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Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Public Comment to DOTD: Louisiana DOTD has failed both the letter and the spirit of our Open Meeting Law


Following below are the written comments that I submitted to DOTD after their October 19, 2017, "Open House" meeting at the Progressive Baptist Church in Lafayette. As I publish my written comments here, the meeting handout and DOTD's presentation materials are available online, but I do not believe any meeting speaker list, transcript of oral comments, or compilation of written comments has appeared on DOTD's official meeting site. It does appear that some of my comments have been deeply buried as deconstructed anonymous individual sentences in the View Public Comments page on the DOTD's Con web site. If you submitted comments, I welcome you to also add your comments here in the comments section at the end of this ConnectorComments.org post. And of course, all other relevant comments are also welcome here - I promise that I will not strip off your name and atomize your comments.




These comments are submitted in conjunction with the I-49 Lafayette Connector Open House held on Thursday, October 19, 2017, Lafayette, LA. I request that these comments be included in the official Public Meeting Transcript.


Louisiana DOTD has failed both the letter and the spirit of our Open Meeting Law


Since relaunching the I-49 Lafayette Connector project in October, 2015, open public comment has not been permitted at DOTD sponsored committee meetings. This action is in clear defiance of the spirit of open government. In the case of committee meetings which are convened to make recommendations or decisions, it is clearly illegal. In his defense, State Transportation Secretary Shawn Wilson has noted that the public is allowed one-on-one access to DOTD employees and contractors, and further, can provide written comments in a process similar to a collective project suggestion box. While both of these actions by the DOTD may be considered laudable, the fact remains that the public is not allowed public communication with committees which are assigned advisory and decision-making roles. The “Public Meeting” convened by DOTD on October 19, 2017 continues this policy of violation by segregating comments away from committees that make recommendations or decisions concerning this project.


Phase I reports are commonly prepared prior to land procurement by the government. These reports serve the purpose of finding potential liability for the state that is anticipated to occur if the state procures land that is contaminated. Normally, Phase I reports rely in-part on interviews with neighbors and others who may be knowledgeable of past land use and land contamination. However, the state’s contractor in this case was instructed to talk with no local people. The failure of the contractor to identify significant liabilities for the state and its taxpayers could be a direct result of this unusual decision to intentionally blind the investigators. For many months the citizens of our community have been requesting that the Connector project’s Draft Phase I Hazardous Waste study be made public, and that the public have an opportunity to comment on and suggest improvements in the plan. Why would the state NOT want to know more about liability from procuring contaminated land along the proposed I-49 right-of-way?


The “Community Working Group” committee met most recently on October 18, 2017. At this meeting, as all 14 prior meetings, the public was only allowed to observe; no time was allocated for the members of the public to directly address the CWG. At this meeting, Jan Grenfel (DOTD Environmental Compliance) stated that the Phase I Plan report will remain cloaked from public scrutiny and discussion. She said it will not be discussed, it will not be placed for public review on the  I-49 Connector web page http://lafayetteconnector.com/. Why would the DOTD intentionally hide from public view information on toxic contamination in our community? Why would DOTD wish to move forward with land procurement and construction without knowing all available information on risks to public health, and potential damage public land and private property?


What will it take to get our State Transportation Secretary, Dr. Shawn Wilson, to follow the Public Meeting law? If this behavior is allowed to set a precedent, all future public participation in Louisiana state and local government decision-making is in jeopardy. Both the Lafayette newspapers, the Independent and the Daily Advertiser, have editorials supporting the right of the public to speak at DOTD convened committee meetings. I sincerely ask that our Governor, John Bel Edwards, intercede to rein in the arrogance of government being followed by his transportation department.


