Land value dispute delays sea wall project near New Orleans

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) – Long-planned seawall construction in southeast Louisiana has been delayed for at least a month due to a land dispute to complete the project.

The lifting of Hurricane Pontchartrain on the west shore of the lake is designed to protect the parishes of Saint-Jean-Baptiste, Saint-Charles and Saint-James from storm surges such as those which devastated their eastern shores during the Hurricane Ida.

The Times-Picayune / The New Orleans Advocate reported that the dispute is over the value of 364 acres (147 hectares) owned by Nature Land Co. LLC, a company whose partners include a former judge and a lawyer and real estate developer in the New Orleans.


The district of Pontchartrain Levee and officials in Louisiana negotiated for two years with Nature Land.

In the spring and summer of this year, the US Army Corps of Engineers requested access to the land to build temporary roads to the work sites. The Corps is in charge of contracts for the construction of the $ 760 million dike system which is 30 kilometers long.

Without a land title, the Dike District went to court in early November to expropriate the land for $ 492,800, the value set by appraisers hired by the Dike District and the state.

Nature Land says it hasn’t set a price for its property and doesn’t want to rush into an involuntary take process.

In April, the company filed its own complaint arguing that Louisiana’s expropriation laws should be declared unconstitutional. Nature Land’s monitoring partner is Thomas Kliebert Jr. de Paulina, a former judge. New Orleans lawyer and developer John Cummings III is also a partner.

Litigation and delayed construction delayed 50-year efforts to build the West Shore seawall.

“Any delay is unfortunate, and clearly these access roads are necessary,” St. John Parish President Jaclyn Hotard said Wednesday. “It’s unfortunate, considering what the residents of St. John have just been through. “

In its lawsuit, Nature Land said that even if it granted an easement to the dike district to use its property, half of the land would not be accessible after the dike is completed. The other half, outside the seawall, would lose value as a location for future pipelines, the company said. These potential revenues from the pipeline and recreational use of the land represent the value of the business, according to the lawsuit.

Nature Land’s lawsuit also challenges a state law that allows levee agencies, the state, and the Corps of Engineers to expropriate properties that aren’t on the edge of rivers and streams. This change was made after Hurricane Katrina to ensure rapid access to land to extend and rebuild the dikes and flood walls in the New Orleans area.

On November 24, Justice Vercell Fiffie of St. John Parish denied the district’s request for dikes to immediately expropriate the land. He ordered a hearing on December 17 into Nature Land’s expropriation claim and lawsuit.


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