West Bank authority opposes suit against coast damage caused by oil drillers

The authority that handles flood protection for the West Bank has voted to oppose the lawsuit initiated by its East Bank counterpart that seeks to force oil and gas interests to take responsibility for damage caused to the coast.

The Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-West voted Monday to support a resolution put forward by the executive committee of the Association of Levee Boards of Louisiana. The resolution condemns the suit filed by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East.

The lawsuit caused John Barry, one of the driving forces of the lawsuit, to lose his seat on the East Bank levee authority board. He has since founded an organization called Restore Louisiana Now to push oil and gas companies to restore the coast.

Only one member of the West Bank authority opposed the resolution. Commissioner Michael Merritt voted against the resolution on technical grounds.

Merritt said his vote was not a reflection of his opinion on the lawsuit. He voted to oppose the resolution because he didn’t believe that it was the west authority’s business what the east authority did in its own jurisdiction.

“I’m minding my own business,” said Merritt. “I’m just worried about the four corners for this jurisdiction, not everybody else.”

During December’s meeting of the state association of levee boards, the resolution will be put to a vote of the entire body, according to Susan Maclay, president of the west authority.

The authority considered two proposals from firms interested in developing the Flood Protection Authority’s strategic plan, a project with an approved budget of $65,000. Vali Cooper International and Advantus Strategies are both being considered for the job.

Authority members also discussed the threat to levees posed by feral hogs.

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