Why is public's criticism so frightening to Dr. Wilson and the DOTD? Perhaps it is because
  • of the overwhelming public support for a bypass rather than an urban interstate through the historic heart of our city
  • of the DOTD's embarrassment at their failure to consider in all current and future planning any actual sampling or measurement of the toxics present in their proposed right-of-way
  • of lack of any assessment of the impact of driving pilings into our sole-source water supply through toxic wastes potentially destroying our Lafayette water supply with toxic contamination
  • of public health impacts from exposure to toxic construction-related dust containing asbestos, lead, and arsenic from decades of railyard activities
  • of noise impacts on home values
  • of noise and air pollutant impacts on our downtown parks and festivals
  • of air pollution from interstate traffic falling over our downtown and surrounding neighborhoods
  • of causing our city to fall into ozone non-compliance which could trigger annual auto tailpipe inspections and limits on future industrial expansion in the city
  • of adding risks of drowning for motorists forced to travel in a tunnel under the interstate near the airport and the Vermilion River
  • of flooding resulting from huge new paved impervious surfaces that are intended to drain to Bayou Vermilion with no attenuation
  • of hazardous cargo which would travel the elevated interstate at high speed over our houses
  • of the danger of falling objects limiting land use under the elevated interstate
  • of the hundreds of small businesses that will be harmed or destroyed without compensation
  • of the thousands of private property owners who will lose 10% to 15% of their home values because of interstate noise and proximity
  • of increased cross-city traffic on Pinhook, Johnston, University, and other streets that would be induced by this project (note that induced traffic demand has not been properly modeled)
  • of what else? What else would our citizens bring to the attention of planning committees if they were allowed to speak?
The EIS  performed by DOTD for this project nearly two decades ago was woefully inadequate and inaccurate when it was created. Further, it piecemealed impacts by breaking off the interstate construction south of the airport into a separate study. And, still worse, over the past decades this “Final” EIS has not aged gracefully. New scientific finding and changes in regulations make this document virtually irrelevant today.


Could these observations be the reason Shawn Wilson wants to stifle public input and awareness? Are there other reasons that Dr. Wilson no longer supports public openness and inclusion at DOTD?


Relevant Articles and Editorials


The Advertiser, April 29, 2016, Some not happy I-49 meetings don't allow public discussion


The Advertiser, May 5, 2016, Editorial: Let us reason together


The Advertiser, May 10, 2016, Voices: I-49 'public comment' requires large open forums


The Advertiser, May11, 2016, Schoeffler: I-49 connector meetings have violated Louisiana law


The Advertiser, May12, 2016, Voices: Consider all options when building I-49 connector


Published resources regarding Louisiana's Open Meeting Laws


The Louisiana Attorney General provides an overview and opinion on the application of Louisiana's Open Meeting Laws


Other sources of publicly available information include -


The Louisiana Open Meeting Law is available from LSU


and at this Louisiana Legislative Auditor site


The Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana publishes a guide to Louisiana Open Meeting Laws


A document from 2009 on the Louisiana Culture Recreation and Tourism site describes 5 things you should know about Louisiana Open Meeting Laws  http://www.crt.state.la.us/Assets/OCD/hp/grants/certifiedlocalgovernment/documents-and-forms/Open_Meetings_Law.pdf


The Public Affairs Research Council in 2010 published this information on Louisiana's sunshine laws


Signed:
Michael G. Waldon, Ph.D.
110 Seville Blvd
Lafayette, LA 70503
email: mike@mwaldon.com


Please note: I request that my name remain with my comments, and that any publication of my comments by DOTD be posted complete and unedited.







Meeting Facility Map from DOTD Handout


Friday, November 17, 2017

An Update on the Railyard Lawsuit

Attorney Bill Goodell speaks at the
January 2017 Y-49 public meeting 
The lawsuit asking that the Union Pacific Railroad take action on its abandoned railyard in downtown Lafayette received a lot of attention in our community and the press in 2016. However, for most of 2017 little has been discussed or reported on the railyard lawsuit.  It is therefore time to review the lawsuit and its present status.


