Vermilion

Feb 7, 2012 10:43 PM by Maddie Garrett

Farmers Sue Barge Co. For Damaging Leland Bowman Locks

Roughly 45 Acadiana farmers are filing a lawsuit against a barge company for damaging the Leland Bowman locks in the Mermentau Basin. They are claiming that the damaged locks are letting too much saltwater into their farmland and hurting agriculture.

Crawfish, rice and cattle are all in jeopardy this year because of too much saltwater in the Mermentau basin.

"The saltwater is just damaging the eco-system," said attorney Joseph Joy, III.

Joy is representing many of the farmers in the lawsuit. He said Canal Barge Company should be held responsible for the damages to property and profits the farmers are facing, after one of its barges struck one of the Leland Bowman gates in September.

"And that's the problem, every time they open the locks, salt water is rushing in and it's essentially contaminating everything," explained Joy.

But you have to ask, is the blame being pointed in the right direction? That's because the Army Corps of Engineers has said the salinity in the Mermentau Basin was already high before the damage at the locks because of extreme drought conditions.

The Corps of Engineers gave a statement in November, saying while the damaged locks are part of the problem, they aren't a major factor.

"And a lot of people are trying to blame the damage from the lock on this problem, you had problems before the lock was damaged," said Chris Accardo, Chief of Operations in New Orleans for the Army Corps of Engineers.

Meanwhile, the damaged gate is supposed to be re-installed in March.

Farmers could seek millions of dollars in damages from Canal Barge Company. The company did respond to the lawsuit, giving this statement:

"We are aware of the lawsuits that have been filed as a result of the incident at the Leland Bowman lock on September 30, 2011, and we take the allegations very seriously. As a Louisiana company, we are aware of the importance of complying with the procedures established by the U.S. Coast Guard and the Corps of Engineers while transiting the lock system. Our preliminary investigation of the matter shows that our vessel followed the applicable Coast Guard navigational rules, Corps of Engineers locking procedures, and the specific instructions of the Corps' Lock Operator at all times. Because the matter is now in litigation, we cannot offer any further comment at this time, but we will certainly respond to the lawsuits in due course."

 

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