The Cameron We Know

Every Louisiana eighth-grader learns that Cameron Parish is the state’s largest, yet least populated, with 6,730 residents living in 1,300 square miles, the vast majority of which is either marshland or open water. The parish’s seven present-day communities—Holly Beach, Johnson Bayou, Creole, Hackberry, Big Lake, Grand Lake, Grand Chenier and Cameron— have suffered much from recent hurricanes, but their resilience is legendary. (Of course, historians and hundreds of descendants remember Hurricane Audrey hitting Cameron more than fifty years ago, killing more than 500 residents. As the result of Audrey, modern weather forecasting and warning systems were invented for the entire nation.)

The town of Cameron remains the focus for all commerce in the parish, and though we speak of the rest of our communities separately, “Cameron” means the fabric of the whole area, woven around its largest town and its significant industries.

Cameron contributes mightily to America’s economy, most prominently as the gateway to exploration and distribution of crude oil and natural gas just off our coastline in the Gulf of Mexico, or from foreign shores. Also, Louisiana’s shrimp industry is centered here, with
$1.3 billion economic impact statewide. Our state, despite the 2009 Gulf oil spill, still supplies one-third of America’s native seafood. Much of the country’s bulk goods, grains and rice travel down the Calcasieu Ship Channel at Cameron from nearby Lake Charles, home to the nation’s 15th busiest port. Much of the nation’s Strategic Oil Reserve is here, storing 230 million barrels of oil underground, and our three liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities hold more than 12 billion cubic feet of gas. And now, with the nation’s emphasis on finding and shipping new discoveries of domestic natural gas, there is frenetic activity in licensing LNG export facilities, bringing thousands of new construction and operations jobs to the parish (begging the question: where will the workers and their families live?)

Without Cameron, America suffers at the gas pump and at home, at the mercy of foreign governments. Without our seafood, Americans are at the mercy of unfair trade practices. Without our wetlands, millions of migrating birds and their ecosystem vanishes. Louisiana’s coastal resources not only provide habitat for fish and wildlife, but also
protect and support our vital industries. Extensive, organized, experienced effort is underway by the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority of Louisiana, and we urge you to study their 2012 Coastal Master Plan. In fact, we assert that reconstruction of our wetland, and thereby its recovery, is well planned and being implemented by this group. The challenge remains, however, to reconstruct and recover sustainable communities for families to inhabit, with efforts focused on Cameron.