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14.7.09

Corps decision should discourage unneeded reservoir

The Army Corps of Engineers, reviled by some in New Orleans, may have many in Washington Parish feeling quite the opposite about it with its recent decision to deny a permit for the commencement of the building of a manmade reservoir there.

As noted previously, this project emulates others around the state that not only serve as glorious wastes of taxpayer dollars but also enable the shuttling of these to special interests. The worst example, at it got completed, is Poverty Point near Monroe where tens of millions of dollars were spent to create a lake that supposedly would bring a big touristic economic boom to the area. Instead, all it did was flood a bunch of land and make some political insiders wealthy – and apparently not totally legally.

Led by state Sen. Ben Nevers, a similar stunt is being attempted in Washington Parish, but area residents are resisting. A pliant Washington Parish Reservoir Commission, of whom all but one of its members were appointed by former Gov. Kathleen Blanco in 2003 for 10-year terms, tried to push through the necessary permits with the ACE. But in part because of resident objections, the federal agency turned down the request. Unfortunately, the Commission plans on trying again by addressing one ACE complaint that the request did not fit the intent of the project.

This probably was as a result of the Commission at first insisting the project was needed for drinking water supply – even though surveys show an abundance in the existing aquifer – and then changing it to a nebulous excuse of supplying water for industrialization that has yet to occur, if it ever will. If the Poverty Point experience is any guide, building a lake does not mean they will come for tourism, industry, or anything else and it seems there would have to be a rapid, unpredicted buildup in industrial uses for more groundwater to be a necessity in the area.

Fortunately, present Gov. Bobby Jindal seems much less enamored with these kinds of uses of limited financial resources when tens of billions of dollars worth of needs in the areas of roads and other more vital projects exist. He should make clear that he will cast a line item veto on any funds that sneak their way into the capital outlay budget for this purpose, and, if he is governor after Jul. 1, 2013, will not reappoint any Commission member who approves of a resubmission of this idea to the Corps or to pursue any reservoir plan. These kinds of declarations should be more than enough to terminate any such plans unless the Commission has enough rogue members willing to bet their political careers on Jindal not being there in slightly less than four years.

Especially under tight budget constraints for the next couple of years, the last thing the state needs to do is fund unnecessary, zero-priority projects that transfer taxpayer wealth to the hands of a few while neglecting far more pressing concerns.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you. If only I could express myself as eloquently as you have regarding this horrible waste of taxpayer money and the injustice suffered by the people who have to live the nightmare. My family, neighbors and I have been pretty beat up over this issue for the past five years. We've been told by our parish government, elected state representatvies, and reservoir commission that we were "ghost chasers" and that we just didn't want to see progress which is totally not true. We just didn't want to be railroaded by a bunch of legislative landgrabbers. My precious father went to his grave being threatened with his home and heritage being taken away leaving his children to continue with the fight. With this USACE decision and the indictments of connected officials, we feel somewhat vindicated. Thank you so very much for your comments regarding the recent decision by the USACE. Sincerely, Jalon Pittman-Beech (jalonbeech@yahoo.com)