2005, New Orleans residents have cursed the area, and state officials and activists have labeled it a “hurricane highway.”

It’s expected that Congress will soon approve legislation that will indicate that the federal government is responsible for financing a plan to restore wetlands eroded by the Mississippi River-Gulf outlet, or “Mr. Go,” as it’s often referred to. Despite the fact that the money would still need to be appropriated, the fact is that this years-long dispute over determining who should pay to restore the wetlands will finally come to a close. This note of legislative closure will be seen as a major victory for Louisiana officials, once passed.

U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge, who has worked closely on the issue in Congress, commented on this issue by saying, “overall in terms of ecological productivity and buffer, this is an important project that needs to happen, and it is mitigating the adverse impacts of the federal project that was the MRGO.” Rep. Graves was formerly the state’s point man on coastal restoration.

The provision of funds is only a part of broader legislation that will authorize water-related projects nationwide, and Nola.com provided a list of the other Louisiana levee and flood protection projects that would be included in that authorization. The U.S. House of Representatives approved the legislation recently, and the Senate is expected to do the same in the coming days.

The shipping channel, which is 76-miles, was originally built as a shortcut from the Gulf of Mexico to the “doorstep” of New Orleans.  It has since been labeled a “hurricane highway” by Louisiana officials due to the fact that many storm surges were funneled through the MRGO during Hurricane Katrina, contributing to the devastating levee failure that allowed for the city to be inundated. While the Army Corps of Engineers has since reportedly downplayed the channel’s role during Katrina, MRGO’s long-term effects are still considered to run much deeper.

Since the channel fully opened in 1968, it has helped erode vast areas of marsh and wetlands in the passing decades. This has resulted in the damaging of the New Orleans area’s natural storm buffer and the alteration of the ecosystem at large. Additionally, saltwater intrusion through the MRGO, which was originally not used as heavily as was originally intended by the shipping industry, has aided in the destruction of cypress and tupelo swamp that once bordered the city of New Orleans.

Whenever the channel was closed in 2009 with the construction of a rock dam at Bayou La Loutre, it was disputed who should pay for the damage the channel left behind in its wake and where the funds should have originated from, making this recent indication of a nearby victory all-the-more encouraging.

Amanda Moore, the director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Gulf Program, is also the coordinator of the MRGO Must Go Coalition. She spoke about the issue by saying that this new legislation “marks a crucial milestone for addressing the disastrous legacy of the MRGO. More than 17 years after Hurricane Katrina, Congress has clarified its original intent – to fully and federally fund implementation of the MRGO ecosystem restoration plan.”

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Ground Broken for New Pump Station in Donaldsonville

It was recently announced that officials in Louisiana have broken ground for a $96 million pump station in Donaldsonville that will help to revive the local barrier islands and marshes that protect a large region of south Louisiana from Hurricanes and sea level rise. According to this article from The Advocate, the construction of the long-delayed pumping station, which is considered to be the key to many Bayou Lafourche and coastal restoration projects, had officially broken ground in Donaldsonville on Friday, October 21st.

The project actually caps a larger $220 million effort to reconnect the Mississippi River to the 106-mile-long Bayou Lafourche, which flows from Donaldsonville and empties into the Gulf of Mexico at Port Fourchon.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, members of the congress, and other elected officials were in attendance at the groundbreaking ceremony. All parties came together in order to honor the start of construction of the $96 million pump station, which will protect the drinking water supply for four parishes (Ascension, Assumption, Lafourche, and Terrebonne) and combat saltwater intrusion in Lafourche and Terrebonne estuaries. These estuaries experience some of the highest land loss rates in the world.

Gov. John Bel Edwards spoke about the long-delayed pump station by saying, “this is tremendous for the entire state. The lack of freshwater flowing into the bayou has endangered wetlands and drinking water supplies for 300,000 people. And it robbed this region of one of its most scenic waterways for too long.”

For more than a century, Bayou Lafourche had been sealed off from the Mississippi River, its main source of freshwater, and this action has led to a series of environmental problems, such as the loss of wetlands south of Houma and New Orleans.