In February of 2016, The legal team for the lawsuit plaintiffs - the Salvation Army, et al. - filed a petition with the court against defendants including - the Union Pacific Railroad, and the Southern Pacific Motor Company. The lawsuit was reported in all of the Lafayette local newspapers throughout 2016 (see the list of articles at the end of this post). In press releases in 2016, the plaintiff's attorney, William Goodell, summarized the case. Goodell's February 2016 news release read in-part:

Despite an Environmental Impact Statement, two prior lawsuits, piecemeal testing, and decades of environmental regulatory agency “oversight”, no meaningful action has been ordered, much less taken, to require a comprehensive assessment of the environmental impact.
Soil and shallow groundwater testing on file at the LDEQ confirms the presence of a toxic stew of “Superfund” hazardous substances perilously perched atop the Chicot Aquifer; yet, available LDEQ records reveal no testing or cleanup in the Chicot has ever been ordered or performed.
The documented contamination at the site constitutes an illegal, imminent, and substantial endangerment to the health and safety of Plaintiffs and the entire Lafayette community.
A comprehensive, site-wide assessment of the former rail yard is necessary to design a meaningful cleanup of the former rail yard and adjacent areas, to eliminate the threat it poses to the Chicot Aquifer, to prevent further contaminant migration, and to protect the entire Lafayette community.
The suit challenges Defendants to meet with Plaintiffs’ attorneys and experts and LDEQ to promptly:
  1. Accept responsibility for this environmental damage;
  2. Develop and adopt a mutually agreeable comprehensive assessment plan that will identify and characterize all contaminants throughout the entire site;
  3. Define the horizontal and vertical extent of that contamination both on and off site; and
  4. Adopt a timeline to properly and expeditiously clean up Defendants’ toxic legacy to the Lafayette community.  ...
The lawsuit alleges a failure to warn the people of Lafayette of the dangers that the rail yard contamination presents, and that:
“In the past and to this very day, Defendants actively concealed and intentionally failed to disclose evidence of the ... contamination despite clear knowledge of it and its dangers to Plaintiffs and the Lafayette community.”

On December 14, 2016, plaintiff's attorney William Goodell issued a press release further detailing what is known about contamination at the site, and calling for our political leaders in Lafayette government and our Louisiana state agencies to "embrace" their constitutional "responsibilities as public trustees and do the right thing." In a further press release on December 20, 2016, Goodell warned against continuing to pursue I-49 Connector land acquisition and construction until the Union Pacific Railroad (UPR) has responded to demands to survey and clean up their contamination. He warned specifically that


  • I-49 Connector construction will increase damage to the aquifer from UPR contamination and make public entities involved partially liable for the aquifer damage
  • I-49 Connector construction will make cleanup of UPR aquifer contamination more difficult, more expensive, and more time consuming—if not impossible
  • UPR rail yard cleanup as a part of the I-49 Connector construction project will make taxpayers foot the bill for UPR responsibility


I have noted public misunderstanding and some individuals stating wrong "facts" concerning the railyard lawsuit. As I have discussed this case with others in the community, or read their social media commentary, I have been surprised to hear otherwise well-informed people saying, for example, that I, Mike Waldon, sued the railroad (I did not!), that the Sierra Club sued the railroad (they did not!), and that the plaintiffs sued the city government (they did not!). Others have implied to me that this  lawsuit is backed up by little evidence of any serious risk coming from the old railyard - nothing could be further from the truth!


Since December, I am unaware of any media coverage of the railyard lawsuit. So, you may ask "what is the current status of the suit? For almost one year the legal fight has been over whether the proceedings should move forward in a federal or a state court. The plaintiffs initially filed in state court, but the defendants argued that it should be moved to federal court. This question has finally been answered, and a state court will hear the case. With that question resolved, we should begin seeing substantive legal progress in the coming months.

