Nungesser gives PABI State of Parish AddressMar 21st, 2012 | By Terri Sercovich | Category: top story
Parish President Billy Nungesser gave his annual State of the Parish address during the March 15 PABI Luncheon. From left is PABI Chairman Reid McClellan, Parish President Billy Nungesser, and PABI Executive Director Bob Thomas.
During the March 16 Plaquemines Association of Business and Industry luncheon, Parish President Billy Nungesser gave his State of Parish address to attendees at the Bayou Barierre Golf Club. Nungesser gave updates on several ongoing projects, and also introduced a new plan in the works that would change how parish government operates.
The Baptiste Collete project, which entails deepening the pass to create a shorter distance for ships from the Gulf to the Mississippi River, is being reviewed in Washington for approval in the next few weeks, Nungesser said.
Federal funding has not been secured but Nungesser says there is a fallback plan if federal funding is not granted.
“We know funding is going to be tough in Washington, so what we’re going to do is take every bit of material to deepen that pass, and we’re going to design a coastal restoration project,” said Nungesser. “So as the BP money comes out, we will be able to move forward with dredging and deepening that channel, if we don’t get the money from congress.”
Nungesser says that if the project is completed, the parish will see Venice boom like it did in the in the 1980’s and “we’ll make history deepening this channel.”
The construction of a road to connect Peters Road to Walker Road is out of the initial design and engineering phase, phase 1. Nungesser says that now that phase 1 is completed, land is being purchased in Jefferson Parish to get started on phase 2.
“I’m proud to say that we broke ground. If things go as scheduled, in 3.5 years we’ll be driving down the bypass road,” he said.
Nungesser says that he is working hard to secure the federal funding for the completion of the levee.
“When I took office, there was $260 million for that levee,” explained the parish president. “It was being moved to New Orleans for shortfall. We called a meeting with Governor Blanco, and all the other parish presidents and the mayor…we agreed to let them move the money with the promise that the next supplement would fully fund every levee project in Plaquemines Parish that was authorized by Congress.”
He assured the audience that when construction begins, he will be going to Washington to secure the rest of the funding for the project. He also mentioned that finding levee materials in the parish could contribute to getting the project done faster.
“If we can find enough qualified material in Plaquemines to bring that price down, we can save $350 million. If we do that, it’ll give us the money needed to finish the levee.”
Coastal Restoration Plan
Nungesser feels that coastal restoration and economic development go hand in hand. He stated that he believes berms behind the levee, island ridges, and the berms started during the oil spill, could reduce storm surge in Plaquemines Parish by 22 feet.
The first phase, berms behind the levee, has so far reduced storm surge by five feet. Six months ago FEMA agreed to recognize that plan which would subsequently lower flood insurance, he said.
“No one else has a certified plan. Ours lowers storm surge by five feet and will qualify us for 100 year protection. The next phase will be 500 year protection.”
According to Nungesser, he is preparing to ask the council to bond money to get started on the projects, as the parish has money in a fund that he would like to see used partially for these coastal restoration projects.
Bridge and Tunnel
As many residents are concerned with leaking in the tunnel, Nungesser assured the audience that we were now in the second phase of replacing the outdated tunnel and bridge.
“Once the study is finished, we’ll move to the engineering, design and construction phase to see that bridge and tunnel finally removed.”
He also stated that he’s working hard to widen Woodland Highway, which will create another safe way out of the parish.
Changing the Charter
to Create Boards
Nungesser spoke for the first time about putting an item on the ballot that would change the parish charter to allow the establishment of boards which would oversee certain parish operations.
After traveling the state and seeing how other parishes operate, he said he was inspired by the business people of the communities who took on leadership roles to effectively manage parish issues.
“Whenever I saw a successful operation it was done by the business community,” Nungesser noted. “The council are not experts, nor do they have the time to devote and make initiatives successful. We have the money, imagine what we could do if we had teams to concentrate on each and every aspect of government, to do the best they could and to use lobbying efforts to go to Washington to see that we get the funding we need for projects.”
The change in the charter would also say that the council has to fund each of the boards so they can effectively handle their assigned operations.
“I believe we can do it. I’m not doing it for me, I’m doing it for the future of this parish,” Nungesser stated. “I don’t want it on the ballot until the next election for parish president, and I’m spending my money to put it together. And I’ll be asking for volunteers and we will be holding meetings in every neighborhood.”
“We know funding is going to be tough in Washington, so what we’re going to do is take every bit of material to deepen that pass, and we’re going to design a coastal restoration project.”