Louisiana news briefs
Endangered whooping cranes coming to Vermilion
LAFAYETTE (AP) — A new group of 11 young whooping cranes is scheduled to arrive in Vermilion Parish next month in an ongoing project to re-establish the endangered birds in the south Louisiana marshes where they once thrived.
Since the project began in February 2011, 40 of the rare birds have been released at the state’s 71,000-acre White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area, and 23 are alive.
Only one crane survived out of the first group of 10 brought to White Lake, but subsequent releases have been more promising, with 12 of the 16 birds released in late 2011 still flying and 10 of the 14 birds released last year also thriving.
Sara Zimorski, a biologist with the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, said the bird deaths were expected.
Chalmette oil man dominates state’s
Nov. lease sale
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A Chalmette oil-and-gas man’s bids accounted for most of Louisiana’s November sale of mineral rights on state and local government land.
Harold J. Anderson’s bids made up two-thirds of the $2.7 million total.
The Louisiana Mineral and Energy Board awarded 22 leases covering more than 7,000 acres on Wednesday. It had offered more than 131,000 acres in 121 tracts. Bids were nearly double those of November 2012, when a lack of seismic data drove down bidding, but down from $4 million last month.
Eleven bidders participated.
Anderson’s Kare-Sue Energy Inc. had the day’s highest bid: $611,700 for more than 2,000 acres off the coast of Lafourche Parish.
The Harold J. Anderson independent petroleum land company bid $1.19 million on nine tracts. Those bids included $438,600 for 860 acres in the Pass-a-Loutre Wildlife Management Area in Plaquemines Parish at the mouth of the Mississippi River.
The Louisiana Mineral and Energy Board has collected $11.3 million so far this fiscal year, which began July 1. The state collected $18.3 million total during the 2012-13 fiscal year.
Voters nix using library tax for jail
THIBODAUX (AP) — Lafourche Parish voters have rejected a move to take property tax money that currently goes to public libraries and use it to build a new jail.
Saturday’s election results show the proposal failed by a vote of 54 percent to 46 percent. Turnout on the issue was 15 percent.
The campaigns for and against the measure were heated and often resulted in public arguments between members of the parish government and library employees, with each side questioning the legality of the others’ campaign tactics.
PORT ALLEN (AP) — Members of the City Council agreed that one of their first priorities in the wake of Port Allen Mayor Demetric Slaughter’s recall is to take another stab at adopting a 2013-14 budget before city departments run out of money.
Council members also agreed Slaughter’s ousting in Saturday’s recall election won’t heal the wounds that have polarized the community down racial lines during her 11-month tenure as mayor.
State law requires that Slaughter step down as mayor by 4:30 p.m. Nov. 25 unless she contests the election.
In Saturday’s election, 57 percent of Port Allen voters supported a grass roots effort to remove Slaughter from office and 43 percent voted against it.
Terrebonne voters approve hotel tax
HOUMA (AP) — A 1 percent tax on hotel visits that will help pay for an La. 311 sports complex was approved by Terrebonne voters in Saturday’s election.
The tax passed by a vote of 67 percent to 33 percent.
The hotel tax will initially bring in $300,000 annually, which will first be put toward the construction of the $20 million Bayou Country Sports Park.
The project’s construction will be spread over five to eight years.
The completed park will include baseball, softball and multipurpose fields along with 17 mid- and full-length soccer fields, an eight-court tennis complex, a dog park, a skate park and a man-made lake with a beach and sand volleyball court.
Lake’s long bridge gets historic honor
MANDEVILLE (AP) — Madisonville Mayor Peter Gitz stood near a group of dignitaries gathered to celebrate the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway’s designation as a historic civil engineering landmark.
But Gitz was at the ceremony on Nov. 8 not as an elected official but as one of the many workers who linked the north and south shores of the lake in 1956, using then-revolutionary construction methods to complete the almost 24-mile-long span in just 14 months.
Not long out of high school at the time, Gitz worked on a barge that followed the pile-driving crew. His crew’s job was to make sure that the caps placed across the piles were just the right height before a third crew placed the decking.
“I knew it was going to grow,” Gitz said of the bridge’s impact on the then-mostly rural north shore. “This was cow pasture out here,” he said, gesturing to the Mandeville toll plaza. “Cattle were all over the place.”
The bucolic scene recalled by Gitz is long gone, but the decades of suburban growth made possible by the Causeway are one reason the 57-year-old bridge has earned a distinction shared by structures like the Hoover Dam and the Golden Gate Bridge.
The American Society of Civil Engineers has five criteria for awarding National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark status, and one is that the structure must have contributed to the development of a nation, or at least a large region. Landmarks must also be at least 50 years old, be of national historic civil engineering significance, represent a significant facet of civil engineering history and have some special quality.
DWI laws need to change, judge says
LAFAYETTE (AP) — For impaired drivers, alcohol is increasingly not the substance of choice that leads to trouble on Louisiana roads, a Lafayette judge said.
City Court Judge Douglas Saloom told the DWI-Vehicular Homicide Task Force that state law needs to catch up with evolving reasons for impairment, whether it is marijuana or Xanax instead of one beer too many.
App will track floodgate closures
HOUMA (AP) — The Terrebonne Levee District has designed a phone application that allows boaters to check floodgate closures.
Terrebonne Administrative Manager Angela Rains said the parish manages nine floodgates.
The app called Floodgate Mate is set to go live late in November for iPhones, Androids and other smartphones. Ship captains and boaters who don’t have smartphones can subscribe to text-updates from the service or call a toll-free line to find out about gate closures.
It will show a map of Terrebonne and use colored dots to represent floodgates, Rains said.
When the dot’s green, the floodgate is open. When it’s yellow, it’s about to open or close. When it’s red, it’s closed.
The app will also give National Weather Service updates.
Until now, the district has used emails to communicate levee closures, and the list of recipients has grown considerably.
“Now that we’re got a giant floodgate in the middle of the ship channel, we got flooded with requests,” Rains said.
The new app should be a help to marine businesses that routinely use the gates, said Bobby Barthel, vice president at LeBouef Brothers Towing.
“You can be able to find out at any time,” he said. “A customer may need to know in the middle of the night.”
Development of the app cost the levee district about $2,000. Rains said annual maintenance will cost about $1,000.