Earlier this week, the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East filed a lawsuit blaming almost 100 companies for contributing to the disappearance of Louisiana’s wetlands by dredging thousands of miles of canals and extracting oil and gas.

As expected, the authority immediately found itself under political pressure, with Gov. Bobby Jindal demanding that it drop the suit.

The Lens’ Bob Marshall has looked into the legal and scientific basis of the lawsuit:

The heart of the case rests on a centuries-old legal principle called “servitude of drainage.” That doctrine stipulates that someone is liable for damages if he does something to increase the flow of water on another’s property. The courts have ruled the properties do not have to be contiguous.

The Flood Protection Authority claims that decades of drilling, dredging and extraction destroyed wetlands that once provided a cushion against hurricane storm surge. With that cushion reduced, storm surge has increased in the parishes under its jurisdiction, leading to a higher risk of flooding.

As a result, the Flood Protection Authority says it has to spend more to protect people and property in the metro area.

Friday at 12:30 p.m. CDT, Marshall will take questions from about the lawsuit. Where the conversation goes is up to you. Among the topics he’ll be ready to discuss:

  • The premise and claims in the lawsuit
  • The counterarguments against those claims
  • The science behind those claims
  • The political roadblocks that the authority may face
  • The legal repercussions if the lawsuit is successful

Come back here on Friday to join us.


In the meantime, watch Marshall and Fox 8’s John Snell discuss some of the issues raised in the suit:

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Steve Myers

Steve Myers was editor of The Lens. Before joining the staff in 2012, Myers was managing editor of Poynter Online, the preeminent source of news and training about the journalism industry. At Poynter,...