Citizens Say Lock Plans are Unfair
(From the Times-Picayune) The Army Corps of Engineers’ latest plan to build a new Industrial Canal lock drew sharp criticism Wednesday night from activists who say the controversial project unfairly puts shipping interests above the environmental health of neighborhoods along the waterway.
Pam Dashiell, chairwoman of the Holy Cross Neighborhood Association, said the new lock would usher in “gangs of barges and deep-draft ships to a community that is struggling.”
“Are you trying to kill us again?” Dashiell said, referring to the breached floodwalls that allowed Katrina’s floodwaters to inundate neighborhoods abutting the Industrial Canal.
Dashiell was one of more than 30 angry citizens who railed against the new lock Wednesday night at the Martin Luther King Jr. Charter School in the Lower 9th Ward, where the corps presented its new report of the environmental consequences of the project.
The assessment fulfills a 2006 order by a federal judge who ordered the corps to halt work on the project after community and environmental groups sued, saying the agency failed to fully assess the toxicity of materials that would be unearthed during construction. U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon said the corps would have to further study the environmental effects before moving forward on the project.
— Environmental concerns —
Although the report contends that dredged materials will present negligible health risks, opponents of the new lock say the corps’ latest assessment hardly addresses concerns raised in the lawsuit.
“They specifically didn’t answer the questions that we raised to the judge,” said Jill Witkowski, an attorney for the groups that sued. “They’ve come back with six volumes that don’t answer our questions.”
Witkowski has asked the corps for more time to independently review the agency’s analysis of dredged materials, although she said she has not received a response. After a 45-day public comment period that ends Nov. 24, the corps will send its report to Fallon, who will review the document to rule whether the corps can continue building the new lock.
During a brief presentation of the voluminous report, the corps promised to securely store any dredged materials that contain harmful chemicals. Heavy metals and other industrial toxins can be found in relatively small quantities in the Industrial Canal, according to Richard Boe, the corps’ environmental manager of the lock project.