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Sen. Adley’s SB 629 seeks to drown our voices

15th April 2014   ·   0 Comments

Senator Robert Adley, of Benton, which is part of northwestern Louisiana, at the behest of the Jindal Administration, has filed SB 629 to abolish the East and West Bank unified Levee Boards, and put the administration of flood control directly under the Governor’s purview.

Gubernatorial staffers argue that Adley’s legislation will end duplication, yet their real objective is to end the South Louisiana Flood Protection Authority lawsuit against 97 oil companies for damage to coastal wetlands.

Jindal has decried the class-action suit sponsored by the East and West Bank levee boards as anti-business (or anti-oil-and-gas, a most pernicious moniker in petro-Louisiana). However, the sole demand of the Levee Board members has been that canals dug through wetlands to build pipelines and rigs be repaired—as agreed to under the law by every petroleum exploration company before each even began to operate along the coast. And, if the marshlands have not been returned to their original condition, to pay for the reconstruction costs.

To ask for monies from oil companies to reverse the saltwater incursion they caused ranks far from a socialist act. It constitutes fair contractual compensation, and the fact that these petrofirms have ignored the LA statutory code provides much of the explanation as to why our coastal wetlands, our only protections from major hurricanes, wash away in football field chunks every hour.

Moreover the creation of a unified levee system for the East Bank parishes, and one for the West Bank parishes, recognized that both floodzones have different, and often contradictory protection needs. One is embanked to the North by a brackish bay of the Gulf of Mexico, also known as Lake Pontchartrain, and the River to the south. The other stretches from the River to the coast, in a series of outlying flood protection systems.

The 2006 compromise is the perfect balance of regionalism and localism. For the Jindal Administration, who preaches the priorities of localism under the 10th Amendment anthem of “states’ rights,” should remember the next sentence, about powers reserved for the people.

In the preservation of these levee boards, we fight for citizens’ rights. After all, metro voters approved them overwhelmingly. Our property taxes built and maintained the levee systems originally, and the electorate of the metro area should be the masters of its expenditures.

Can anyone say now that sending FEMA money to the State Treasury rather than the parishes proved the quickest course to recovery? Some residents of the Ninth Ward might disagree.

Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans, the midwives of this reform, issued the following statement on Wednesday. “The overwhelmingly citizen-approved levee board reforms from the 2006 constitutional amendment are not even 10 years old. To dismantle them now would be a betrayal of the citizens of our state and would mean broken promises by the State Legislature and the Governor.”

We could not agree more.

This article originally published in the April 14, 2014 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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