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Sunday, June 16, 2019

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Beach access or not? Questions answered

Beach access or not? Questions answered

Whether or not Lafourche Parish has a right-of-way to Fourchon Beach was one of the topics of discussion at the latest South Lafourche Beachfront Development District (SLBDD) public meeting.

On Wednesday, September 9, Board Chairman Kirk Cheramie expressed SLBDD’s claim that it did not give up its right of way to the beach. He was correct.

That right was suborned when a parish ordinance signed into law in 2012 gave it to the state.

On May 8, 2012, the nine members of the Lafourche Parish Council voted unanimously in favor of Ordinance 5104 temporarily donating the right of way to the state’s Office of Coastal Protection and Restoration (OCPR) as a condition of starting the Caminada Headlands Project, a beach restoration initiative designed to reclaim miles of Lafourche’s coastline from Belle Pass going east toward Elmer’s Island.

The ordinance approves “… an act of subordination and right-of-way agreement between Lafourche Parish Government (Grantor) and the State of Louisiana Office of Coastal Protection and Restoration (OCPR) for the Caminada Headlands Beach and Dune Restoration Project BA-45 and authorizing the Parish President to sign, execute and administer any and all relevant documents.”

Although the project has moved east toward Elmer’s Island, the off-limits status continues for the entire project area.

According to Parish Administrator Archie Chaisson, when all work is complete, the South Lafourche Levee District will be in charge of permitting access to the beach.

“Do we have a right of way or not?” asked Cheramie.

“It’s tricky. The parish subordinated its right of way for the life of the project,” said Chaisson. “The state will control the right of way until the project is completed.”

Additionally, control of future beach access has been “punted” by OCPR into the hands of the South Lafourche Levee District, he further stated.

In the same month that Ordinance 5104 was passed, SLBDD attorney Loulan Pitre did in fact inform the board at its May 2012 meeting that landowners had granted their rights of way, and that the parish planned to do the same.

One of the problems with the disagreement over who owns the right of way is the fact that membership on the SLBDD board has changed dramatically since 2012, and present members seem to be unaware of Pitre’s comments.

Said board member Nick Cheramie, “If we can’t have access, we’re done. That’s the real issue for us. It’s paramount in determining if we exist as a board. If it’s true, we’re obsolete!”

The board had planned on asking the parish council for funds to pay for reworking the SLBDD strategic plan for use of the beach which has been altered by the Caminada project.

Chaisson advised the board that such funds would have to come from the 2016 parish budget which will not be ratified for a couple of months.

“You can discuss it with parish administration, and submit a plan in January,” said Chaisson.