NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Louisiana is taking a step it hopes will save both its coast and its oyster industry: It's renewing an oyster leasing program.

The Louisiana Legislature recently passed two bills that lift a 14-year-old moratorium on new leases for oyster farmers.

Lifting the moratorium will help oyster farmers because they'll be able to develop new oyster grounds out of the path of land-building diversions of Mississippi River water and sediment.

Oyster farmers don't like the diversions because freshwater and sediment kill their oysters. But river diversions play a central role in the state's efforts in rebuilding its vanishing coast, which is disappearing at a rate of about 17 square miles a year.

The moratorium was imposed in 2002 because the state feared oyster farming could hinder coastal rebuilding.


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