Related Lafayette News Articles




Daily Advertiser February 1, 2016, Lawsuit filed over contamination in I-49 corridor




The Independent December 20, 2016, Contamination lawsuit moving forward

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Drinking Water Supply in Lafayette: Early history to the mid-1950's

The Beginning
Some anthropologists and archaeologists believe that humans lived continuously in the region that we now call the Teche-Vermilion basin for at least five thousand years, and perhaps much longer (Cheramie, 2013). On the banks of Bayou Vermilion near Paul Breaux Middle School (originally Paul Breaux High School) there was a freshwater spring called Chargois Springs (Figure 1) which supported a large Native American settlement. Griffin (1959) reports that for a long time, students of Paul Breaux High School "turned in to the principal after every good rain arrowheads and pieces of pottery that were on the school grounds."

Findings strongly support the hypothesis that native Americans lived at the Chargois Springs in relatively large numbers for a very long time (Cheramie, 2013). The Chargois Spring was probably a Native American meeting place where trade of all kinds took place. The availability of clear cool fresh water, in combination with its location on a ridge between the Atchafalaya Basin to the east and the prairies to the west would have made this an ideal habitation site. Evidence of long-term habitation suggests that the Chargois Springs was fed by a stable free-flowing artesian aquifer, the Chicot Aquifer, for centuries if not millennia prior to the coming of European colonists.

The Chargois Springs were the location of many picnics reported in lafayette newspapers before 1900. Soon after the 1927 flood, Chargois Spring ceased to flow, and while some attributed this to river sediment sealing the spring, it is more likely that dredging of the Vermilion River next to the spring cut through the clay confining layer which maintained pressure within the Chicot Aquifer which fed the spring. The resulting loss of pressure would have caused the formerly free-flowing spring to stop flowing.  Griffin reports that in the 1950's the place still bore the name Chargois Springs and older Lafayette residents fondly recalled bathing there when the water still flowed.

Figure 1. Photo from Griffin (1959): "A Picnic at Chargois Springs about 1898. The back row: George Bailey, (2) Anita Hohorst (Mrs. J. Franklin Mouton), (3) J. Alfred Mouton, (4) Stella Raney, (5) Neveu, (6 ) Alix Judice (Mrs. J. Alfred Mouton) with guitar, (7) Ned Mouton (brother of Vavaseur), (8) Louise Judice (sister of Alix Judice), (9) Dr. Gabriel Salles (Josette Salles' brother), (10) Frank Moss.  Sitting: (1) Florian Cornay, (2) ?, (3) Albert Judice (brother of Louise and Alix Judice), (4) Martha Mouton (back), (5) Marie Revillion (front Mrs. Marsh), (6) Felix Salles (front), (7) Sidney Mouton (back), (8) Emily Moss (Mrs. George deBlanc), (9) Johnny LeBesque (end). "Souvnir offert a Stella Trahan (the daughter of Dr. Trahan) par un ami sincere et devoue, Sidney Mouton," is written on the back of this photograph."
Today, the combined impacts of pumping for irrigation and municipal uses, excavation, and dredging have reduced pressure within the aquifer from a state of positive pressure and free flow, to a negative pressure now measured as static well water elevation roughly 50 feet below surface in Lafayette (see, for example,  Figure 6, Waldon, 2017a). Chargois Spring now serves as a reminder of how failure to consider the consequences of our actions can lead to unanticipated destruction of what could have been a sustainable resource for ourselves and our children.
Figure 2. Ad from the Lafayette
Advertiser, Dec. 8, 1900.

Throughout most of the 19th century, Lafayette residents had to rely on either rain fed cisterns (Figure 2), surface water, local springs, or numerous individual wells to provide for their domestic water needs. Shallow domestic wells for drinking water were associated with risks to health because of contamination from the surface, and citizens preferred drinking water from cisterns (Lafayette Advertiser, 1897). Deep wells were considered a low health risk because water was purified by "natural filtration" through soil and sand. However, deep well water was considered less desirable in taste and clarity when compared to rainwater. The development of municipal treatment that filtered and clarified deep well water contributed to the demand by citizens for city water utilities providing drinking water and municipal fire protection.

