State legislative reps. discuss 2012 session with PABIJul 24th, 2012 | By Jessica Gonzalez | Category: community
State legislative representatives for Plaquemines Parish were on hand at the July 20 PABI luncheon to brief members on highlights of the 2012 legislative session. Pictured is PABI Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Dale Benoit; Senator David Heitmeier, Senator John Alario, State Rep. Chris Leopold, State Rep. Ray Garofalo, Executive Director of PABI Bobby Thomas, and 2012 PABI Chairman Reid McLellan.
State Representatives for Plaquemines Parish provided PABI members with a recap of accomplishments from the 2012 Legislative Session, which included several Plaquemines Parish capital improvement projects.
Officials on hand were Senate President and District 8 representative John Alario; District 7 representative Senator David Heitmeier; District 103 representative Ray Garofalo; and District 105 representative Chris Leopold.
All officials credited a great working relationship to their ability to bring many Plaquemines Parish projects to the forefront of the session. Danica Ansardi also gave the audience a brief update on the Baptiste Collette widening project. Ansardi said that the feasibility study was completed June 20, and has been sent to Washington for review and approval.
Funding for raising of Hwy. 23
The raising of Hwy. 23 near Myrtle Grove has been a big issue for residents throughout the parish who rely on the crucial roadway to evacuate during storms, and the legislature was able to secure funding to get the project moving.
“I brought it up early in the session, and both Senator Alario and Senator Heitmeier made sure it stayed in throughout the session, it is in HB 2 and is going through the bond commission,” explained State Rep. Chris Leopold.
Leopold said that as soon as the State Bond Commission process is completed, he can brief the local government on the next step forward.
Phase 1 & 2 funding for Peters Rd. Bypass
Senator David Heitmeier brief the the crowd on the status of the Peters Rd. bypass bridge that will connect Peters Rd. in Jefferson Parish to Hwy. 23, giving motorists an alternative route to and from the South end of the parish. Part of the project is a new roadway along Walker Rd. and a bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway.
Heitmeier explained that funding for Phase 1 & 2– the feasibility and environmental studies– has been secured.
“We were able to put in $19.5 million for Phase 2, and that’s brining along with regional planning about $8 million, so if the bond commission approves it. Phase 1 should be completely funded,” Heitmeier stated.
Funding for Phase 3, the most expensive portion of the project that includes the engineering and construction of the bridge and roadway, has not been secured, Heitmeier said.
Bridge and tunnel
Heitmeier maintained that one of this main goals going forward was the replacement of the Belle Chasse bridge and tunnel.
Both Senator Heitmeier and State Rep. Leopold mentioned that among their constituents’ main concerns was the increased water in the Belle Chasse Tunnel after a heavy rain event.
“We’ve actually installed two pumps to keep the water out of the tunnel,” stated Heitmeier. “We’ve been assured by the DODT that the tunnel is not at risk of a failure or anything of that nature, but a feasibility study is being done for a total replacement of the tunnel.”
In terms of the bridge, Heitmeier reported that his scheduled bridge curfew was well received among motorists, but did get complaints from the maritime industry that there was no place for vessels to tie up while waiting for the bridge to lift. As a means to alleviate that issue, Heitmeier and Leopold both worked to secure funds in HB 2 for buoys.
“We were able to apppropriate $100,000 for buoys for the boats to tie up,” Heitmeier said. “Now we have to work with the Corps of Engineers to see where the best places to put those buoys are.”
New center for Oil Spill claims
Individuals and business who were impacted by the Deepwater Horizon disaster now have a new claims process, that State Rep. Ray Garofalo says is more objective than it’s predecessor. Garofalo, a member of the Natural Resources Committee, was recently appointed to serve on the Select Committee on Oversight of the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF).
GCCF Claims has rolled over into a settlement administered by the federal courts, explained Garofalo.
The GCCF Committee reviews issues related to the claim process that was set up to handle reimbursement for damages incurred during the BP oil disaster.
Garofalo encouraged anyone whose claim was denied, or who has not filed to do so through the GCCF.
“Basically we’re taking the state out of the process, we’re taking BP out of the process. it’s all being administered by the federal court,” said Garofalo.
All representatives encouraged constituents to remain in contact with them, as input and guidance from residents helps the elected officials target their efforts to get results and make progress for the parish in Baton Rouge.