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The Port of New Orleans has purchases land in Violet for the container port and opponents are gearing up.

A group from St. Bernard Parish said it plans to increase pressure to stop a proposed $1.5 billion contatiner ship terminal, after the Port of New Orleans announced this week that it has completed the purchase of 1,100 acres in Violet where it plans to build the facility. About 30 members of the group Save our St. Bernard attended the St. Bernard Parish Council meeting Tuesday night and demanded the council pass resolutions to further study the environmental impact of the terminal and to seek more information from Port Nola. Though council members unanimously adopted the resolutions, the meeting turned testy as frustrated group members accused some of council of not doing enough to oppose the terminal, which they say will bring traffic congestion and pollution and disrupt their way of life. “Why is my organization having to lead the charge on this?” S.O.S. president Bobby Showalter asked council members. “Because the Parish Council and administration is not taking a lead and representing their constituents, even though we have 10,000 signatures on our petition.”
Rendering of the proposed $1.5 billion container terminal at Violet, St. Bernard Parish.
Courtesy Port of New Orleans

The Parish Council has not approved the port facility but they have no control over the Port which is continuing in the face of opposition.

Though the Parish Council has consistently voted to oppose the container terminal, several members have noted that the council has no jurisdiction over the ports, which are state entities. “We could pass 100 resolutions and it won’t matter,” Council Chair Richard Lewis said. “We’ve hired someone to make sure (Port Nola) follows the law, gets the right permits, and so on.” But he suggested to the S.O.S. contingent that their next move should be to go to the state Legislature and try and get members there to take action. St. Bernard Council member Joshua Moran noted the promise of 700 jobs to come from the container terminal, called the Louisiana International Terminal. “They already bought the property so let us as a council do our jobs and try and get the infrastructure money to build the roads which would alleviate the traffic,” Moran said. A group from the longshoreman union, ILA Local 1422, attended Tuesday’s meeting in support of the LIT and murmured in agreement at Moran’s comments. But S.O.S. supporters in attendance and on social media have vowed to fight on.

The parish residents were notified by email that the land had been bought.

On Monday, Port Nola told St. Bernard Parish residents residents in an email that the land purchase had been completed. “This comes after a year of due diligence, surveying, and ongoing community engagement,” the Port Nola email said. “The next step will be the multi-year permitting process through the Army Corps of Engineers, (which) will include many more studies on the impacts, benefits, and infrastructure investments needed to make the container terminal a successful project for all, particularly the St. Bernard community.” Port Nola has for years sought to build a downriver port that will be able to handle rapidly growing container volume on ever-larger vessels. As Port Nola CEO Brandy Christian has pointed out, the port’s volume has grown but its share of business coming to the Gulf of Mexico has shrunk because of lack of capacity to handle the big ships that cannot make it past the Crescent City Connection upriver. But opponents to the plan in St. Bernard say that alternative container terminals, including one proposed to be built at Plaquemines Port, make more sense as they aren’t in populated areas.

Peaceful protest goes so far so the courts have been approached.

Showalter’s group last month sued Port Nola in state District Court in St. Bernard Parish, asking a judge to stop the LIT, largely on the grounds that it would cause environmental damage, damage culturally significant areas, and disrupt the lives of residents by causing traffic congestion turmoil. “There are several other angles we’re working on now,” said Showalter. There will be more physical protests and petition gathering events. He said they plan to press state legislators to support their opposition, especially state Rep. Ray Garofalo and Sen. Sharon Hewitt, who represent the parish. So far they haven’t taken a firm position, as is the case for both U.S. Sens. John Kennedy and Bill Cassidy, and U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise. “We’re trying to set up meetings with the various representatives to try and make them realize that the port is in the wrong place,” said Showalter. Other initiatives S.O.S. is taking include seeking the official endorsement and support from groups that include the NAACP and the Sierra Club, as well as lining them and others up to provide expert testimony for the legal proceedings, he said. They are also expecting to get the support of neighborhood organizations in the Lower 9th Ward who would be affected by traffic from the LIT.

I have not heard that the land was bought with Eminent Domain but this is a case of business running roughshod over the community. Having driven from Violet to New Orleans a number of times it is not a road designed for container trucks. The Port does need to expand and I can recognize why they want a more down river site. Yet with the development of the area and the condition of the roads is there a good site that does not impact the citizens? That is what they are trying to figure out. Good luck!

St Bernard protest purchase of land for port