Friday, July 22, 2005
Reservoir Concerns our Tax Money
I am here to oppose any funding for a proposed reservoir in Washington Parish or anywhere in this state until studies are conducted to show a need for potable water reservoirs, or reservoirs for economic development for that matter.
To my knowledge, there have been no studies to show the need for potable water in the state of Louisiana. Before this commission funds millions of dollars into reservoir projects, I am requesting as a law abiding, taxpaying citizen of this state, that this bond commission table any issuance of funds and order studies to find out whether there is or is not a real need for potable water reservoirs in this state, and in particular, Washington Parish. It is far from logical to spend the hard earned tax dollars paid by the average citizen of this state for such unneeded and unwanted reservoirs. Louisiana is a water rich state. We have potable water everywhere that we need to treat responsibly. Anyone with eyes can see that we are losing our coastline, and that we have an abundance of water for drinking, recreation, and development. We need to preserve our land.
My family, friends, and neighbors testified before the Transportation Committee on May 17th and June 1st of this year. There were some amendments made to SB 475, Act 71 that created the Washington Parish Reservoir District, but these amendments did not go far enough to help preserve the Oak Grove Community. The Oak Grove Community is clearly a victim of ABUSE of the Eminent Domain law. Eminent Domain was put in place to obtain property for public use such as roads and bridges, not real estate development.
We have developers that are itching to have the Washington Parish reservoir built so that they can capitalize on the demise of the Oak Grove Community and make their millions on real estate deals. It is a disgrace that our state would take part in this.
It was brought to the Transportation Committee’s attention at both hearings that the residents of Washington Parish were not properly informed about Senate Bill 475, Act 71 that was passed on the last day of legislative session in 2003 underneath another bill. In 2004, we unknowingly woke up in Washington Parish as a reservoir district and an agency of the state of Louisiana.
Only a select few knew about this bill and what it entailed. It was supposedly submitted on behalf of the residents of Washington Parish.
Had we known about these plans, we would have had an opportunity to prevent this bill from getting to the legislature.
The Oak Grove Community sits in the heart of Washington Parish and is one of the oldest established communities in our parish.
My great-great grandparents, Thomas and Eliza Moore settled along the Bogalusa Creek in the early 1800’s along with several other pioneer families. The land was passed on to my great grandparents, Bouey and Louisiana Moore in the mid to late 1800’s. My grandmother, Lavada Moore Pittman, who was the youngest of fourteen children inherited 70 acres of the original home place, and passed it down to my parents, Nevels and Betty Pittman. The old log home that was built by Bouey Moore is still in use by my family today. We treasure the land that has been passed down to us, and we have never intended to sell it.
I’ve brought each of you a copy an informative publication that we have begun circulating in my parish to inform citizens about the reservoir project that is looming over our lovely, historic community. I hope you take time to read it.
There are approximately 11 well-kept cemeteries in the Oak Grove Community. The reservoir commission has informed us that two of our cemeteries would definitely be within the footprint of the reservoir, and the others are within the flood zone.
The Oak Grove Baptist Church sits just up the hill from the Bogalusa Creek. It is too close to the footprint of the reservoir for comfort.
One of the most prominent cemeteries in our community is the Rester Cemetery that will be flooded and is the burial place for John and Gideon Rester. These two brothers were civil war veterans. There are also WWI, WWII, Korean War, Vietnam War, and Gulf War veterans buried in these cemeteries. It is my understanding that the cost to relocate war veterans is astronomical and would have to be approved by the federal government. Has anyone looked into this aspect before funding the reservoir project?
The proposed reservoir that the state wishes to set atop of the Oak Grove Community is estimated to be 3310 acres of surface water. To make a lake this size, a 90-100 feet high by mile and a half wide earthen dam will be constructed to dam up the Bogalusa Creek causing the water to back up over the Oak Grove Community. Wildlife will die; historic homes and cemeteries will be flooded.
This is all under the guise of the unproven need for potable water and economic development for a select few. This is unacceptable behavior. It is disrespectful of the living and the dead.
At this point, it appears that greedy real estate developers who want the taxpayers to foot the bill for their private developments have influenced our state legislature. I ask this bond commission to at least stop and examine why this state is rushing madly into the reservoir business.
Ask yourselves, is there a true need for reservoirs in Louisiana? Or, are we actually going to fund projects for real estate developers at the taxpayer’s expense? At what cost are we willing for others to pay so that land developers can sell waterfront property with luxury homes to rich people? Oak Grove Community residents range from poor to middle class. Is it right for them to be forced off of their private property and have the burial places of their loved ones disturbed for something that we don’t have a proven need for?
This is our D.O.T.D. tax money that would be used for ROADS. Should taxpayers spend 40 to 50 million to make a select few wealthy? The reservoir money is badly needed in education, health care, road construction, law enforcement and programs for the poor and elderly.
An article in the Advocate News reported a speech by Transportation Secretary John Bradbury stating. State officials have begun talks on ways to raise new dollars to improve Louisiana roads and bridges. Options include higher gasoline taxes, tolls, fees, permits and private/public partnerships. I have a cure for a portion of our state’s budget crisis. Stop wasting taxpayers’ money on unneeded and unwanted reservoir projects. Spend DOTD money on roads and bridges as it was intended.
My personal feeling is that the concept of the Washington Parish reservoir was fueled by the greed of those who will stand to profit from the construction of the reservoir and the real estate deals that will be made. Please don’t allow money to be funded for unneeded reservoirs.
It would be irresponsible to fund projects that will not benefit the average taxpaying citizen of this state. If this project comes to fruition, it will change the face of the community that I dearly love, and hurt the people who live in the heart of my parish.
In closing, I would like to ask you three questions.
- Do you believe in your heart of hearts that it is appropriate to expropriate for eminent domain someone’s private property for the sake of “possible” economic development and recreation? Please remember that the word expropriate means to take without asking.
- Putting yourself in the place of someone whose property will be seized for the construction of this reservoir, would you just submit to it, or would you try to stop it from happening?
- If your grandparents, mother, father, sister, brother, wife or child were going to be removed from their place of burial so someone could water ski, fish, or play golf, does that seem right to you?
I’ve heard that Senator McPherson is proposing some new legislation to combat the adverse decision that was made by our U.S. Supreme Court regarding an opinion for the use of Eminent Domain for private development. I pray that you will support his efforts.
Jalon Pittman Beech Bogalusa, LA ( Bond Commission Meeting 7/22/05 )
Conflict of interest (Reservoir Money) update:
Rep. Bryant O. Hammett, Jr., Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Bond Commission member, professional surveyor & civil engineer, owner of BRYANT HAMMETT & ASSOC is benefiting from Reservoirs through land surveying. His people and trucks (from Ferriday, LA) have been seen putting down surveying stakes at Washington Parish reservoir.