Legal action may end Edgard ferry struggle

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE — St. John attorneys are hoping that legal action might put an end to the fight to get the parish’s Reserve-to-Edgard ferry floating across the Mississippi River again.

Kerry Brown, a LaPlace attorney and member of the St. John Council legal team, said he is filing a declaratory judgment that will examine a 40-year-old agreement between the parish and St. John the Baptist Church in Edgard. He said the church is blocking efforts by Entergy to reposition a utility pole needed to power the ferry’s ramp and other traffic-control devices around the West Bank landing.

“The judgment will look into what took place when the church donated use of a servitude for the levee and the ferry back in 1967,” said Brown. “It will determine if terms of that agreement have been violated.”

The 17-car ferry, an important mode of transportation for parish residents on both sides of the river, has been shut down since June of 2007 for repairs and improvements as part of a project spearheaded by the Army Corps of Engineers. During those improvements, the Corps advised that Entergy must move a utility pole in the levee’s slope, since the previous placement could potentially damage the levee in that area.

To resolve the placement issue, Entergy had planned to install a pole on River Road that will extend lines to another pole on the river batture near the landing. The changes have stirred up a property access dispute between Entergy and the church.

“The church decided not to approve use of the servitude to move the pole,” said St. John Public Information Officer Buddy Boe. “We are trying to determine if the church still has grounds to refuse since we have an agreement that goes back 40 years.”

Representatives for the Archdiocese of New Orleans declined to comment citing it as a pending legal matter.

Boe said at the time of the Corps of Engineer’s project, which wrapped up in January of this year, the state initiated a project that paid for repairs to landings on the East Bank and West Bank. Boe said those improvements have since been completed.

“Everything is done on our end,” said Boe. “The ferry is ready to run today. We just want the people to understand that everyone wants the ferry turned back on.”

Figures from the state show that about 11,000 vehicles and 1,800 pedestrian riders use the ferry monthly. With the boat out of commission, motorists have had to drive an extra 9 to 12 miles out to the Veterans Memorial Bridge in St. James Parish, which connects to the town of Wallace. The trek adds over 20 minutes to a ride that would be 15 minutes on the ferry.

“It has become a hassle for anyone who works at the courthouse, as well as for residents of the West Bank who need to travel to the East Bank to shop and conduct business,” Boe said. “The parish is interjecting itself into this issue with the hope of resolving it quicker.”

Boe said the St. John Council voted in favor of taking legal action at an October 14 council meeting.