- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:


May 31

The Town Talk on preparing for the hurricane season:

In light of all the rain and flooding we have already experienced this year, the last thing most of us want to think about is the possibility of more storms bringing heavy rain to central Louisiana. But the official start of the annual hurricane season started on June 1.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts a 70 percent likelihood of 10 to 16 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which four to eight could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including one to four major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher).

If that’s the case, that would be an “average” hurricane season. But, as we all know, projections this far out are at best educated guesses. We’ve already had two named storms before the season officially got started, with Tropical Depression Bonnie making its way into South Carolina and Virginia this week. The experts note while there is a 45 percent chance of an average season, there is a 30 percent chance of an above-normal season, and a 25 percent chance that we’ll see less activity than normal. Which is a long way of saying they really don’t know what will happen. We might get a few, we might get a bunch or we might not get any.

But, the fact that we could get any is reason enough to start reviewing your hurricane checklist and getting ready just in case a hurricane makes its way to Central Louisiana this season. Now would be a good time to make sure there are batteries for all the flashlights, service the generator if you have one, fix any loose items around the house that could fly away in heavy wind and make sure the house is water-tight. Having plenty of canned goods and bottles of water on hand are good ideas as well, along with a battery-operated weather radio.

Other suggestions of things to do now, well in advance of an approaching storm, include removing any dead or damaged trees in your yard that could pose a hazard to the house, checking with your insurance company to ensure your home and property have proper coverage, and creating a written plan of action. That plan should include things such as evacuation routes, a communication plan for families and designated meeting places should you not be able to reach your house. And be sure each family member has a copy and knows the plan.

Fortunately, there are lots of resources available online to help folks plan ahead for potential hurricane hazards. The federal government’s ready.gov site is an excellent resource, with lots of tips, checklists and planning guides. The state also has an online resource at getagameplan.org. Like the federal site, getagameplan.org offers extensive hurricane preparedness information as well as helpful links and information for a variety of disasters from weather-related calamities to biologic threats. We encourage readers to visit and bookmark both sites.

After the devastating effects of hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 and Gustav in 2008, Central Louisiana has been pretty lucky. Hurricane Issac in 2012 was the last major threat to our area. With a three-year lull, it would be easy for folks to let their guard down. That would not be wise. While we all hope for another quiet, storm-free year, we must always be prepared for the worst.




May 30

The Advocate on sanctuary cities bills:

We’re not going to be able to match the table-pounding denunciation of the so-called “sanctuary cities” bill by Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand, but we cannot help but agree with his indignation that legislators seek to make political hay out of immigration enforcement.

The sheriff said that while his department was not the target - New Orleans is the favorite whipping boy of lawmakers from upstate - the notion that legislators would micromanage policies in his parish angers him.

He’s right, and it is a continuing problem. But as we have always said about immigration politics, it is easier to inflame passions for headlines than deal with real-world solutions.

The notion that New Orleans and Lafayette law enforcement give “special rights” to immigrants or fail to collaborate with federal agencies on illegal immigration was the rationale for House Bill 1148 by state Rep. Valarie Hodges. The House waved the bill through, but senators questioned it closely and ultimately stalled it in the Judiciary A Committee.

In New Orleans, the police department’s policy is not to question the immigration status of witnesses and others who report crimes, following a consent decree agreement that the city signed with the federal government over complaints about the treatment of immigrants. New Orleans leaders deny the characterization of the city as a “sanctuary city” and say the consent decree is meant to encourage better relationships with the community that will lead to better policing.

Similarly, Lafayette has been called a “sanctuary city” because the parish Sheriff’s Office won’t hold people suspected of entering the country illegally for federal authorities past a certain period of time. Leaders there have rejected the city’s characterization as a “sanctuary city.”

The Hodges bill was poorly constructed, giving sole authority for the “sanctuary cities” designation to the attorney general and proposing a penalty that might have interfered with funding of building projects in the city so designated. There was dispute about the effect of the latter provisions, but Judiciary A senators heavily amended the measure on these points.

That did not exactly appease Normand, who testified against the bill as another intrusion by ill-formed lawmakers into the operations of local government. That’s always going to be a concern, but it’s also true that the Legislature makes the laws.

What lawmakers ought to do, though, is to consider much more carefully their instructions to local governments. The “sanctuary cities” agitation is a national issue, as Normand said, that involves the federal government’s business of enforcing immigration law.

The Legislature is unlikely to take up “sanctuary cities” this year, given the late date in the session ending June 6. If lawmakers look at it again next year, though, we hope that the prescription is more carefully thought out and thoroughly discussed with law enforcement.

We don’t want Normand to break the table next time.




June 1

The Courier of Houma on restoring the Gulf:

The images of damage from the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico focused on vast oil sheens on the surface or oil and washed up on beaches, fouling plants and killing animals.

There are signs, though, that incredible damage took place far below the surface. In the deep waters of the Gulf, where the spill originated, huge areas of coral and other basic elements of the ocean’s web of life were altered, damaged or killed by the oil.

Now, finally, work has begun to try to correct some of that damage.

Unfortunately, scientists are unsure of the extent of the damage and, more troubling, how exactly to go about fixing it.

They know, for instance, that coral colonies - integral as underwater habitats for many animals - were killed off by the spill. What they don’t know is how they can effectively help those colonies to rebuild.

Scientists, though, are beginning to formulate ideas they hope will succeed in undoing the worst of the lingering damage from the spill.

They are hoping some techniques that have succeeded in helping shallow water coral can be adapted to the deep water surroundings that are so inhospitable.

And other proposals include making the worst-hit areas off limits to future fishing and drilling in the hopes that some of the damaged areas will slowly repair themselves.

“We’re trying to do something that we’ve never done before,” said Erik Cordes, a researcher with Temple University. “We are in uncharted waters here.”

The biologists who study the Gulf of Mexico are sure of several things.

First, the damage on the floor of the Gulf is tremendous. While they aren’t sure of the exact extent, they do know that the affected area - as much as 3,250 square miles - will struggle to return to health.

Second, they know that the deep water habitat is vitally important to numerous species. Because of that, the full impact of the spill could still be years from being known.

“This is something our grandkids may very well still be studying 40 years from now,” said Samantha Joye, a researcher at the University of Georgia.

The picture for now is bleak.

But there is some hope for recovery.

Of the $20 billion BP settlement, $273 million over the next 15 years is scheduled to go toward restoring the deep water Gulf.

That is not a large portion of the overall settlement, but it is a sizeable stream of money that the government agencies responsible for it will have to determine how best to spend.

The studies must continue to delve into precisely how bad the damage is, how far it extends and what the best avenue is for restoring the Gulf.

At least a modest approach is beginning.



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