The Bayou Vermilion Preservation Association’s (“BVPA) efforts to educate our community about the many ways we can all help protect the Vermilion plays a crucial role in maintaining our ecosystem. Discover Lafayette welcomed Amber Robinson, Chris Adams, and Kiera Frey to the show to discuss the body of work the BVPA undertakes to educate and work with community members who want to make a difference.
BVPA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to create awareness of our natural environment by providing education and outreach to the general community about ways to conserve, protect and enjoy the Bayou Vermilion Watershed. It works alongside and in partnership with the Bayou Vermilion District (“BVD”) which was established in 1984 and funded by property taxes to “enhance the general conditions and beautification of the bayou by improving water quality, in an effort to promote [it] as a recreational and cultural asset.” And for those who don’t know what a ‘watershed’ is, it is the area of land that drains to a ditch, coulee, bayou, or river. Our region is in the Teche-Vermilion Watershed.
BVPA Secretary and Board Member Kiera Frey: “The polluted image of the dirty, brown body of water, that on any given day could yield tons of floating trash and debris, that Vermilion River is not the one we want tourists who come to town to soak up local culture to take home with them. Nor is it the one we want our children and grandchildren to grow up with. BVPA focuses on educating the community on the natural beauty of the 70-mile waterway, including its recreational & utilitarian value.” Photo by Bryan Tuck of The Advocate.
The River Symposium is BVPA’s biggest fundraiser of the year. It is an annual gathering of presenters who speak on a variety of topics related to the Vermilion River. Each year the theme changes. After a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, this year’s symposium, Innovation on the Bayou: Harnessing New Ideas for Watershed Improvement, will be held on March 25th at the LITE Center on Cajundome Boulevard from 7:30 AM to 2:30 pm. Speakers include Warren Abadie from LCG, Tara Ross from Calcasieu Parish, Ben Malbrough with Bayou Lafourche Fresh Water District, Brian Piazza, The Nature Conservancy and Stephen Ortego with SO Studio Architecture. Cost is $27 which includes BVPA membership & lunch (student cost $5) – Sign up https://www.eventbrite.com/e/bvpas-7th-annual-river-symposium-tickets-165966681813.
BVPA promotes and educates the community on techniques for improving water quality, including green infrastructure such as rain gardens, riparian buffers, and plants to help filter stormwater and control erosion. They teach pollution prevention and ways the public can help protect the watershed, such as litter control, picking up pet waste, maintaining septic systems, preventing yard waste and soil runoff, and awareness of stormwater flows. Most people are not aware that everything eventually flows into the Bayou, even the stormwater runoff of your pet’s waste in the backyard which contains bacteria and parasites.
Most of us don’t realize our direct or indirect contribution to damaging the Vermilion River’s safety. Many of the bayous that flow through the Vermilion-Teche River Basin are not fully meeting their recreational uses of swimming (known as Primary Contact) because of nonpoint source pollution from such sources as agriculture, individual home sewage systems, road and highway construction, and runoff from urban areas in the basin.
The community can continue to help improve water quality by proper maintenance of individual home sewage systems (septic tanks); careful management, storage, and use of manure or fertilizers; picking up our pets’ waste, and everyone picking up or preventing litter!
As a means to keep continuous tabs on water quality, a Long-term Water Quality Monitoring Program samples 19 sites monthly from the headwaters of the Teche-Vermilion Watershed down each channel, to just south of New Iberia on the Teche and the Vermilion sampling ending at the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway; this work is conducted by an intergovernmental sampling team, made up of Lafayette Consolidated Government, Environmental Quality Division; the Teche-Vermilion Fresh Water District (TVFWD) –established in 1983 to restore the flow of fresh water from the Atchafalaya River into the Vermilion-Teche Watershed, and the BVD.
The Bayou Vermilion is labeled as completely safe for secondary contact, that is to say, you can boat and fish as much or as often as you want and still are safe, plus you can consume all the fish you catch out of the river (even if you are pregnant). DEQ does not recommend that you swim in the river (primary contact) and that’s primarily due to the chance of getting a stomach bug from fecal coliform in the water. The source of that contamination is generally home septic systems that don’t work well or neighborhood sewage treatment plants in areas that are not connected to municipal sewage systems. BVPA knows from extensive monitoring that these elevated levels of fecal coliform are not occurring year-round, which suggests there may be months or even whole seasons when the Bayou Vermilion would be safe even for swimming.
The Vermilion River Alliance was founded by BVPA in July 2014. It meets on a quarterly basis with various stakeholder agencies across St. Landry, St. Martin, Lafayette, and Vermilion Parishes. Parish Presidents, Mayors, Police Juries, LDEQ, and Soil and Water Conservation groups share information about water quality, watershed improvement initiatives, river/bayou cleanups, and related public events in an effort to increase efficient use of resources and knowledge.
Throughout the year, BVPA works with various partner agencies to plant trees and shrubs around the community. With a generous Apache Corporation tree grant, hardy native plants that thrive in wetlands, such as Red Maple, Parsley Hawthorn, Water Tupelo, Button Bush, Virginia Sweetspire, and others have been selected for planting by volunteers.
On January 22, Arbor Day planting was held at Southside Regional Park/Faubacher Field, with more than 60 people participating in the planting of more than 80 trees, plus celebration and educational activities for kids and families. A planting day was also held on March 5th at Moore Park, and the final planting will be held on March 26th at Beaver Park, 9am-noon. Public participation is encouraged. Visit
Without a doubt, the dedicated volunteers of BVPA are passionate and knowledgable spokesmen who practice what they preach. With their overarching goal of reconnecting all of us to the Vermilion, it is an organization that truly makes a difference. Please visit https://www.bayouvermilionpreservation.org/#/ for their full calendar, listing of programs, and more ways you can get involved.