Church latest to stand in way of ferry restoration

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE — St. John Parish attorneys handling the fight to get the Reserve-Edgard Ferry back in action have granted the Archdiocese of New Orleans some extra time to respond to legal action pertaining to an agreement between the parish and St. John the Baptist Church.

Kerry Brown, a LaPlace attorney and member of the St. John Council legal team, said the Archdiocese was given a 15-day extension Tuesday to respond to a declaratory judgment stating that the Edgard church might be in violation of an agreement it has had with the parish since 1967.

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.

Brown explained the dispute comes down to usage of a servitude by Entergy for placement of a utility pole needed to power the ferry’s Edgard landing site. He said the church is blocking Entergy from moving its pole from the levee to the other side of River Road.

“I was hoping to get this settled as quickly as possible,” said Brown. “It’s such an important matter that has been put off far too long.”

Meanwhile, officials with the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development say even if the legal matter is resolved in a timely manner there still may be a delay in getting the ferry back on the water.

Roy Quezaire, legislative liaison for LADOTD said the department is dealing with a shortage of personnel with the required Coast Guard licensing needed to operate the ferry. He explained that DOTD has had a difficult time keeping employees because there are similar jobs in the private sector that are better paying.

“We are aggressively pursuing and trying to get people who are interested in operating the ferries,” said Quezaire. “It has been a struggle for us for a number of years.”

Quezaire also mentioned that the boat that was removed from the ferry site in Edgard is in need of minor repairs. He said those repairs could be done within a week at best.

“That is the smallest hill we must climb,” said Quezaire. “The biggest challenge is in the employment shortfall. We are very serious about restoring the services, but we must make sure the “i’s” are dotted and the “t’s” are crossed.”