“Persimmon” Parish’s Plea for Help

“Persimmon” Parish’s Plea for Help

Originally uploaded by gflan_1999.
New Orleans — “This shell was the American Legion hall. … That was the high school. … Our first school will open in August. … That slab is where the parish president’s house used to be. … That was a grocery store. … The first full-service grocery story will open in September.”

Leonard Mistich, lifelong resident and advocate for the parish Plaquemines (pronounced “plack-mans” — it’s the Native American word for persimmon), pointed to missing, mostly-demolished or remodeled buildings in the area he’d like to see preserved.

The peninsula southeast of New Orleans sustained category 5 hurricane winds for over 18 hours as the eye of Katrina passed over the land mass. Taking credit for helping reduce the strength of the storm before it slammed into the mainland, parish residents explained to the Katrina Collaboration volunteers on a bus ride and later at the crab boil hosted in their honor at the Blue Angle (a local watering hole) that rebuilding Plaquemines is critical to the survival of their western neighbor.

A quiet and largely unknown “picturesque” community before Katrina, the landscape is now dotted with white FEMA trailer “camps” and covered with dead trees killed by the salt water that flooded the community for 45 days. Donna Duhé would like people to know this place, the source of 38 percent of all oil, natural gas and gasoline consumed in the United States and considered one of the finest salt water fishing locations in the world — recreational fishing brings in $80 million annually without advertising —is more than a sparsely populated area that doesn’t deserve any attention.

As the director of tourism and a parish native, Duhé is on a mission to educate the entire country about what a great place Plaquemines was and still is.

“All we need is the chance to rebuild ourselves,” she says. “We don’t want a handout, we just want what’s rightfully ours.”

That is the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) revenue sharing — the Americans Outdoors Act of 2005 (S. 964. This bill allocates funds for conservation programs from the offshore drilling royalties of oil and gas drilling on their federal lands, in this case in the waters off Louisiana. Pointing out that the oil companies dug trenches for pipes that carry oil and natural gas onshore and all the way to Eastern states, Duhé says that money will help all of Louisiana rebuild itself without having to rely on handouts from the rest of the country.

What Duhé and everyone else wants most is for Americans to understand their situation and write to their Federal representatives to support The Americans Outdoors Act bill.

So, before you write another check to a relief organization, write a letter to your representatives in the House and Senate so that real and substantive help can get to the entire state soon.

— Margo Pierce

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