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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

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Shooting academy, levee district continue to disagree on shooting range safety

Shooting academy, levee district continue to disagree on shooting range safety

Recent posts in the Louisiana Sportsman Magazine indicate the confusion some outdoorsmen may be having regarding the Eymard Shooting Academy in Galliano and its ongoing disagreement with the South Lafourche Levee District (SLLD).

On January 19, a report in the Sportsman’s forum, entitled “Flying Bullets”, warned that anyone fishing in the vicinity of Blue’s Pump Canal should be aware that it is unsafe.

“Went to fish the canal just before the gate yesterday and got buzzed by ricocheting bullets twice before I could get out of there. Very dangerous area,” said the post.

This report started a thread of opinions by others who either thought the shooting range had been shut down, or that authorities should be called “before someone is killed.”

Anyway, some facts may clear up the confusion.

The shooting range, on Hwy. 3235 in Galliano, was opened in October 2013. Described by its owner Hugh Eymard as the only range in Louisiana that offers targets at an 800 ft. distance, the shooting area is protected by a 21 ft. high by 97 ft. wide berm at a distance of 825 ft. from the shooting stands. Eymard says side berms have been added.

Another 400 yards behind the berm stands the hurricane protection levee.

Blue’s Pump Canal is directly west of the protection levee, running roughly north and south.
The range’s berm was originally 15 ft. high, but was raised to 21 ft. over concerns from SLLD that their workers on the levee were in danger of being hit by stray or elevated bullets.

“Our concern is a person arching his shot. Our employees feel there is a high risk now,” said SLLD General Manager Windell Curole, at a December 9, 2013, SLLD meeting.

The range also has a .50 caliber rifle that shooters can pay to shoot, he said. These rifles can fire a projectile well over 2000 yards.

At that same meeting, Hugh Eymard expressed his willingness to work with SLLD to alleviate the apprehensions of the levee district.

“If you know you are having people working back there, call us and we will shut down,” he said.

Monte Arabie of Galliano, Eymard’s Range Master, also attended the December meeting, saying that he “inspects the range’s berm and it shows no evidence of being hit higher than 18 inches from the ground.”

Curole subsequently warned the board that Terra Logistics, the contractor employed by SLLD to raise the section of levee near the range, was threatening to shut down its operation for the safety of its employees.

A letter from Terra to SLLD Vice-president of construction Stanley Lee said: “We have great concerns for the safety of our employees not knowing the type of firearms and calibers being used at the range. I have looked at the range from the levee side and noticed that you do not have side berms. A projectile could easily be shot off line or wind could move the projectile off line of inexperienced shooters which could in turn hit one of our employees, pieces of equipment or fuel tanks.”

In April 2014 SLLD filed suit to halt the range’s operation, claiming its workers are endangered by regular shooting from the range.

Attorneys for the range argued that stopping the facility's operation would violate the constitutional rights of the owner.

In September 2014, The Daily Comet reported that an agreement had been nearly reached between the range and the levee district in which the range would shut down for a month to do remodeling while Terra finished work on the levee. This agreement would put an end to the lawsuit, the article said.

Eymard would be compensated over $5000 for the month he was shut down by Terra.

The range was also shut down in the month of November, with Terra paying again.

SLLD will most likely absorb this cost as it will be added to the contract by Terra.

At a December 2014 Parish Council meeting, Curole asked for help in reconciling the Eymard issue.

“You know that we’ve exhausted every effort when it comes to the firing range and our involvement is very limited on that,” Parish President Charlotte Randolph told Curole. “You might like us to help, but there’s not a heck of a lot we can do.”

On December 17, SLLD employee Marti Martin called the Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office to report that as he was working a backhoe on the levee just north of the range, a bullet whizzed by him at 9:30 a.m.
Range Master Arabie, who was contacted by the sheriff’s office, told an investigating officer the range did not open until 10 a.m. and that no one was there at 9:30.

He also noted that landowners north and south of the range also shoot on their properties.

On January 20, 2015 in a letter to the Lafourche Gazette’s editor, Eymard described the complaint by Martin and the investigation by the Sheriff’s Office, and expressed his feelings about the dispute with SLLD.

“Eymard Shooting Range has cooperated with South Lafourche Levee District and Terra Logistics on all of their concerns; but, the harassment still keeps going on with no proof of any bullets in or on the SLLD levee,” said Eymard.

Eymard called Martin “Superman” for being able to hear the bullet over the sound of the backhoe and surmise that it came from the shooting range. He also asserted in the letter that since October 2013 he has had over 2000 shooters who have discharged over 2,000,000 rounds without incident on his range.

Still, with all the public comments for and against the shooting range, recent comments in the Louisiana Sportsman confirm there is still confusion.

One post thought the shooting range had already been shut down by SLLD.

Another said that fishermen should call the police and or the parish president or LDWF if they encounter bullets.
Another called for signs to be posted--where and with what message the post did not say.

The last post called for shutting down the range until the owner can build the berm in such a way that bullets can’t fly over it.

Here are a few more facts:

Eymard Shooting Academy is open Tues.-Sat. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and on Sunday 1 to 6 p.m.

The Daily Comet reported in December 2014 that Eymard is eyeing properties on either side of his range for expansion, planning to possibly build an indoor pistol range and a skeet shooting range.

The January 2015 SLLD public meeting ended with the board going into Executive Session to discuss pending litigation against several entities, including Eymard Shooting Academy.