1897-1954
The city-owned public water and electricity utility was created in 1897 (LUS, 1953, 1954), and both municipal electricity and water services have been continuously provided to the residents of Lafayette by the public utility since that time. The original plant had eight artesian wells placed ten feet apart with depths ranging from 150 to 200 feet (Lafayette Gazette, 1898). The City Engineer, Mr. R. R. Zell (1898), reported to the City Council that the original municipal artesian wells could produce over a million gallons of "good water" per day which exceeded the steam powered water pump capacity. However, by the fall of 1899 only two wells were used by the utility and these two wells had "dried up." The City Council then approved boring a new replacement artesian well to a depth of 200 feet.

Despite the establishment of a municipal water system, by 1900 many of the 3000 Lafayette City residents continued to rely on domestic wells and rainwater cisterns to meet their water needs (page 59, Griffin, 1959). Additionally, deep commercial wells are known to have existed at the railyard and the refinery prior to construction of the municipal water system (Lafayette Gazette, 1895). Based on this, it is reasonable to assert that there are numerous now abandoned domestic and commercial water wells from that early era which were never plugged in a manner that would be required today. These abandoned wells are a conduit that may today be allowing surface contaminants to be drawn into our drinking water aquifer.

Municipal water systems were not only important for providing domestic and commercial water service, but also significantly contributed to the city's fire protection. In 1902, 1919, and 1928, citizens voted for bond issues which extended the water system and also funded improvements in other municipal services (Griffin, 1959). The North Water Plant building (Municipal Filtration Plant) was constructed in 1929 (Figure 3) with funding from the 1928 bond issue and property taxes. Today that original building is a part of the Lafayette Utilities System (LUS) North Water Treatment Plant facility.
Municipal Filtration Plant, Erected 1929, City Officials J. Gilbert St. Julien, Mayor, Trustees of Public Safety, Louis Chopin, ...
Figure 3. Plaque on the North Water Treatment Plant showing that 
it was initially erected in 1929. 

In 1949, the City of Lafayette Board of Trustees adopted a bond resolution for $7,000,000 which funded improvements and extensions to the waterworks plant and the water distribution system, as well as other utility improvement for the electric power and the sewer systems. By October 1952, numerous improvements and extensions were completed or underway (LUS, 1953). The extent of the water system owned and operated by the Utilities System at that time is shown in Figure 4. This map shows the entire water distribution system, including extensions constructed under the bond improvement program.  About half of the water distribution network shown in Figure 4 was newly constructed under the 1949 bond improvement program.

Construction of a major plant expansion was started in September, 1952 . This plant extension added two open-type filters, one new Accelator clarifier (Figure 7) in an existing settling basin, and a new aerator. This expansion also included an extension of the main building to the north for chemical storage and feeding for lime (Figures 5 and 6). Water plant treatment capacity was expanded by 1.5 mgd (million gallons per day) which increased the total treatment capacity of the water plant to 4.5 mgd.

Figure 4. The Lafayette water distribution system in 1952 is mapped in this graphic (LUS, 1953). The water treatment plant is highlighted in red. A 500,000 gallon elevated water tank is to the right of the treatment plant in this map. Fire hydrants are mapped as black dots, 12" mains are mapped as heavier black lines, 4-10" mains are the finer black lines.

In the early 1950s, water supply for the City of Lafayette was obtained from a system of wells averaging 245 feet in depth in the Upper Sand of the Chicot Aquifer. Part of the wells were located on  the filtration plant grounds and part on a nearby separate lot at the intersection of Simcoe and Chestnut Streets (LUS, 1953, 1954). Table 1 shows the location of the five water wells operating in 1952. Wells #1 and #2 were abandoned during that year because of unspecified "difficulties," and a new well was planned at the Simcoe & Chestnut site.

Unit #
Location
1
Simcoe & Chestnut
2
Simcoe & Chestnut
3
Filtration Plant Grounds
4
Filtration Plant Grounds
5
Filtration Plant Grounds
Table 1. LUS water wells in 1952 (LUS, 1953).

