LAA proposal delayed while legislature debates

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 8, 2005


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE — The Louisiana Airport Authority faces a possible delay in the Louisiana Transportation Commissions project for the new Cargo Airport to be built in Donaldsonville, due to an analysis on the LTC by Wilbur Smith and Associates.

State Rep. Roy Quezaire, Donaldsonville, presented a House Concurrent Resolution urging and requesting Governor Kathleen Blanco and the Department of Economic Development to embrace and publicly support the proposed LTC project.

Executive Project Coordinator Karl Ray of SNC-Lavalin, Inc. stated he would not invest in this project unless certain state-funded assessments are completed.

This includes, “the LAA’s requested appropriation of $4.4 million funds this undertaking ($2 million),” said Ray. “The Environmental Analysis and programs that LAA will cause to be carried out by others. The consultant’s analysis does not speak to this kind of commercial assessment and relies on the traditional kind of public sector analysis we often see in airport planning, leading a reader to envisage a development program larger than any reasonable business case could support.”

Quezaire stated the proposed agreement between the private investor and LAA will provide a cash flow to LAA, which will allow the LAA to pay the state back for the funds used in this project.

The Canadian Commercial Corporation was selected by LAA as the private investor for this project and will provide to the state of Louisiana a “sovereign guarantee that the work on the facility will be completed in accordance with the terms and conditions of the contract, according to information provided the house concurrent resolution.

Also mentioned in the analysis by WSA is Louisiana’s inability to compete with other markets for international air cargo.

“The tone of the WSA report suggests that WSA does not believe that we can compete with other markets,” said LAA Chairman Glen Smith. “Interest by SNC

Lavalin and others suggest otherwise. It is our opinion that if Louisiana does not complete the necessary Environmental and Project Preparation tasks, Louisiana will not be given an opportunity to confirm our ability to compete in the growing global marketplace. The immediate need is essentially to allow the LAA and investor to proceed with their own detailed market assessments and environmental analysis of the site.”

Smith said if the studies determine that the return on their private investment is an acceptable risk, they will proceed and the LAA will not begin land acquisition “until the environment analysis is complete and the LAA has entered into a balanced public/private partnership agreement that protects the interest of the State of Louisiana,” he said.

According to Smith the Master Plan of the project presented a development phased over a 40-year period, as will the need for state funds.

Quezaire noted that this project will have a huge economic impact on the state of Louisiana over this 40-year period, estimating 66,000 jobs and a total of around 40.1 billion dollars in new household earnings for Louisiana citizens.

Additionally, a total of approximately 174.8 billion dollars in new sales would be created for Louisiana businesses, and the state is estimated to collect over $2.2 billion dollars in new taxes, which amount if far above the investment the state is asked to make in the project.