Reservoir Commission seeking reversal of corps’ decision

Published 11:00 am Sunday, August 2, 2015

After meeting in executive session for approximately 20 minutes on Thursday at the Washington Economic Development Foundation Office, the Washington Parish Reservoir Commission revealed it would appeal the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ recent denial for a permit.

The corps denied the permit on June 18 to the Commission for the construction of the reservoir, which was proposed to be constructed in the area of the Oak Grove Community. In its denial the corps cited various reasons for the denial, including that the Commission did not provide adequate documentation.

Reservoir Commission member Mike Burris read the body’s statement to appeal.

“I move that the Washington Parish Reservoir Commission exercise its rights to all appeal options and the full legal process as provided by law regarding Section 404 permit denial by the USACE and that Commission officers in concert with legal counsel and consultants make the necessary filings and expenditures to effect such processes in pursuit of permit approval of the reservoir project,” Burris said.

At Thursday’s meeting, the Commission was represented by Ted Dittmer and Keith Turner.

The battle between the Reservoir Commission and opponents has been ongoing since 2008.

Winford Pittman, whose family owns the Bouey Moore log cabin in the Oak Grove Community, had some strong words for Commission members during the public comment portion of the meeting.

“We’ve been fighting against y’all from the start. I promised my parents that I would fight to my dying day to keep my place. To get me off my place you’re going to have to kill me,” Pittman said as he glared at board members.

“My dad went to his grave thinking everything he worked for was for nothing,” Pittman added. “I gave him my word that I will continue fighting to save the place. Don’t dare come after the Bouey Moore Place again.”

Pittman resides in Isabel but said he was raised in Oak Grove. He said the Bouey Moore Place has been in his family for 200 years.   

Pittman’s sister, Jalon Pittman Beech, also addressed the Commission.

“This Commission is an abomination to our parish. You have not done a good service. I do not thank you for your service. Your permit has been denied a second time, so it’s time to move on,” Beech said, drawing a round of applause from audience members.

Reservoir Commission Chairman Huey Pierce corrected Beech by saying the permit has been denied only once.

Phillipp Bedwell questioned the legality of the Commission going into executive session per Louisiana Revised Statutes, Title 42, and Chapter 1 regarding open meetings law.

“There are examples in the statutes that create an exception for boards to go into executive session,” Dittmer said. “Those examples are not exclusive. A board may go into executive session to discuss legal matters with counsel under the law. It’s attorney-client communication.”

Bedwell did not receive answers to all his questions.

“I still do not understand why the Commission is continuing to push for the reservoir in this particular location,” Bedwell said. “I’m still concerned with their lack of transparency. They’re still not allowing me the public records they have.”