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Pipeline protesters under criticism for leaving behind tents, supplies in Atchafalaya Basin

Posted: 6:40 PM, Oct 31, 2018
Updated: 2018-10-31 19:54:58-04

In St. Martin Parish there’s a new dispute over the Bayou Bridge Pipeline.

Environmentalists continue protesting the project over concerns of the environmental degradation it may cause to the integrity of the Atchafalaya Basin, as well as the pipeline’s contribution to burning more fossil fuels thus contributing to man-made climate change.

However, Sheriff’s deputies say the protesters are causing harm to the land while they’re protesting in the basin.

It takes more than an hour by boat, through various waterways in the Atchafalaya Basin, to get to the first major campsite that the environmental group, L’eau est la Vie, established inside the basin this past summer.

St. Martin Sheriff’s Office says the water protectors stayed their primarily from July through August.

This week St. Martin Parish Sheriff’s Deputies are pulling out gear and supplies left behind by the water protectors at their first Atchafalaya Basin campsite.

“Tents, ties for the tents. Just normal things for people who would be staying out here, but again the trash wasn’t disposed of properly,” explained St. Martin Parish Sheriff’s Office PIO Major Ginny Higgins.

However, L’eau Est La Vie water protectors claim the police forced them out.

“We were not in that space at that time because of the intimidation and the brutal attacks by the police that left us in a position that we were not safe in that space, but yet we were returning at every available chance to continue to pull our camping supplies, not trash, out of that space. I can tell you we had people cleaning up that state property as early as two days ago,” said L’eau Est La Vie Camp Leader, Cherri Foytlin.

Several arrests were made at the first campsite over the summer.

Most notably a few highly publicized tree-sit arrests.

However, according to the Sheriff’s Office, they wouldn’t have made the arrests if the protestors hadn’t been illegally obstructing the pipeline’s right-of-way.

“We’re not coming out here to disrupt their site other than if they break the law, according to the law that you’re quoting. That’s when we have stepped in. They can be out here. I mean the fact that they’re out here in all the elements, I don’t know how they lasted all summer,” said Higgins.

“I see this as nothing else but a smear campaign against the people who are trying to protect the basin. And, I’m saying that because even if we left some tents out there that we were going to clean up, what the Army Corps of Engineers and companies like Energy Transfer Partners have done to the basin, is destroying the basin,” said Foytlin.

Stay up-to-date with KATC’s continuing coverage of the controversy surrounding the Bayou Bridge Pipeline.

Earlier this year we covered a court settlement that halted construction on a private parcel land.

A court date to resume construction on that land is set for November 27th.