Our Insights

Tales from the Pipeline with a Little Lagniappe

February 12, 2020

By Jude LeDoux
Senior Project Manager, Environmental Division

This article was originally published in Currents, POWER’s quarterly Environmental newsletter.

“When the sun finds its home in the western sky it is a field of glory for sure …but much more than that it is a sacred place…and it is Saturday Night in Death Valley.”

Those are the words you hear at the beginning of each football game at Louisiana State University’s Tiger Stadium on Saturday nights. And these immortal words were all I was thinking about that fall Friday morning when we drove up to the jobsite.

Only one thing stood between me and kickoff—the final two miles of a proposed pipeline route that we needed to delineate for wetlands.

My co-worker and I began our normal pre-check routine with a safety meeting and equipment inspection. Joined by an archaeological crew who would tag along to conduct a cultural survey, we all began to walk the route.

After some time, I noticed the crew discussing our surroundings. Standing in a horse pasture full of manure, and overlooking the beautiful Pearl River, I jokingly asked, “Historic artifacts here?” The answer I received, as they discovered a hole full of pottery and arrowheads, was: “You have to think of the big picture. This wasn’t a horse pasture 200 years ago.”

As we continued our surveys, my mind wandered, pondering about where I was, the history and the days of old. I am a biologist after all. I look for wetlands, animals and, of course, I enjoy being out in Mother Nature. And when you work in the great outdoors, you get tested and introduced to challenges. This day was no different.

The excitement of it being Friday and the awesome views made the day go by fast.  We stopped for a lunch break and I pulled out my typical granola bars, banana and a bottle of water. My co-worker brought a piece of cucumber and a bell pepper—interesting to say the least.  I teased him for starting his new diet on a day when we were trekking miles through the wilderness and declared I would not carry him out of the woods.

The archaeologists eventually caught up with us and shared how this area had the most artifacts they have ever found!  My mind really began to race. What happened here so many years ago?

My brain quickly changed gears, however, when I realized what was happening now…rain, and lots of it! It rained more than I could ever imagine, and there was one thing I forgot that day that I would never forget again—rain gear. We were all soaked to the bone within minutes.

But we forged ahead, like troopers on a mission, to complete our task and end the week with a victory. What we didn’t realize was that we were on low-lying land, where all the rain from the surrounding area drains. The water rose in biblical fashion, and before we knew it, we were walking in waist-deep water. It felt like we were on a Jacques Cousteau series instead of conducting a wetland delineation.

Like an oasis in the desert, we saw a fallen tree large enough that we could all get on top of to gather our senses and assess the situation. By this time, my co-worker was completely exhausted and could no longer go on without adequate rest.

So to pass the time while we took a break, we decided to talk about folklore and the mythical creature, Rougarou. I mean what better setting than sitting on a tree in the middle of a flooded forest with numerous historic artifacts around us. We shared stories until the sun started to set. It was time to do something.

Right then, with an already frightened mindset from our folklore tales, we heard a loud crashing noise and giant splashing footsteps coming toward us. Instantly recognizing what was happening and that it was not hypothermic hallucinations, there was an additional loud screaming growl that shook all of us to the inner most rain-soaked core of our bodies. In sheer terror, we practically walked on water along the rest of the route to get out of there. Even my exhausted, non-eating co-worker suddenly had more than enough energy to evacuate the area in a hurry.

Valuable wetlands: The vegetation in wetlands act as a natural filter, removing toxins and pollutants from runoff water before it returns to the ground.

We completed the day with more data and excitement than what we wanted or expected. Wetlands, historic artifacts and a visit from a Rougarou. How else would you start a weekend in Louisiana, right?

The wetland delineation and cultural survey were complete, the client was happy and we made it home safe. As my family and I walked into the LSU Tiger Stadium the next day, I had a different feeling. I was more aware of the history around me and, of course, I made sure to eat before the game.

Preparedness was on my mind as it started to rain after the opening kickoff. This time I reached down for my rain jacket, and the roar was that of the crowd. Geaux Tigers!

About the Author:

Jude is a Project Manager with experience providing project management and field biologist supervisor services on a wide range of coastal and inland projects. His experience includes coordination and management of projects for oil and gas companies and federal, state, and local agencies such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Coast Guard, National Marine Fisheries Service, Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. He has supervised the monitoring and data collection and management of low-profile artificial reefs in Mississippi and Louisiana and has also been responsible for securing permits for oil and gas exploration, production, pipeline, and transmission projects. Got a question for Jude? Send him an email at jude.ledoux@powereng.com.