Louisiana news briefs

From The Associated Press and staff reports.

Volunteer firefighter accused of setting 20 fires
BATON ROUGE — A volunteer firefighter from Franklinton is accused of setting 20 fires in Washington Parish over the past two months, according to the state Department of Agriculture and Forestry.
Johnny Erin Tarver, 23, had been a volunteer firefighter in Washington Parish Fire District No. 2 since November and had been wanted for nearly a week, according to department spokeswoman Veronica Mosgrove.
Tarver was booked early Saturday on 20 counts of arson, and is free on $30,000 bond, she said in a news release sent Tuesday.
He does not have a listed phone number and could not be reached for comment.
Some fires were set in woods, and three hay bales were set on fire, Mosgrove said.

Wastewater may help wetlands
HOUMA (AP) — One of Terrebonne Parish President Michel Claudet’s goals before leaving office after the end of next year is changing the route wastewater takes once it disappears down the drain.
He wants to send the water into the wetlands.
“It is a gigantic priority for me,” Claudet said.
The Terrebonne Parish Council took a step toward that goal March 12 by giving preliminary approval to the Wetland Assimilation Project at the South Terrebonne Wastewater Treatment Plant that includes a $2 million bond sale. There will be public hearing and final passage at the next council meeting on March 26.
The project will reroute millions of gallons of wastewater into the wetlands north of Lake Boudreaux instead of discharging in the Houma Navigation Canal where nutrients in the wastewater are uselessly flushed toward the Gulf of Mexico.
Claudet said Morganza-to-the-Gulf levees at the southern edge of Lake Boudreaux will stop salt water intruding into the lake. And this project will help flush salt water out to protect remaining vegetation around the lake, he said.
Some 4 million gallons of wastewater could be pumped through on a typical day, Terrebonne Parish Manager Al Levron said.
The intent is that some of the nitrogen, ammonia and phosphates in the treated wastewater will also feed plants that bolster eroding land, he said.

Jeanerette native Larroque
to head CODOFIL
William Arceneaux, president of the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana, announced the appointment of Charles Larroque as the executive director of CODOFIL.
“The CODOFIL Council met this date and the vote to select Mr. Larroque was unanimous,” Arceneaux said. “Charles has the background, knowledge, and temperament necessary to bring strong leadership to the post.”
Larroque said he is optimistic about the future of French in Louisiana, “especially when we tap into the huge economic potential in linking Louisiana’s French and Creole language and culture to the global cultural economy.” He adds, “In a nutshell, French equals jobs.”
Larroque is a native of Jeanerette and a graduate of the University of Louisiana at Monroe (formerly Northeast Louisiana University).
Joseph Dunn, the former executive director of CODOFIL resigned in December.

Father, son killed in crash
HOUMA (AP) — State police say a man and his son were killed in a car-18-wheeler head on collision.
The accident happened just between 7 a.m. on La. 316 in Lafourche Parish.
Trooper Evan Harrell identified the dead at 56-year-old Theodule Marcel and his 33-year-old son, Kristofor Marcel, both of Houma.
Harrell says Theodule Marcel was northbound when his car crossed the centerline and hit the 18-wheeler. The truck driver, 62-year-old Carl Hallows, of Galveston, Texas, was not injured.
Harrell says neither of the Marcels was wearing his seat belt.

Larger-than-expected retirement payments rejected
BATON ROUGE (AP) — Parish school boards and state government won’t have to come up with larger-than-expected contributions to fund pension plans for their employees in the next budget year.
An actuarial committee for the state’s public retirement systems sidelined proposals Tuesday that would have caused large increases in the payments for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
The proposals would have forced school boards to contribute $100 million more than anticipated and the state an extra $40 million.
The recommendations for larger increases came from the legislative actuary as he looked at the financial health of the pension plans, which have multibillion-dollar long-term debts.
But the committee instead opted to adopt evaluations proposed by the Teachers’ Retirement System of Louisiana and the Louisiana State Employees Retirement System. Those numbers have been used in state government and school board budgeting.
“State agencies and school boards already prepared their budgets for the upcoming year. They prepared them based on the only evaluation that they had,” said Sen. Elbert Guillory, R-Opelousas. He said changes would require “cuts in line items, employee cuts, pay increase proposals would have to be canned, layoffs. The word chaos would not be inappropriate.”

