Controversial plan dropped after public outcry
Amidst criticism from conservation groups and the general public, a proposed airstrip on Elmer’s Island isn’t getting off the ground.
At the October meeting of the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission last week, Secretary Jack Montoucet announced that an intergovernmental agreement between the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to essentially lease land to the Grand Isle Independent Levee District for the airstrip had been terminated.
“I am surely not too proud to recognize and understand the criticism and concerns that have been raised, both in regards to the environmental concerns with the project, but also as it relates to the desires for the public to have involvement beyond the permitting process for this proposal,” Montoucet told the commission.
He said the department actually shared many of the environmental concerns surrounding the old airstrip property, but had initially decided to allow Grand Isle Mayor David Camardelle the opportunity to at least begin the permitting process.
“… Mayor Camardelle indicated that he could propose a project that would have minimal impact on fish and wildlife resources and provide recreational access and economic development to the area, all at no cost to the state. He simply asked for an opportunity to try,” Montoucet said. “Knowing the many state and federal permits that such a project would require before it could even begin to be implemented, and trusting that those permitting processes would both identify and address any potential impacts to wildlife resources or habitat, we decided to see what he could propose.
“I am confident that I speak for myself and the governor when I say that this administration never absolutely supported the construction of an airport on Elmer’s Island, ignoring all consequences. Rather, we endorsed the mayor’s effort to develop a preliminary plan – a proposal – to be properly evaluated and vetted …
“I assure you that I value open and transparent government and that it was not my intention to create an appearance of operating outside of the public eye. However, it is evident from the number of people here today and from the communications I’ve received that folks would like a greater opportunity for public discourse in this matter.
“For that reason, I’m glad that Mayor Camardelle was gracious enough and willing to agree to mutually cancel and terminate the current intergovernmental agreement. You have my word that if this proposal is ever considered in the future, it will be done through the commission and would initially be limited to a feasibility study to allow for appropriate and public evaluation.”