Opposition mounts to Raceland mitigation project
By Jacob Batte Staff Writer
More local officials have spoken out against a proposal that could cause dozens of Raceland landowners to lose their property as a result of efforts to compensate for levees and drainage work to protect areas surrounding New Orleans from hurricanes.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials say the project is tentative and years away if it moves forward.
North Lafourche Levee District Director Dwayne Bourgeois expressed doubt the corps would move forward on mitigation work in the area. On Wednesday, the levee district board passed a resolution opposing the project.
Following hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the corps developed the West Bank and Vicinity 100-year Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System.
The corps has targeted land in Raceland as part of three projects to offset the environmental damage caused by building and upgrading levees and floodwalls on the West Bank. Federal laws require the agency to replace any damaged wetlands with land elsewhere.
Sugar-cane fields and swampland will be reflooded and turned into wetlands as part of the so-called mitigation work, officials said. An estimated 60 property owners could be affected.
Should the corps move forward on the Raceland project area, they would need to perform additional environmental analysis and hold another public forum, project manager Tutashinda Salaam said.
“We’re a long way off from there, if we even move in that direction. We have a lot of analysis we have to do if we move forward. We heard all of the comments from the public. We’ve answered many congressional inquiries on this project. Obviously our tentative plan is still tentative,” Salaam said.
On Thursday night at a congressional election forum in Thibodaux, 11 candidates unanimously opposed the project. Republican House candidate Garrett Graves characterized the project as “one of the stupidest decisions to come out of a stupid agency in a long time.”
“Why in the world would you go there and take sugar-cane property? Why take this when you could restore wetlands that have been lost, go out to the coast and restore the wetlands,” Graves said.
Staff Writer Jacob Batte can be reached at 448-7635 email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @ja_batte.