Port NOLA moves forward in acquiring land for controversial new cargo terminal in St. Bernard Parish

The project, titled Louisiana International Terminal, has drawn criticism from some residents in the area who say the Port has no plans for impacts to traffic, the environment and the community.
Published: Dec. 30, 2021 at 9:22 AM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The Board of Commissioners of the Port of New Orleans unanimously approved a resolution to take any necessary actions to acquire 1,118 acres of land along the Mississippi River in St. Bernard Parish as part of its anticipated Louisiana International Terminal.

The terminal, the Port says, is necessary to keep New Orleans competitive with other Gulf Coast port cities. Ships in recent years have gotten bigger, and in order to keep up with the change the Port needs deeper channels, Port CEO Brandy Christian said.

“[The container business] is a big part of the economy here in the State of Louisiana,” Christian said. “As vessels have gotten larger, our business continues to grow. It’s really keeping us competitive.”

The port, if built, would span around 350-400 acres in Violet on the Mississippi River. The additional acreage would be developable green space, aimed at growing the economy of surrounding St. Bernard Parish, the New Orleans Metropolitan Area and Louisiana.

Some St. Bernard residents have voiced opposition to the project, based on the information that’s been made publicly available.

Last week, the group Stop the Destruction of St. Bernard, Inc. filed a lawsuit against Port NOLA in an effort to stop the project. They were joined by Los Isleños Heritage and Cultural Society, a group dedicated to the preservation of the Isleño identity in the area from Canary Islander descendants.

Also joining the lawsuit are: Violet Cultural & Historic Association, AJ Hunt LLC, The Parish Diner, Mario L. Williams Sr, and Janet Perez.

“The way we live, the way we raise our families, our wetlands, the traffic, it’s all combined,” said Janet Perez. “It seems like this is being pushed because it’s for the good of the Port of New Orleans, but it needs to be remembered that it’s for the good of the state.”

The group put pressure on the St. Bernard Parish Council, which voted to pass a resolution in opposition to the project in August.

Since then, the grassroots organizing effort has gained steam, leading up to the lawsuit.

“The residents of St. Bernard Parish, the people who are going to be impacted the most, we’re going to have the least say in what happens,” said Brianna Assavedo. “The trucks we’re going to have, the pollution we’re going to have, it’s going to completely destroy our quality of life.”

The residents opposing the project said it will impact wetlands, traffic routes in and out of St. Bernard Parish, and will tear in half the small town it’s located in: Violet.

“This project will turn our neighborhood into an industrial wasteland,” Assavedo said.

Following the parish council’s vote to oppose the expansion, Port leadership penned an open letter to St. Bernard Parish residents, saying they “are listening and will hold ourselves accountable to you.”

But Assavedo and others felt that the Port leadership demonstrated the opposite, calling the meeting to authorize the purchase on a 24-hour notice and in the middle of the holiday season.

“Public transparency has been poor,” said Samantha Perez. “In terms of outreach, it seems like it’s on a checklist for the port. But they aren’t advocating for the interests of the people they’re going to be impacting.”

When asked whether she hopes tensions will calm between the Port and St. Bernard residents, Christian said she hopes.

“We’re just in the beginning of this process,” she said. “We understand there’s community concerns. It’s a significant investment on the part of the state, but also it comes with a lot of change. So for this project, for the community, we recognize this has to be a process of engaging the community.”

The next step will be environmental and traffic studies, which the Port says purchasing the land allows them to do.

If the project continues, construction would begin in 2025 and the first wharf would open in 2027.

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