Protecting People, Property and Our Way of Life

Lafourche students learn about coastal erosion, career opportunities

By: Halle Parker,

April 25, 2019

Standing in the front of the classroom today, the North Lafourche Levee District director explained to a group of ninth-graders how his agency protects their community from flooding.

The room was somewhat quiet until Executive Director Dwayne Bourgeois explained how quickly the sea is set to rise in coordination with the amount of land being lost on the coast.

Three feet per 100 years is projected, he told them.

“That’s one foot every 30 years,” said Bourgeois. He said imagine every body of water near them being one to three feet higher.

“This is a field, a career that unfortunately has a future because it’s going to be a continuous fight,” he said.

More than 150 Lafourche students gathered in classrooms at Fletcher Technical Community College to learn about the different career opportunities on the coast. The event, called Working for Our Coast, also sought to raise the students’ awareness about the coastal crisis.

Hosted by Restore or Retreat and Fletcher, and sponsored by Chevron, the students heard from six speakers from different fields, each of them working to combat the coastal erosion plaguing the state.

Thibodaux High School freshman Brooke Landry said she already has plans to go to school for cosmetology after she earns her diploma, but the event made her want to volunteer to assist with the effort as she plans to stay local.

“You get to learn about what’s happening with the environment, and how you can lose everything if you don’t help it,” said Landry.

Bourgeois said he appreciated that the event allowed him to show students a job opportunity that’s “off the beaten path.”

“I think it’s a good opportunity for them to see something that doesn’t get a lot of attention,” he said.

He said he tried not to scare the students, but realistically the community will be constantly battling against the rising tide.

“It’s going to keep coming,” said Bourgeois. “Forever.”

The students also heard from Thibodaux Public Works Director Archie Chiasson, Water Institute of the Gulf Communications Director Amy Wold, civil engineering project manager Amber Plessala, Lafourche Coastal Zone Management Administrator Amanda Voisin and Office of Coastal Activities Policy and Program Director Charles Sutcliffe.

Victoria Sagrera Bourque, Restore or Retreat special projects coordinator, said her organization tried to put together a well-rounded group of speakers that was “parish-specific” so they could resonate with Lafourche students.

Bourque said the nonprofit put together handouts to show students the curriculum tracks that they would have to follow at either Fletcher or Nicholls State University to enter different jobs.

“We know the state of the coast. We want to educate the youth and we want them to become involved,” she said.

Bourque added that the group hoped the event would help students feel more comfortable talking about the issues facing the state, so they can share it with others.

“To really make a significant change, the people who live here and work here and shop here, they’re the ones who need to know,” said Bourque.

Thibodaux High School teachers Brock Orgeron and Will Broussard said they both felt it was important for the students to understand this issue.

“The younger that you reach these kids and inform them about the problem, the better chance Louisiana has to persevere through it and maintain land,” said Orgeron.

Broussard thought it was helpful for students to also hear that these agencies and organizations use employees like lawyers and accountants

“You can still help the environment and not be a scientist,” he said.

They both said one of these students could be the one to solve the problem one day.

“You never know who that one might be,” Broussard said.