Ormond residents get few answers at barge meeting

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Staff Reporter

DESTREHAN – Despite the absence of representatives from a barge fleeting company planning to alter their operations along the Mississippi River in Destrehan, officials from St. Charles Parish, and representatives from the Army Corps of Engineers have done what they could at a public hearing to ease concerns from citizens living near the facility.

Residents of Ormond have vehemently opposed plans by Magnolia Fleet LLC to add a parking lot and a floating dock of barges to their existing facility near the end of Ormond Drive, and they were hoping to get clarification from the company about the specific plans. Instead, most in attendance left with no new knowledge regarding the fleet operation.

“I think the overall sentiment of the night was that people wished the firm was there,” said Councilman-at-large Terry Authement, who attended the meeting. “People have concerns regarding the effect this project may have on their homes, and we want the public to know that we respect those concerns.”

Authement said that District 3 Councilwoman Wendy Benedetto, who sponsored the town hall meeting, plans to forward a list of questions from residents in attendance to officials from the fleeting firm in hopes that the company can clarify their plans. He also said that Magnolia Fleeting has offered to allow anyone in the area to come out to examine the facilities and ask them direct questions about the plans.

Magnolia Fleeting has already put an application in with the Corps of Engineers regarding their plans. Pete Serio, a representative from the Corps in attendance at the meeting, said that the public comment period had been extended to accommodate the town hall discussion. Serio said that the corps would consider the concerns of the residents and parish as it decides whether to issue a permit to Magnolia for the work.

“The council has no jurisdiction over the corps,” said Authement who, along with the rest of the council, supported a letter of strong objection to the project. “We must accept what they decide. All we can do is submit the letter of objection.”

Serio said the configuration that Magnolia Fleet has in mind would offer more protection to the levee in that area since it makes it less likely for barges to bump the levee if a mooring connection is broken. He said the Pontchartrain Levee District, which helps sustain the levees, issued a letter of no objection to the plans.

Authement said that even if the permit is denied, Magnolia’s fleeting operations would continue in that area as is.