Fourth annual Bayou Lafourche Cleanup set for Saturday

Houma’s White Bowl healthy, fresh and fun
March 11, 2015
Saints conducting overhaul
March 18, 2015
Houma’s White Bowl healthy, fresh and fun
March 11, 2015
Saints conducting overhaul
March 18, 2015

Many here in the Bayou Region derive their culture from generations and generations living off the water.

Well, four the fourth consecutive year, the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program is giving locals the opportunity to give back to the area’s biggest bayou – Bayou Lafourche – in the annual Bayou Lafourche Cleanup.

Taking place March 14, volunteers will split into 13 groups from Donaldsonville to Leeville and will clean about 106 miles of Bayou Lafourche.

BTNEP Education Outreach and Bayou Lafourche Cleanup Coordinator Alma Robichaux said about 1,000 to 1,200 people volunteers in the event’s first three years. As of press time, a little more than 700 had pledged their participation.

“It’s a family event. We have a lot of people that get out there in their boats as a family and really enjoy the day,” Robichaux said. “Until you’ve been on the bayou on your boat, you don’t realize what it is. You don’t realize the natural resource that we have flowing right past us every day. It’s a great event and a great time to get out with your family and enjoy what’s in your back yard.”

Provided with plastic gloves and grabbers, volunteers will clean the bayou from 8 a.m. till noon, and for the first time in the event’s history, BTNEP will throw an after party, sponsored by T. Baker Smith, from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Lafourche Central Market, located on La. Highway 1 under the Louisiana Hwy. 90 overpass in Raceland.

The Cajun Music Preservation Society will perform at the after party, and everyone with a musical instrument is encouraged to bring it and play along with the band. There will be a pig roast, door prizes and even a bounce house for children of volunteers.

During last year’s event, a record 25.4 tons of garbage was extracted from Bayou Lafourche. That included 4,969 plastic bottles, 3,160 plastic bags, 3,020 plastic food containers, 3,345 glass bottles, 3,501 aluminum cans, 4,900 cups, plates, forks, spoons or straws and 2,026 cigarettes, among many more items.

Also, volunteers pulled 391 tires from Bayou Lafourche last year. Robichaux urges residents to take old tires to the Lafoirche Parish Dump on Louisiana Hwy 182, where it accepts up to five per day for free, Robichaux said.

“We were seeing people treating it as a garbage dump and dumping debris in it as well as just littering, and of course, it all drains lead to the bayou it seems,” Robichaux said. “Even if you drop it in the parking lot at Walmart, a lot of times it’ll find its way into the waterways and the ditches and be able to find its way into the bayou, so it’s a hazard both for the fishes and the other wildlife, the birds, the alligators, anything in there and also it’s a flooding hazard because especially plastic bags can clog drains and cause flooding.”

Statues, a safe, a sunken boat, a basketball goal and broken down jet skis are just some of the unusual items that have been found during clean up efforts in the past three years.

Additionally, Bayou Lafourche is the drinking water source for Lafourche, Terrebonne and Assumption parishes, according to Robichaux. Although she said all drinking water is safe for consumption regardless of the amount of garbage in the bayou, the cost to clean the water goes up the dirtier it is.

Lockport Fire Chief Armand Autin, one of 13 site captains for the event, takes charge of the area between Company Canal in Lockport and the Intracoastal Canal. Autin said the event brings awareness to the importance of the bayou.

“We all have an interest in have a clean, safe bayou for our clean drinking water as well as the recreational opportunities that we have on the bayou,” Autin said. “Unfortunately there is nobody else that is on the bayou cleaning it up. It just doesn’t happen. There is no group outside of this volunteer effort that goes along the bayou and cleans it.”

Autin said lots of trash typically accumulates in his area.

“We’re basically catching everything that ends up in the bayou from Thibodaux on down because as the tides move, things just kind of get flushed down,” said the site captain. “It accumulates over time, and if we don’t continuously keep it clean then it’s just going to keep building up and not only be a threat to our individuals, our drinking water but our wildlife that’s in the water and even navigational impairments.”

Autin’s group is the largest among the 13 with about 120 to 130 volunteers annually. Volunteers to his group get breakfast provided by valentine chemicals’ staff, soft drinks by the Rotary Club of Lockport and lunch by the Lockport Knights of Columbus. He also offers boat rides down the bayou to volunteers as a thank you.

To sign up, visit and choose which area – spanning from Donaldsonville to Leeville – you’d like to contribute your services to.

You never know what you’ll find during the annual Bayou Lafourche Cleanup. Photo courtesy BTNEP