Port of New Orleans addresses questions about controversial St. Bernard Terminal

Published: Mar. 9, 2022 at 10:57 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The Port of New Orleans answered St. Bernard residents’ questions Wednesday about the controversial $1.5 billion container ship terminal project.

Some residents fear it could destroy their way of life.

Over the last decade, the Port says the State has seen container volumes double and our port can’t handle the increase. That’s where the Louisiana International Terminal proposed in Violet would come in.

“Because of its location inside the levee system, it also has naturally deep water and can handle these large container vessels and it is in close proximity to existing transportation networks,” Laura Mellem with the Port of New Orleans said.

Right now, the permitting process with the Army Corps of Engineers will take two to three more years, but there’s already push back from residents.

The Parish Council opposes it and there is a lawsuit trying to halt the project, which will have its first hearing soon. Attorney Sidney Torres III says the project would be a failure for the state, a square peg in a round hole.

“I don’t see anything good coming out of the project,” resident since 1979 Jannel Memme said. “They told us back in the day that MR-GO was going to be good and that’s why I had two houses full of water in Katrina.”

Those who are concerned with the massive project fear its residential location will upend their lives and have negative environmental impacts.

“If they paved 1,000 acres of wetlands, where is that water going to go? I’ve asked that question and nobody has given me a good answer,” Memme said.

Not to mention the traffic on Judge Perez with thousands of 18-wheelers coming and going every day.

“Are they going to put new roads in? Is everything going to funnel down Judge Perez? Will there be new train lines? It doesn’t seem practical to me with the infrastructure we have here now for them to have the same flow,” resident Rob Patches said.

The Port says it will have a separate project to build an East-West connector, from the Lower St. Bernard side of the terminal to the interstate system.

“I was disappointed that they say they don’t need to do it right away, right now, with the traffic things, but I guess it could always change, hopefully, because I personally think they should put that road in before the port is actually open,” Patches said.

There’s also the question of what happens to the elementary school and ballpark on the land, which the Port says they will rebuild, as well as keeping the Merrick Cemetery accessible and adding land to it.

The Port also contends this expansion will boost the Parish’s economy.

“In New Orleans, they [the Port] owns all the property, equipment, and buildings, here in St. Bernard, they’re just gonna be landlords,” The Port’s St. Bernard Chairman and former Parish President Charles Ponstein said.

So, Ponstein says that means sales tax for the Parish. The Port estimates $1.3 million in new tax revenue six years from now when the first wharf would open in 2028.

It also estimates 635 new jobs in that time.

“I don’t think the jobs that will bring outweigh the problems that will bring for us,” Memme said.

“It’s bigger than just St. Bernard and that’s why I’d be in favor of it if it’s done properly,” Ponstein said.

The next meeting will take place next Tuesday in Violet at the Corinne Missionary Baptist Church from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. and there will be one more after that at the same time, at the Historic Court House in Lower St. Bernard, next Thursday.

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