St. Bernard residents tell Port of N.O. administrators: 'not in our backyard'

ST. BERNARD PARISH, LA (WVUE) - Hundreds of St. Bernard Parish residents are not sold on a $1 billion plan for the Port of New Orleans to build a container terminal in Mereaux.

"This shouldn't happen here. Why not go to Plaquemines (Parish)? Plaquemines has got beaucoup land," resident Monica Mize said. "It's all bull$***. All of it is."

"A lot of us were raised here. That's the reason we came back after Katrina. We came back because we like our small Mayberry quiet town," resident Terry Martinez said.

Wednesday, Port of New Orleans administrators presented their plan to residents about possibly building on a more than 650-acre tract of vacant land owned by the Mereaux Foundation. The port is looking to expand due to years of growth and limited space at its facilities.

"You think about the history of this region, it was actually founded because of shipping," Port of New Orleans CEO and President Brandy Christian told a packed crowd in Chalmette.

At this time, the port is involved in a 12-month-long study to see if it would even be able to build the terminal at that location.

"We don't even know from an engineering standpoint and for our purposes for maritime use if this is going to be an appropriate site. We're certainly hoping so," Port of New Orleans Vice President of Public Affairs Michelle Ganon said.

Port administrators said the Mereaux location is an ideal spot because it is adjacent to the Mississippi River and has railway and highway access.

Port officials said if the study does find they can build there, they plan to work with the surrounding neighborhoods to try and reduce the impact and noise using landscaping methods and building buffer walls, as well as advanced technology they promise will keep the noise down.

They also plan to work with state and federal transportation officials to build more roadways to accommodate additional traffic.

If the plan goes through, it promises to boost the parish's economy.

But not everyone in St. Bernard wants economic growth if it were to negatively impact property values and quality of life. Residents are concerned because the terminal would be constructed between several neighborhoods.

"Who's gonna come wash my house everyday? You know what my house is going to look like? A buffer zone with hedges. That's a joke," Mize said.

Martinez is leading the effort to block construction of the terminal. She said more than half of the people at Wednesday's meeting signed a petition to stop the terminal from being built.

"If you also noticed, they keep saying that they are looking at three facilities. Did they put $300,000 into feasibility studies on those places they are looking at?" Martinez said.

A resident at the meeting asked port administrators if they would need the approval of St. Bernard Parish officials to proceed with the project if sale of the land is completed. Port administrators said they could proceed without officials' approval, but they would need permits to complete the terminal.

Ganon said if the terminal is not built in St. Bernard Parish, port administrators will search for another location for their expansion.

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