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“Frustrating and Infuriating,” The Fishermen’s Lament

Tracy Kuhns never imagined a future as an environmental activist. A native of Louisiana, she was living and going to college in Texas – already a young mother – when she discovered the reason the neighborhood kids, and herself, were getting rashes and constantly sick was because they were living next door to a chemical plant’s waste pit. Six years after she began fighting the area was declared a Superfund site, the houses in her neighborhood were razed, and she moved back to Louisiana.

Once back home in bayou country, married to a fisherman, she found it impossible to look the other way when she saws signs of trouble in her new backyard. When her fishermen neighbors started bringing back stories from the nearby fishing grounds of pollution left behind by oil and gas companies who’d come in, exploited and left – leaving spills, pipelines and infrastructure behind, fouling the estuaries – she had to get involved. Joined by her husband Mike Roberts today they are the official Louisiana Bayoukeepers and she also works with the local Fisherman’s Association in Barataria, counseling on everything from health insurance to, now, recovering from the loss of income due to the oil spill.

The day I find her at home, Mike’s fishing boat docked on the canal behind the house, sun glistening off the waterway that leads towards the Gulf (30 miles away) would have been the opening day of brown shrimp season.

“We’re used to spills around here, but usually they’re small and you won’t be able to fish in that area for a couple years. This is something totally different. This is something they (the oil company) can’t control and it’s just heartbreaking and infuriating.

For the rest of my conversation with Tracy, plus video, go to takepart.com.

Lousiana Water Stories, on GMA

We first went to Southern Louisiana with cameras one year ago; we’ve been back a couple times since and are just wrapping up the editing of a beautiful, provocative film – “SoLa, Louisiana Water Stories” – about man’s relationship with water in a part of the world where everywhere you look you’re surrounded by bayou, swamp or wetlands, the Mississippi River or Gulf of Mexico.

The region is home to the most unique and vital culture in America and every Cajun from Grand Isle to Breaux Bridge, has a story – or two, three or more – about … water.

Theirs are stories with a lot of passion and heart but also a fair amount of dismay. SoLa’s waterways are home to some serious environmental problems, including oil and gas spills, petrochemical waste that has filtered into the air and water, fertilizer run-off from its neighbors and coastal erosion that is disappearing twenty-five square miles of Southern Louisiana each year.

Tomorrow morning (August 27) between 8 and 9 a.m. EST ABC’s  “Good Morning America” and Sam Champion are excerpting a piece from our film, taking their own look at one of the most serious and mysterious of SoLa’s problems, a growing Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

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