Two tales of a tank farm

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 28, 2009


VACHERIE — There aren’t many places along the Mississippi in the River Parishes where a 1,700-acre tract of undeveloped land can be put together.

But there is one.

Situated just upstream of the Veterans Memorial Bridge, the property is bordered by La. Hwy. 18 on the north, St. James Street on the east and Simon Subdivision on the west. To the south, it runs past the Union Pacific Railroad tracks and all the way beyond La. 3127. There are four pipelines crossing the property.

Oh, and it has 3,000 feet of Mississippi River frontage at a point just shy of where a pilot change is required and where the river remains deep enough to accommodate ocean-going tankers.

It is the perfect parcel.

Larry Sciacchetano says it’s the perfect spot for Petroplex International St. James, a $300 million project to build a 10-million barrel capacity tank farm.

Michael Calabro says the property is perfect as is. For decades, sugar cane has been planted, grown and harvested … and Calabro prefers the thought of looking out at that sugar cane instead of a tank farm.

There seems to be little middle ground in the discussion centering around the project — those wanting economic development in largely rural St. James Parish see it as a financial savior of sorts, bringing more than 250 jobs during construction and more than 50 jobs upon completion, not to mention the some limited tax revenues. Those opposing it see it as a disaster waiting to happen … a project that sells out the rural serenity and sends dangerous chemicals into the air for a few bucks.

This package presents both views from those closest to the project, project manager/partner Sciacchetano and opponent/activist Calabro.