Officials in south Louisiana have announced that the new station will be constructed atop the river levee in downtown Donaldsonville, alongside a nearly-70-year-old pump. The station is set to provide the area with increased water capacity. The pump will triple the flow of the river into Bayou Lafourche and revive marshes and barrier islands that help protect South Louisiana from hurricanes, while also ensuring that a region of South Louisiana has a safe drinking water supply.

Edwards highlighted the necessity of this project by saying, “the importance of this project to the Bayou Region and to our state can’t be overstated. The pump station will protect nearly 10 percent of Louisiana’s drinking water supplywhile nourishing over 85,000 acres of marsh in some of the country’s most land-starved areas. We’re investing more than ever before into protection and restoration projects across our coast, and it’s clear these efforts will continue to benefit Louisiana for decades to come.”

Since Hurricane Gustav in 2008 churned up a massive amount of muck and debris that blocked and contaminated the mouth of the bayou, state officials have been hard at work to restore Bayou Lafourche and build up the pump station. When Hurricane Gustav hit, there were weeks-long boil-water advisories in effect for approximately 300,000 residents. U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge spoke at the ceremony about the conditions following the 2008 hurricane saying, “after Gustav, that water was stagnant and disgusting. You could smell the bayou for miles.”

According to The Advocate, the Bayou Lafourche Fresh Water District has spent the past 11 years preparing the bayou for the pump station’s increased flows by widening and deepening several miles of it, raising a railroad crossing in Donaldsonville, installing water control gates, and removing a small dam in Thibodaux, Louisiana.

The bayou projects have already attracted more residents to the neighborhood. Recently, there have been a number of recreational projects in the area that include public docks, boat launches, and bayou-side trails. The new pump station is projected to start operating in 2025, and it should be up and running by the end of 2025.

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“Last Acadian Coast” Symposium Hosted at Nicholls

In Early October, Nicholls State University hosted a symposium on the particularly unique history and culture of certain Acadian descendants in both Lafourche and Terrebonne Parishes, according to this new release from Nicholls. The symposium, which is titled: “The Last Acadian Coast: A Symposium on Acadian History and Culture in the Lafourche-Terrebonne” was held on Wednesday, October 5, 2022, in the Jean Lafitte Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center in Thibodaux, Louisiana.

The event is hosted by Nicholls State University, the Nicholls Coastal Center, the Center for Bayou Studies at Nicholls, the Lafourche Heritage Society, and the Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center. Additionally, this event is a part of the larger Grand Réveil Acadien 2022, which is a multi-parish experience that is designed to celebrate the lasting cultural impact of the Acadian people across southern Louisiana.

The Last Acadian Coast’s Symposium on Acadian history and culture in the Lafourche Terrebonne Area did so by featuring several notable speakers at their public event who spoke on the Acadians of the wetlands. The following speakers and topics were featured at the event:

  • Glen Pitre, “Historic Lifeways in the Lafourche-Terrebonne”
  • John Doucet, “The Last Acadian Coast: Settlement and Succession of the Wetlands Acadians”
  • Windell Curole, “Shaped by Tide and Thunder and Terror: Historical Storms and the Shaping of Coastal Settlement in the Lafourche-Terrebonne”
  • Nathalie Dajko, “French on Shifting Ground: Development of Unique Language in the Lafourche-Terrebonne”
  • Donald (Don) Davis, ”Historical Wetlands Seafood Culture and Industry”
  • Patty Whitney,A Cultural Gumbo: Terrebonne Parish’s 200th Anniversary”
  • Shana Walton & Helen Regis, ”Living off the Land in Lafourche: Hunting, Fishing, Planting and Community”

Prior to the “Last Acadian Coast” symposium, an event a part of Grand Réveil Acadien took place at Nicholls State University’s Chef John Folse Culinary Institute. The event was an “Acadian Chef Demo,” and it featured Chef Paul Thimot and Chef Shane Robicheau who cooked and prepared a traditional Acadian dish while highlighting the culture and food of Acadian culture and Nova Scotia in both the past and present.

After the “Last Acadian Coast” symposium, Grand Réveil Acadien also featured a Cajun Music Demonstration & Lecture at the Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center. This demonstration and lecture featured Chad Huval on accordion and Brazos Huval on fiddle as they demonstrated Cajun Music techniques while also teaching about the history of Cajun music and the preservation of music specific to Bayou Lafourche.

