The port of New Orleans wants/needs to expand. They had two sites, one in Plaquemains Parish and another in St Bernard Parish. They chose to target Violet in St Bernard. Now citizens groups are rising up to say no.
A group formed to block a proposed $1.5 billion container ship terminal in St. Bernard Parish has been joined by several local cultural associations, businesses, and residents in a lawsuit filed Tuesday that aims to prevent the Port of New Orleans from building the facility. The lawsuit, filed in St. Bernard Parish District Court, is the latest effort by parish residents trying to kill the project. They argue that it would severely disrupt parish life and damage the environment because of its size and the traffic it would generate. Port officials say that the new container terminal is crucial for New Orleans as it tries to keep pace with competitors, especially Houston and Mobile. Those ports have gained considerably more market share over the past decade because of their ability to handle the larger container ships arriving from export markets in Asia. The lawsuit was brought by Stop the Destruction of St. Bernard, lnc., a non-profit formed this year by a group of residents who oppose the container terminal, which Port Nola has dubbed the Louisiana International Terminal. The group is led by Bobby Showalter, a former shipping executive and parish resident-turned-community organizer.nola.com
Trucks loaded with containers would disrupt the Parish? They would as the road is a 4 lane one but not to Violet. Violet may be under developed but the road goes through developed areas with shopping opportunities. Others in the Parish think the same way.
Also joining the lawsuit is Los Isleños Heritage and Cultural Society of St. Bernard, a non-profit representing members of the Canary Islander Descendants community and their supporters, which operates a museum and cultural center in the parish; and the Violet Cultural & Historical Association, which represents the majority African-American populace in Violet, which is particularly concerned about the threat to local Black cemeteries. Businesses joining the lawsuit are Charlie’s Restaurant & Catering, the Parish Diner, and AJ Hunt, a local construction firm. Mario Williams and Janet Perez are two residents who also have joined. Both Port Nola and the St. Bernard Port are named as defendants in the lawsuit. The suit is asking the court for an injunction to block the Louisiana International Terminal, known as the LIT, from moving forward on the grounds that it violates Louisiana’s nuisance laws and poses a threat to public health and the environment. “The proposed LIT would have serious negative environmental impacts and cause catastrophic damages not only to neighboring petitioners but to all citizens of the parish,” the lawsuit says. “The operations of the proposed terminal necessarily will co-opt virtually the entire public transportation infrastructure, destroy valuable wetlands and other facilities crucial to proper drainage,” it says. It would “threaten the security of the residents and commercial concerns in the parish, and create damaging noise, light and aerial emissions, among many other public concerns.”
Obviously this is far more than “not in my backyard”. Other industrial developments have damaged or ruined Black cemeteries. Damage to wet lands is not what we need as we lose land.
Port Nola officials said Tuesday they were aware that the petition had been filed and would respond in court. Matthew Gresham, Port Nola head of public affairs, issued a statement on behalf of port officials that reiterated earlier promises to consult with the local community in St. Bernard on all aspects of the terminal. “We believe any lawsuit is premature given the early stages of the project, and that the petition contains a number of assumptions and misrepresentations that are not based on facts,” said the prepared statement from the port. “Much of the petition is centered around environmental and quality of life concerns—issues that will be addressed in the multi-year federal and state permitting process that is just now beginning,” the statement said. “Combining extensive historic, demographic, economic, environmental, and engineering review with considerable opportunity for public comment and input, this permitting process will allow us to address concerns, including traffic, safety, environmental, infrastructure, historic preservation, and other issues related to the project.”
In a sense the Port is right but this first shot tells them what is important to the community and lets them know they will be watched. Yet if New Orleans is to stay in the fight for the container business expansion is needed. My question, which is not one asked, is what dredging will be needed for the container ships which will be coming.
Port Nola secured the rights to purchase the 1,100-acre property in Violet last year, and has argued since that there is no time to waste in building the facility. The world container shipping market has been growing steadily and New Orleans has outstripped the national annual growth rate of 3%. But as more shipping volume has made its way to Gulf of Mexico ports, New Orleans has lagged well behind the growth seen by rivals, especially Mobile, which has seen a tripling in volume over the past decade. Port Nola last week took delivery of four new gantry cranes that will initially enhance capacity to deal with container ships at its Napoleon Avenue terminal. But the port still needs a deep-draft facility downriver to deal with larger ships that cannot sail under the Crescent City Connection to get to the Uptown terminal. The four new Chinese-made cranes will double capacity to about 1 million standard 20-foot containers a year. But the Louisiana International Terminal aims to have capacity of 2 million units initially, rising to 3 million when all three planned berths are built.
Those opposing the port’s expansion into St Bernard Parish have other ideas.
Those opposed to building in Violet argue that there are better alternatives further downriver, especially a proposed private sector development at the current site of the Plaquemines Port. That project has made progress this year, with the private developer acquiring rights to buy land. The Plaquemines Parish Council, which is the port’s overseeing body and a partner in the project, has agreed to fund rail and road links and a deal with APM Terminals is in hand to operate the terminal. One of the allegations in Tuesday’s lawsuit is that executives from Port Nola and the St. Bernard Port made their deal a year ago without proper consultation with the public. The lawsuit argues that the St. Bernard Port agreed to Port Nola’s terms under financial duress after being found liable to pay a former private sector operator, Violet Dock Port LLC, nearly $29 million for appropriating its property. The lawsuit says that St. Bernard Port executives then went on to extol the virtues of Port Nola’s St. Bernard terminal, contradicting their earlier objections to a previous proposal to build the container terminal at a site called “the Sinclair Tract”, three miles upriver at Meraux.
Roads, roads, roads. They are not good and to get through New Orleans from St Bernard is through heavily developed areas with narrow roads.
It notes that the St. Bernard Port’s previous opposition cited the severe impact the terminal at Sinclair would have on St. Bernard’s limited road capacity. The port had argued that additional truck traffic would put unbearable strain on the only two highways giving access to the parish, the lawsuit says, and also cited environmental damage and other issues. “After documenting these concerns as to the Sinclair Tract proposed development, the St. Bernard Port now appears to have flipped its position and outrageously claims that the container terminal is in its, and purportedly the parish’s, best interests, with no mention at all of the negative impacts expressed as to the Sinclair development,” the lawsuit says. Sidney Torres III, the attorney representing the St. Bernard port opposition group, said its mission is simple: to kill the container terminal project on any site in St. Bernard Parish. “There is no middle ground,” Torres said. “If the Port Nola people feel they’re going to come down here and muscle in they might as well tell us to go live elsewhere, because there isn’t room here for both. It doesn’t work here.” Torres also is on the board of the Meraux Foundation, which is part owner of the Sinclair Tract upriver. In 2018, Port Nola and the Meraux Foundation studied the feasibility of the port acquiring that land for $75 million and siting the container terminal there. However, Torres said that deal never would have passed Meraux Foundation’s due diligence because of the environmental impact.
This is the problem, development in built up areas which pits the people against development with large bags of money and politicians in their pockets.
The lawsuit “is going to put the spotlight on the feudalistic system we have in Louisiana with all these (state-owned) ports competing with each other,” said Torres. “What is obvious here is that it’s not just St. Bernard that would be the victim of siting this terminal here but the whole state of Louisiana. There are better places downriver to develop this terminal but it is outside of (Port Nola’s) control, and so they don’t want that.”
Stay tuned for more and since building has not begun this will be in the news for the next few years.