The Descendants Project meets with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Published 12:14 pm Friday, September 2, 2022

EDGARD —  The Descendants Project and other consulting parties met with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on September 1 to discuss conducting the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (NHPA) Section 106 review in the case of Denver-based Greenfield’s proposal to construct a grain terminal in Wallace.

As part of the meeting, The Descendants Project, the Corps of Engineers, Greenfield representatives, representatives from local historic sites, and historic preservation agencies, met to discuss concerns and ask questions about the potential impact on historic sites such as Whitney Plantation Museum and Evergreen Plantation.

The Section 106 meeting is the first time that The Descendants Project and concerned parties have been invited to discuss the potential impact on historic properties, but is especially significant considering Wallace’s rich history beyond plantations.

Although the Section 106 process focuses on historic buildings, a recent letter from the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP)—an agency that advises the president and Congress—spotlighted the historic value of Black descendant communities. According to the letter, “regardless of the eligibility of the individual structures that might be contributing elements of such a district, the community of Wallace, as the home place of this descendant community, might be individually eligible for inclusion on the National Register and might be considered a contributing element to a larger historic district or landscape.”

The letter also advises that impacts to the health of a local population may well be a consideration for the Corps of Engineers if the descendant community members of Wallace feel compelled to relocate in response to health and quality of life concerns.

“It was helpful to be able to ask for information from an objective party like the Corps of Engineers, so that they can in turn objectively ask the same questions we’ve been asking Greenfield,” Dr. Joy Banner, co-founder of The Descendants Project.

The meeting followed months of The Descendants Project and other partner organizations appealing to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and marked the first time in two years where The Descendants Project was able to sit down with officials and ask questions about how the grain terminal will impact the Wallace community, land, and surrounding Parish. The initial meeting request came one day after The Descendants Project appealed to the United Nations to halt the construction of the proposed grain elevator.

The Section 106 review is meant to ensure that federally-assisted projects do not affect historic properties. The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF), Evergreen Plantation, Louisiana Trust for Historic Preservation (LTHP), Louisiana Landmarks Society, National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP), the Whitney Plantation, and other interested party groups were invited to the 106 review process.

In recent weeks, the international body of UN human rights experts asked the U.S. federal government to provide details on how it plans to address concerns over environmental pollution along the Mississippi River in Louisiana.

The Descendants Project will continue meeting with the Corps of Engineers throughout the next few months as part of the Section 106 review process.

The Descendants Project will host a Facebook Live on The Descendants Project Facebook page on Friday, September 2 at 1 p.m. CST to further discuss their meeting with the Army Corps of Engineers and Greenfield representatives.

The Descendants Project was founded to preserve and protect the health, land, and lives of the Black descendant community located in Louisiana’s Cancer Alley. Through advocacy, resources, engaging the descendant community and creating strategies for a safe and sustainable economy, The Descendants Project works to obtain the cultural, emotional, environmental and economic justice for the community’s ultimate liberation.

Visit thedescendantsproject.org for more information.

Update 9/7/22:

Angela Young, spokesperson for Greenfield Louisiana, issued the following statement in response to this report:

“We were honored to have the opportunity to talk in detail with the Army Corps of Engineers and Consulting Parties about the new Grain Export Facility. In our presentation we made a clear case demonstrating how the new Grain Export Facility will revitalize the West Bank while protecting its environment and the area’s unique heritage. Step by step we showed how our state-of-the-art equipment and technology will capture dust, reduce runoff and minimize noise, and how careful design would keep most of the facility out of view from important cultural landmarks. 
“We want to thank all the people who came out today to give constructive feedback which will help make this project even better. We believe we can protect the cultural, historical, and natural resources of the West Bank and create safe, good-paying green jobs. Jobs that will allow young people to work and live in their hometown after graduation, or residents looking for a job that can help support their family. We look forward to continuing our permitting process with the Corps so we can deliver economic opportunity and keep working with our neighbors to revitalize the West Bank. “