Dozens of oystermen and coastal residents spoke out at a public hearing Thursday night, arguing that the state shouldn’t grant an oil and gas company a permit to dredge wetlands around a drilling site near Port Sulfur.
But they can’t stop Hilcorp Energy Co. of Houston from dredging. The company already cut the channel back in January 2016, when it moved a barge to a drilling site.
A fisherman recorded video of the barge churning up mud as several tugboats pushed it into place. The company first denied that it had done any damage, but now it’s applying for an “after the fact” coastal use permit for “unauthorized dredging activity.”
In the Belle Chasse Auditorium, members of the Louisiana Oystermen Association and their lawyers urged the Department of Natural Resources not to grant the permit to a “serial law-breaker,” as a lawyer for the association put it.
“Hilcorp is a bad operator in coastal Louisiana,” said Michael Roberts, president of the Association of Family Fishermen. “They’ve done hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage to these people’s [oyster] leases, if not more. It’s time that every future permit for Hilcorp is done with the utmost scrutiny so that they start obeying the law.”
A spokesman for Hilcorp did not respond to a request for comment Friday.
In late January 2016, Plaquemines Parish fisherman Gleason Alexis recorded video of Hilcorp vessels using a technique called “prop-washing” to move a drilling rig barge through his family’s oyster lease at Lake Washington, about 10 miles southwest of Port Sulfur.
“Prop-washing” is a blunt method of moving a barge through shallow water. Tugboats push and pull the barge forward, forcing it to plow through the muddy bottom.