Reservoir legislation advances: Mizell’s bill would end project commission

Published 7:00 am Saturday, May 7, 2016

State Sen. Beth Mizell’s senate bill that would eliminate the Washington Parish Reservoir Commission passed the Local and Municipal Affairs Committee on Thursday.

Next week, it will move before the full Senate for a vote.

Thursday’s vote was an important first step in a process that, if successful, will put an end to a 14-year project that has upset dozens of parish residents.

“I’m thrilled. I cried,” said Jalon Pittman Beech, a longtime opponent of the reservoir plan.

Residents are upset because the proposed reservoir would be in the Oak Grove community and it could displace homeowners and would likely require relocation of some cemeteries.

Beech said about 15 parish residents travelled to Baton Rouge on Thursday to see the vote. She reported it was a unanimous vote by the committee.

Still, the bill faces the Senate vote plus a House vote and then it must be signed by Gov. John Bel Edwards before it becomes law.

Mizell said she’s optimistic that will happen.

“I don’t see much of a fight, but everybody’s being pretty quiet about it,” she said.

Mizell said it helps that area residents seem to support her bill. This makes the bill less political.

“The local citizens were very compelling to the committee,” she said. “This is not a political deal — this is a personal issue these people had to live with.”

In addition, Mizell said that in a year where the state is looking to cut every unnecessary expenditure, cutting out an unpopular commission should be an obvious move.

“No. 1, the money has to first go to the hospital and that has to be the priority,” she said.

Mizell said she expects a vote in the Senate by the middle of next week, and within two weeks, she hopes the appropriate House committee will take up the bill.

“It’ll be one step at a time, hopefully within two weeks it goes to the House committee,” she said. “They’re running a little behind.”