House health committee
to debate new abortion rule
BATON ROUGE (AP) — A proposal to add new restrictions on abortion providers in Louisiana gets its first legislative hearing, before the House health care committee.
Rep. Katrina Jackson, a Democrat from Monroe, is sponsoring a bill that would require doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. It’s similar to a controversial restriction recently passed in Texas.
Jackson says the proposal would enact “common-sense safety standards” to protect women’s health.
Abortion rights supporters say if lawmakers pass the new requirement, it would force the closure of three of Louisiana’s five abortion clinics — and leave none open south of Shreveport.
The House Health and Welfare Committee is scheduled to hear the proposal Wednesday.
Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal backs the bill.

Lafayette firm donates
aerial vehicle to Nicholls
THIBODAUX (AP) — Nicholls State University students in the field of “geomatics” — the use of data about the earth’s surface — will have access to the latest advancements in surveying technology with the donation of a high-tech unmanned aerial vehicle.
The university said Tuesday that the vehicle is being donated by Lafayette-based Navigation Electronics Inc.
The donation is valued at $70,000. It includes the Trimble UX5 unmanned aerial vehicle, optical sensors, image processing and software. The lightweight 5.5-pound model is capable of flying up to 16,404 feet and travels up to 50 mph.
Nicholls’ geomatics department uses unmanned aerial vehicles for projects such as mapping Louisiana’s coastlines, monitoring infrastructure and studying flares on oil and gas platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.

Lafayette man accused
of enticing child for sex
GULFPORT, Miss. (AP) — A 29-year-old Louisiana man is being held for trial on a charge alleging he used the Internet and a cellphone to entice a juvenile in Harrison County into sexual activity with him.
A federal grand jury indicted John James Lee, of Lafayette, La., Feb. 5 on a charge of child enticement, punishable by 10 years to life in prison.
The indictment says the enticement occurred between May 1, 2012, and Oct. 31, 2012, and involved a child under the age of 18.
Lee pleaded not guilty March 10.
He is set for trial on a court calendar that starts April 28.
Lee was arrested Jan. 2 on similar charges in Louisiana.

Cajun band to tour China
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — New Orleans-based public radio program “American Routes” has organized the first tour by a Louisiana French band to mainland China.
Jesse Lége, Joel Savoy & Cajun Country Revival will perform April 1 to 12 at American cultural centers, U.S. consulates and clubs in Guangzhou, Harbin, Nanjing and Shanghai.
The roots music-centered, eclectic “American Routes” radio show is heard through the U.S. Produced at Tulane, the program previously organized US-China exchange programs.
Nick Spitzer, host and producer of “American Routes” and professor of American studies and anthropology at Tulane University, is the tour’s artistic director. He also will conduct oral history workshops and lecture about French Louisiana culture while Cajun filmmaker Conni Castille will screen her documentaries “I Always Do My Collars First” and “T-Galop: A Louisiana Horse Story.”
“Our ‘American Routes Abroad’ series is ‘vernacular cultural diplomacy,’” Spitzer said in a statement. “It brings great traditional artists from diverse American communities to China and elsewhere. It’s gratifying to see Chinese audiences react to American traditional cultures.”
Lege, a singer-accordionist, grew up in rural Vermilion Parish in the town of Gueydan, La. Cajun-French is his first language. He learned to perform music from relatives, neighbors and the radio.
Savoy, a fiddler from Eunice, is one of Cajun musicians Marc and Ann Savoy’s musical children. He co-founded Valcour Records in 2006.
Spitzer said radio audiences in the U.S. will hear the Louisiana musicians’ performances in China during a future “American Routes” broadcast
In May, the Campbell Brothers, a New York-based sacred steel guitar group, will tour China also under the auspices of “American Routes.”

Passenger rail service would cost $262 million
BATON ROUGE (AP) — A study finds startup costs for a passenger train linking Baton Rouge and New Orleans on existing freight tracks would be $262 million with federal funds underwriting up to 80 percent of that amount.
The study by HNTB Corp. said the cost is substantially less than the $448 million estimated in a 2010 study for the state of Louisiana.
Ridership for twice daily service is estimated at 210,000 in the first year.
The service would include stops in between the two cities, and could ultimately grow to more frequent service with a possible station near the New Orleans International Airport.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said the study shows that passenger rail in south Louisiana is possible.

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