A ceremony was held in West St. John the Baptist Parish to recognize the National Trust of Historic Preservation’s designation that the area was one of America’s 11 Most Endangered Places.
The designation will encompass an 11 mile stretch of land along the west bank of the Mississippi River that contains a high concentration of historic plantations, and one point was considered one of the wealthiest stretches of land in the country.
There’s a stark difference between the east and west bank of the river in St. John Parish with the east bank is more industrial than the predominantly rural west bank.
Over the last several years there’s been signs that heavy industry would cross over the river and take over the quiet communities of the west bank.
Residents say they already suffer the negative health impacts of living next to such a major industrial corridor and that any additional industry would make matters worse.
In attendance was Adrienne Katner, the Program Director of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences of LSU’s School of Public health, with her studies showing that even though most of the industry was taking place across the river the health impacts were drifting over to the west bank.
There are currently several major plots of land that are being proposed for heavy industrial use, including a plot for Lucy Eurochem a Russian fertilizer manufacturer and the Greenfield Grain Elevator.
The Greenfield Project in Wallace, which was included in this designation, was the subject of a KATC Special Report which you can read about here.
Residents say they’re not against all economic development and believe that industries such as hospitality, agriculture, film, or housing aren’t given the same kind of consideration that the major industry is given.
Speaking in front of a small crowd on the level in front of the historic St. John the Baptist Church, Shadows of the Tech Director John Warner Smith, said that “these sites reflect the diversity and commonality of the American experience.”
Designating the area as an endangered place doesn’t necessarily offer any legal protections, it does increase pressure on the Army Corps of Engineers to deny projects compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.
That the NHPA was instituted in the 1960s as a way to help provide protection to historic sites, and any projects using federal money are required to prove compliance.
Those supporting the designation say they hope that in the next few years the 11 mile stretch will be known as a National Historic Site which would give them federal protection from certain projects.
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