Posted on May 18, 2022
Lafayette Consolidated Government says an inspection by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers found LCG’s removal of spoil banks along the Vermilion River in February did not require a federal permit.
The spoil banks, left behind from the last time the Vermilion River was dredged decades ago, run along the river’s southern bank around the Bayou Tortue Swamp in St. Martin Parish, just east of the border with Lafayette Parish. The banks isolate the river from the low-lying swampland, preventing floodwaters from moving from the river to the swamp during storms.
LCG quietly purchased part of the land where the makeshift dirt levees stand and removed about 1,200 feet of the nearly 4,000-foot long spoil banks in February without telling the Corps or St. Martin Parish after months of back and forth.
LCG initially sought a permit from the Corps to remove the spoil banks, but then revised its initial plan to avoid wetlands areas in St. Martin Parish and withdrew its application in an attempt to avoid the need permit.
After the discovery of LCG’s removal of the spoil banks made headlines in March, LCG filed a lawsuit against St. Martin Parish and the Corps asking a judge to issue an order finding that LCG had “complied with all lawful regulations, ordinance, rules, procedures and law with the spoil bank project.”
In early April, the Corps sent LCG a cease and desist order, accusing it of violations of the federal law stemming from its “unauthorized deposition and redistribution of dredged and fill material in waters of the U.S., and unauthorized work in navigable waters.”
“(LCG) had a permit application in for this work and withdrew it, had a wetland delineation showing where wetlands and non-wetland waters occurred on the properties, understand(s) that permits are required for activities in waters of the U.S., and have extensive permitting history with the Corps,” USACE New Orleans District Regulations Division Deputy Chief Brad Guarisco wrote.
LCG responded to the cease and desist order Friday, saying that an investigative team from the Corps had evaluated the site on May 6 and found the spoil banks’ removal did not impact the surrounding wetlands and therefore did not require a permit.
“LCG … narrowed the project so that the work on the St. Martin Parish side of the bayou could be completed without a permit from the USACE. Unlike the initial conception, spoil would only be removed from a limited section of the ‘spoil bank.’ All work would be done in the upland areas. No activity on the St. Martin Parish side of the bayou would take place within any wetlands or navigable waters,” LCG’s attorney Jim Gibson wrote in response to the Corps’ cease and desist order.
“Members of the investigative team indicated that there were no issues with LCG’s reduction of the height of the ‘spoil bank,’” he added.
LCG’s lawsuit against the Corps and St. Martin Parish was removed to federal court at the Corps’ request in late April. The first hearing is set to be held in Lafayette on June 29.
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