The LUS Comprehensive Engineer's Reports (CERs) tell us that the system's water wells drew water from a sand and gravel strata which requires extensive screening at the base of the wells (LUS, 1953, 1954). Operation and maintenance of the wells and pumping equipment was reported to always be somewhat of a problem. It appears that wells loosing productive capacity as the wells aged continued. It was reported that the wells were treated with Calgon and HTH (calcium hypochlorite) on an experimental basis resulting in some increase of production. In 1954, wells were constructed fairly close together on the System's properties. However, it was planned that the next new wells might be built on separate property, some 2,000 feet from the treatment plant, where it was expected to have less influence from any of the other wells (this new site may have referred to the site of today's Clark Field and Hebert Golf Course). Water treatment plant expansion in the early 1950s (Figures 5-7) increased capacity from 3.0 million gallons per day (mgd) to 4.5 mgd (LUS, 1954). Difficulties with wells in the Chicot Aquifer Upper Sand, a desire to have higher production, and the recognized need to further separate the well intakes from surface contamination may all have been considerations that led to most of our present day wells being drilled deeper into the Chicot Aquifer Lower Sand.





Figure 5. This photo from the 1953 CER shows an expansion of the water treatment 
plant building which expanded the original 1929 plant building.


Figure 6. The expanded water filtration plant (LUS, 1954).


Figure 7. Clarifier constructed as a part of plant expansion (LUS, 1954).

Summary and Conclusions
The Chicot Aquifer has provided a plentiful source of water for millennia, and, if protected, will continue to provide for the water needs of future generations. The Lafayette municipal water system began in the late 1800's. By 1953, Lafayette's municipal water system had expanded to serve 9,247 households and businesses and supplied 825 million gallons of water annually (LUS, 1954). This is 2.26 million gallons per day, or about 240 gallons per customer per day. At that time all of this water was being pumped from the upper sand of the Chicot Aquifer from wells located near the water treatment plant on Buchanan Street at Mudd Avenue.

When the utility began operation at the end of the 19th century, the Chicot Aquifer was a freely flowing artesian water source. This pressure within the aquifer had been protective of the quality of the groundwater from surface contamination because any connections with the surface through springs (Chargois Springs for example), sand inclusions, cracks, abandoned wells, or flow through the confining clay layer itself would flow from the aquifer toward the surface. However, pressure in the Chicot Aquifer has been falling for a century (Borrok, 2016; Borrok and Broussard, 2016).

By 1954 the artesian spring no longer flowed, and pressure had diminished from positive to negative in the Chicot Aquifer. Any hydraulic connection of the aquifer to surface water became a conduit for flow into the aquifer transporting whatever contaminants were present at the surface into our underground drinking water source. Groundwater moves very slowly, often a few feet to a few hundred feet per year. Still, this reversal of groundwater flow direction which took place many decades ago sets the stage for destruction.  Recent observations of man made contaminates in Lafayette's drinking water wells (Waldon, 2017a, 2017b) serves to heighten citizens' concerns, and have led to a call for action (Waldon, 2017c).


REFERENCES

Borrok, David M. (2016) At Your Service: Keeping the Chicot Sustainable, Interview on KPLC TV News, Lake Charles, Published on Dec 21, 2016.

Borrok, David M., and Whitney P. Broussard III (2016) Long-term geochemical evaluation of the coastal Chicot aquifer system,Louisiana, USA. Journal of Hydrology 533:320-331.

Cheramie, David (2013) The Legacy of Native Acadiana. Acadiana Profile, August-September 2013.

Griffin, Harry Lewis (1959) The Attakapas Country: A History of Lafayette Parish, Louisiana. Pelican Publishing Company, Gretna, Louisiana,

Lafayette Advertiser (1897) Typhoid Fever and Water Supply. December 18, 1897, page 2.

Lafayette Advertiser (1999) New well. October 20, page 1

Lafayette Gazette (1895) Mr. Zell's visit. November 2, 1895, page 3.

Lafayette Gazette (1898) Water and Light: A model plant nearly completed - Everything works without a hitch. March 5, 1898, page 1.

Lafayette Gazette (1899) New artesian well. October 21, page 1.

