Governor returns with $8.7 million for parish

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 4, 2009


LAPLACE — Gov. Bobby Jindal paid a visit to LaPlace Friday to talk about economic development in the River Parishes and hand out millions of dollars in federal funding for hurricane recovery projects.

The visit was part of a statewide “Louisiana Working Tour” that is taking the governor to all 64 parishes within the next several months. The LaPlace stop, which was part of a luncheon sponsored by the River Region Chamber of Commerce, took place at the St. John Community Center Friday morning and was followed by an afternoon stop in Belle Chasse in Plaquemines Parish.

Prior to speaking with the business leaders, residents and elected officials who gathered for the luncheon, Jindal presented an $8.7 million check to St. John Parish officials that will go toward hurricane recovery efforts, hazard mitigation and infrastructure improvements.

“Right after Gustav and Ike, we rejected the idea of creating yet another process filled with bureaucracy to distribute hurricane recovery funds,” Jindal said. “We wanted to expedite the rebuilding process by making sure those dollars go directly to the communities affected instead of going through Washington, D.C., first so that government leaders can make their own decisions on how to use the money.”

St. John Parish President Bill Hubbard said the money would go to infrastructure improvements and flood protection and he already has one project in mind.

During a visit by the governor to the parish last year, Hubbard offered up an idea to use “flapper valves” on some of the main drainage canals in the parish as a way to keep storm surge from submerging streets and flooding homes.

Hubbard said his idea would prevent a repeat of what happened last year when wind-driven storm surge from Hurricane Ike flooded low-lying areas of LaPlace and forced the closure of two exits on Interstate 10. He said installation of the valves would cost about $4 million.

Hubbard said the parish is scheduling town hall meetings to get the public’s input on how to spend the federal money. The first meeting is scheduled for Thursday at 5 p.m. in the council chambers at the Percy Hebert Building in LaPlace.

The remainder of Jindal’s speech focused on job growth and economic development statewide and within the River Parishes. He said that since he has entered office, Louisiana has won economic development projects that have created more than 32,000 direct and indirect jobs along with $4.3 billion in capital investment.

The governor made reference to expansions that have created new jobs at Monsanto and Southern Recycling in St. Charles and Marathon Oil in St. John. He also shed a little bit of light on the impending decision by Nucor Steel to bring a $3 billion pig iron plant to St. James Parish.

“The company has just completed a $16 million land purchase in the parish,” Jindal said. “I have regular talks with their CEO every day. The project has been slowed by the state of the economy, but he said the project will move forward.”

Nucor representatives have set no timetable for their decision on the iron production plant. The North Carolina-based steel company has narrowed the choice down to two, a 4,000-acre site in Convent that is situated south of La. Highway 3125 and east of La. Highway 70 or a similar plot of land in Brazil.