But never count out the resourcefulness of Louisiana legislators. Instead, a slightly-stripped down version of the bill (co-authored by Rep. Harold Ritchie, author of HB 518) by Sen. Ben Nevers, SB 278, flew through the Senate (twice) without a dissenting vote and drew just three nays in the House. Gov. Kathleen Blanco signed it into law before the end of the fiscal year.
Plenty of noxious features remained in it:
Given the incestuous relationships that appear among the principals who have created past lakes across the state and wish to continue to do so, the loose provisions in the act make it ripe for corrupt uses. As troubling is the penchant for the people involved to continue to give evasive or inaccurate information when queried about these projects.
So, for example, Nevers says he will not profit financially from the proposed lake. However, he is an owner of and involved in several corporations which could stand to make big gains from any lake building or operation activities. His business partner Charles Mizell, who sits on the Washington Parish Reservoir Commission, in one forum claims provision of drinking water is the main purpose of the lake, yet this contradicts the enabling legislation.
But the lake express continues to roll on. HB 123 passed to create a similar situation in Lincoln Parish, while SB 47 expanded the powers of a similar arrangement in Morehouse Parish. And the State Bond Commission reauthorized funding for Washington Parish’s.
Why doesn’t the state slow down on this? The Sierra Club, which admittedly is usually wrong on the issues, is right on this one to request a moratorium on reservoir building until the matter is further studied. Why not assess the economic, environmental, and cultural impact, as a whole of this frenzy before money may get frivolously spent and lasting damage done (it’s kind of hard to un-build a lake)?
And institute more-stringent standards regarding connections between state lawmakers, their appointees, and relatives who stand to gain from it all. While legislation is desirable here, it may not even take that. For example, Nevers and Mizell could pledge, right now, that as long as they remain in government service that they or any business in which they or their immediate relatives have an interest will not do business with any activity connected to these lakes.
To ignore these items of common sense again leaves Louisiana wide open to the twin plagues of wasted resources and corrupt activities.