LUS (1953) Comprehensive Engineering Report as of October 31, 1952. Prepared by R.W. Beck and Associates for the City of Lafayette Louisiana Utilities System.

LUS (1954) Comprehensive Engineering Report as of October 31, 1953. Prepared by R.W. Beck and Associates for the City of Lafayette Louisiana Utilities System.

Waldon, Michael G. (2017a) More Evidence of Chicot Aquifer Contamination: USGS Monitoring. ConnectorComments.org

Waldon, Michael G. (2017b) Contamination of our Chicot Aquifer.  What do we know? How do we know? What should be done? ConnectorComments.org

Waldon, Michael G. (2017c) Citizens seek action to protect our health, property, and drinking water supply. ConnectorComments.org

Zell, R.R. (1898) Report to the City Council on completion of the Waterworks and Electric Light Plant. Lafayette Gazette, April 16, 1898, page 1.


Thursday, June 29, 2017

LFT Airport Update


(Why is there a $200 million problem looming at LFT? Be sure to read to the end to find out.)

A presentation on the current status of the Lafayette Airport (LFT) and planned airport renovations was an agenda item for the June 20, 2017 Lafayette City/Parish Council meeting. Presenters were Valerie Garrett, Chairwoman of the Lafayette Airport Commission, and Steven Picou, LFT Executive Director. Paul Guilbeau, Vice-Chairman of the Lafayette Airport Commission was also in attendance. Their summary update document provided by the Council Clerk is available here.



View the 12 minute video of the airport update by clicking here or view it in the frame at the bottom of this post.

STEVEN L. PICOU
LFT Executive Director

Steven Picou's update summarized these points:

  • LFT has hired their Program Management/Construction Management (PMCM) firm
  • 5000 citizens gave public input that contributed to the selection of the Journey renovation design
  • The Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE)program at LFT is a priority
  • Part 139 inspection had zero discrepancies
  • LFT is prepared for tropical storms and hurricanes
  • Past year's cargo handling of 24.6 million pounds is up from the prior year 
  • The cargo handling facility is opening, UPS and Fed-X are moving in

The I-49 Connector plan requires moving a runway at LFT -

Dr. Michael Waldon asked during public comment if the runway displacement required by the I-49 Connector project would result in any changes to the renovations. He also cited his minimum safety requirement calculation that shows that the displacement would need to be 860 feet rather than the 350 feet stated in the I-49 FEIS. This calculation was published last year in the ConnectorComments.org post titled Airport angles and increased risk. Mr. Picou replied that he had not seen the published recalculation of the displacement. Further, he said that new FAA regulations would require an additional 1000 feet of runway if it is reconstructed. Mr. Picou stated that the airport "has hired a firm to look at that information." Currently the airport is constructing an EMAS system (engineered materials arrestor system) at the end of this runway. He also said that Dr. Kam Movassaghi had led a student design project that might eliminate or reduce the required displacement, but DOTD has not reported any study of such options.

District 9 Councilman Theriot asked whose responsibility would it be if the runway had to be displaced. Mr. Picou answered that FAA has taken the stance that it is not their responsibility, and it is not the airport's responsibility. He went on to say that in his opinion "It is Federal Highways responsibility." FAA takes the stance, he said, that millions of their dollars have already been spent on the airport, and it is not their responsibility.

The bombshell of the evening occurred when Councilman Theriot followed up by asking what the cost would be. Mr. Picou replied that a rough order-of-magnitude estimate is $200 million dollars. In part, this cost is so high because the FAA would no longer allow the use of an EMAS at this end of the runway, which results in an added runway length requirement of 1000 feet.

While there may be intergovernmental discussion of which tax dollars will fund this $200 million (or more), in the every case it is taxpayers who will pay and citizens who will suffer added flooding from the loss of flood storage currently provided to Lafayette and St. Martin Parish residents by the Cypress Island Swamp.


LPC-AirpotUpdate-2017-06-20 from Mike Waldon on Vimeo.