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American RadioWorksDocumentariesNature's Revenge
Sinking into the Sea  |  An Unlikely Activist  |  The Plan to Save the Coast  |  Hurricane Risk for New Orleans

Can the Plan to Save the Coast Really Work?     Page  1  2  3  4

Some Win, Some Lose

"No it's not going to be easy," says Reed. "We're gonna alter the way things are gonna look down here. They're not gonna be the same anymore. I meant they're not gonna be the same if we don't do anything, because it's all gonna go to hell in a hand basket. People's lives are going to change."

  
The Mississippi River Photo: William Brangham/NOW with Bill Moyers

When fishermen like George Barisich sell their seafood to the local dealer, they understand that lesson better than anybody. Barisich pulls up to the dock next to a shed on the banks of a narrow channel, a workman jumps into the hold of his boat and starts shoveling shrimp on a rusty conveyor.

Barisich and other fishermen have sued the state government of Louisiana for hurting their oysters, not the shrimp. And the courts have ordered the state to pay them staggering amounts of damages. The cases are tied up in appeals, but the oystermen could theoretically win more than $700 million—they would bankrupt the state budget. Barisich says he'd get more than $4 million himself.

"You know the kind of money that I would get—I would be able to retire," says Barisich.

Do you think you deserve it?

"Me, personally —I deserve all the breaks I can get. I think I deserve it in principle, because it would show the government that you just can't jack people over. You know, people have rights."

  
GB empties net George Barisich and other fishermen are suing the state of Louisiana. The attempt to restore the wetlands has hurt the oyster industry. Photo: William Brangham/NOW with Bill Moyers

Some people might say, sometimes when you have a crisis, a few people have to suffer for the public good.

"I don't want to be a part of the few that suffer," says Barisich. "There's got to be another way."

State officials say they've learned their lesson: they're starting another pilot project like Caernarvon at another spot on the Mississippi, and they're already compensating fishermen who might get hurt. Scientists say they'll probably face other problems along the way that they never expected.


Part IV: Hurricane Risk to New Orleans