In providing more information on the Acadian descendants of both Lafourche and Terrebonne Parish, Nicholls provided the following information: “the migration of Acadian exiles to Louisiana largely concluded in 1785 with the landing of seven-passenger ships in New Orleans carrying nearly 1600 persons. Following earlier establishments of the First and Second Acadian Coast settlements along the Mississippi River, most of the 1785 Acadian immigrants were settled along the Bayous Lafourche and Terrebonne.”

The arrival of the Acadian immigrants didn’t only the largest single migration and settlement of Acadians in the entire world, but it also marked the final mass re-settlement of Acadians in history. Over time, these Acadian immigrants migrated south along the bayous toward the Gulf Coast, and they founded “not only the bayouside cities, towns, and villages we know today but also forging their own history and developing a unique wetlands Cajun culture.”

Furthermore, Grand Réveil Acadien described their multi-parish experience as a way to “encourage Acadians from around the world to continue to advance our unique lifestyle through shared memories, French-speaking events, bonding and fellowship over Cajun food and music, and the general celebration of our shared culture.” Because of this, there is no better sponsor than Nicholls State University to host a symposium on the rich tapestry of the history of Acadian people in both LaFourche and Terrebonne Parishes.

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Sediment Diversion Project to Move Forward

Recently, the Army Corps of Engineers released a final environmental impact statement that will help to expedite a $2 billion project to fight coastal land loss with a sediment diversion project that will divert sediment from the Mississippi River to Barataria Basin, according to this article from nola.com.

The Army Corps of Engineers’ final environmental impact statement included a detailed study on Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion. This study will help to determine when federal and state permits will be awarded for the project. Once those permits are awarded, they could come as early as December, which would give final approval to the project, which has been called quite “monumental” by Louisiana officials.

Chairman of the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, Chip Kline, commented on the progress made toward this substantial project by saying, “this is a monumental moment for the state and the state’s coastal program. It has been told to us by members of the Biden administration that this is the largest coastal restoration project in the country, and the largest of its type anywhere in the world.” Kline also commented on the project moving forward in light of the recently released report by saying that it has put Louisiana on the “two-yard line,” indicating that the project’s construction could begin in early 2023.

The $2 billion project, which will be funded by settlements related to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, will prove to provide significant reductions in future storm surge flooding for residents of the New Orleans West Bank. These storm surge reductions will come from the creation of approximately 21 square miles of new land through the year 2070.

Despite this good news in terms of storm surge reductions for New Orleans residents, this project will also significantly impact the area in terms of bringing “significant damaging effects to commercial finfish, oyster and shrimp catches, and some additional flooding risk to communities just south of the diversion location on the west bank of the Mississippi in Plaquemines Parish.”

Environmental deficits notwithstanding, Louisiana state officials still see this substantial diversion project as “the most needed capstone of” the state’s 50-year Coastal Master Plan, as this project represents a significant reduction in the sheer amount of wetlands that are expected to be “sacrificed to subsidence and human-fueled sea level rise along this part of the state’s coastline through the end of the century.” The diversion project will entail the sending of as much as 7 million tons of sediment into the Barataria Basin each year, which is a process that practically mimics the original creation of southern Louisiana.

According to the 12,757-page main report and appendices recently released by the Army Corps of Engineers, the diversion would carry 5-7 million tons of sediment into the basin annually. The report says that this annual carrying of sediment “would have permanent, major, beneficial impacts on land building,” as it would essentially create new land. It’s projected that in its first 10 years, the diversion project would create approximately 10 square miles of new land in the basin and an additional 27 square miles of new land would be created over the next 50 years after that. Although the amount of land created over the first 50 years would be offset by expected wetland losses from sea level rise and subsidence elsewhere in the basin, the final result would still amount to an aggregate increase of 21 square miles in new land area.

Lastly, it was cited by Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority that the diversion project would create 12,000 direct and indirect jobs in southeast Louisiana with most of them being housed in Plaquemines, St. Bernard,Jefferson and Orleans parishes.

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