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State may turn over diversion canal operations

By Leonard Gray / L’Observateur / May 20, 1998

HAHNVILLE – Operation of the Davis Pond Freshwater Diversion Project, once it is completed, may pass to local authorities in St. Charles Parish.A resolution was passed 7-1 to allow Parish President Chris Tregre to open negotiations with the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, which is constructing the diversion project between Luling and Ama.

The canal and control structures, including a pump station near Willowdale Country Club Estates, will allow controlled flows of water from the Mississippi River to Lakes Cataouatche and Lake Salvador, west of U.S. Highway 90.The intent is to have St. Charles Parish manage day-to-day operations,with maintenance funds coming from state compensation.

In a letter to Tregre from LDNR Assistant Administrator Diana Smith, DNR asked for the agreement, stating: “The LDNR believes that St. CharlesParish Government possesses the equipment, facilities and necessary personnel with the experience, knowledge and expertise in close proximity to the Davis Pond project to manage the facility in a satisfactory manner on a daily basis.”As a training program, public works director Richard Wright would become familiarized with the state’s Caernarvon freshwater diversion project in Plaquemines Parish.

The pump station is anticipated to be completed by August 1998. No dollaramount was mentioned in council discussion on the matter.

In other activity, the Parish Council voted not to conduct a tax election planned for July 18 to ask voter approval of more taxes to support technical upgrades of the 9-1-1 system.

The 10-year, 3/4-mill tax would have been an increase to the half-mill tax approved by parish voters in July 1991.

The tax hike was approved by the St. Charles Communications District May11 to acquire the infrastructure for an upgraded, 800-megaHertz radio system, estimated total cost being $1.5 million, according to Major SamZinna of the St. Charles Sheriff’s Office and the Communications District.However, late last week, local volunteer fire departments voted among themselves not to support the tax proposal for the upgrade.

Tregre likewise voiced his concern about asking the public for a tax increase with sales tax revenue “pretty good” and increased tax revenues from Waterford 3.

“I hope we could do this without asking the voters for more tax revenue,” Tregre observed.

In other agenda items, the Parish Council narrowly approved transferring $1.4 million from its emergency contingency fund, first established in1989, to the construction fund being used for the east and west bank regional sewage treatment plants.

Tregre said the existence of the fund jeopardized FEMA compensation in cases of natural disaster, and that the parish was “very lucky” it received what it did following the 1995 flood.

“I think it’s a good idea,” Parish Councilman Barry Minnich said.

“I think it’s a bad idea,” Councilman Curtis Alexander responded. “It’s notan emergency.”The fund was established to assist the parish in cases of public emergencies and budget crises. By moving the money, the parish would beable to reduce the millage rate needed to retire the debt on the project.

At the same time, the Parish Council voted to abolish the emergency fund.

Both ordinances passed by 5-3 votes, with Johnson, Alexander and Bill Sirmon voting against and Dickie Duhe absent.

At the climax of six months’ negotiations, the Parish Council voted down the purchase of a tract of land adjoining the West Bridge Park, Luling, from Edward Dufresne Jr. and Esperanza Land Company.The asking price for the 14.408-acre site was $800,000, with thestipulation that the parish would construct a public road between the tract and the St. Charles School Board headquarters building, extendingfrom River Road to the Texas and Pacific Railroad tracks.

An attempt to table the matter to the parish finance committee, pushed by Parish Councilman Ron Phillips, failed. The vote against the purchase was5-2, with Sirmon and Alexander favoring the land buy.

Finally, an engineering contract with Camp Dresser & McKee Inc. for theWillowridge Park was approved by a 5-2 vote for $16,500. The firm willdetermine the extent of wetlands on the donated site, file for appropriate permits and develop a mitigation plan if necessary.

The Parish Council welcomed new Library Director Mary desBordes and also postponed action on moving the starting time of future meetings from 7 p.m. to 6 p.m., to be able to complete their business before 11 p.m.

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