Louisiana's entire congressional delegation signed a letter
to the Army Corps of Engineers expressing "serious concern” over an
attempt to turn nearly 500 acres of sugar-cane fields and swamps into
On Oct. 15 the Corps of Engineers accidentally released a
proposal that would take 460 acres of privately owned sugar-cane fields
and swamps along La. 307 between Kraemer and Raceland and convert them
into wetlands to compensate for any environmental damage caused by
upgrading hurricane protection on the West Bank of New Orleans.
a letter sent today to Col. Rick Hansen, all eight Louisiana
congressmen denounced the proposal, noting that mitigating those lands
would be "counterproductive” to the economy and the community. Reducing
the size of sugar-cane yields is a hit to the economy, while building
wetlands and swamps on what is now high ground would only increase the
region's chances of flooding.
"A result that would directly hurt private property owners and local residents,” the letter states.
spokesman Rene Poche said the proposal was released by mistake because
it had not been thoroughly vetted internally, but acknowledged the same
or a similar proposal may be released at a later date.
recommendation is a watered down version of one released in the spring
of 2014 that would have affected about 60 Raceland homes. Residents
flooded the Lafourche Parish Council chambers to decry the proposal,
which also drew the ire of the state's congressional delegation.
was made clear then is still the case today - any attempt to take
property from unwilling sellers is going to be met with stiff
resistance,” the letter states.
Congressmen encouraged the corps
to instead turn its focus to restoring the state's disappearing coast
instead of attempting "a multi-million dollar federal land grab.”
Coastal Louisiana has lost nearly 1,900 square miles of coast since the
Following hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, the corps
developed the West Bank and Vicinity 100-year Hurricane and Storm Damage
Risk Reduction System.
Federal laws require the agency to replace any damaged wetlands with land elsewhere.
fields and swampland will be reflooded and turned into wetlands as part
of what the corps describes as mitigation work.
If the corps
intends to move forward on the land, it will first seek an appraisal of
the property. If landowners refuse to sell, the corps could expropriate
the land. Under the law, a public agency can force an owner to sell, at
fair market value, property for a public purpose such as flood
The letter is signed by U.S. Sens. David Vitter and
Bill Cassidy, and U.S. Reps. Garret Graves, Steve Scalise, Charles
Boustany, John Fleming, Cedric Richmond and Ralph Abraham.
Administrator Archie Chaisson said the parish received support from the
entire congressional delegation in 2014, as well, including then U.S.
Sen. Mary Landrieu.
In an interview earlier this week, Chaisson
said he plans to work with the delegation to force another public
hearing in Lafourche.