The Gray Line Tour: Airport should be looked at

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 20, 2002


All of a sudden, it seems, the notion of a “St. Charles International Airport” is leaping to the public imagination.

It isn’t? Perhaps it should.

The project involves taking a sizeable chunk of the LaBranche Wetlands (you know the area – it’s what traffic reporters and half the television news people in New Orleans call the Bonnet Carre Spillway – even though the Spillway itself is a small portion of that area between Kenner and LaPlace), and filling it and plopping an airport on it.

Suddenly, as it may seem, jets will be taking off and landing on five runways, belly-to-belly with Louis Armstrong International Airport.

Questions should now be leaping to mind. Here’s a few suggestions:

1. What impact will this have on St. Charles Parish?

That’s a huge question with a host of answers. It will likely cause the relocation of hundreds of families, increase noise, increase tax revenue, increase jobs, increase business development, increase crime, increase traffic and increase the process of transforming the parish from essentially rural to nearly urban.

2. What effect will this have on wetlands?

It will take hundreds of acres out of wetlands classification and the mitigation for all that wetland loss will enhance the remainder of the parish’s wetlands – provided that mitigation is allowed to take place here.

3. Who benefits politically?

That all depends on who is in authority and how they work with the developers. Undoubtedly, campaign contributions will be something to watch in the next council and parish presidential election.

4. What will this do to the Louisiana Airport Authority project and to plans by Armstrong Airport to expand into the parish?

It could have a detrimental effect on the LAA project, as the Federal Aviation Administration may see two huge airports fairly close together as undesirable. And it would pretty much regulate Armstrong Airport to a minor airfield.

5. What if they merged the two airports into one massive airport?

With such an idea comes the question of control. Right now, Armstrong is controlled by the New Orleans city government, with only token representation from here. It would allow this massive airport to have absentee control. And that’s not good.

LEONARD GRAY is assistant managing editor for L’Observateur.