Mizell bill in House

Published 10:13 am Monday, May 16, 2016

State Sen. Beth Mizell’s bill that could end the current efforts to create a reservoir in Washington Parish passed the state senate this week.

Since 2004, when the reservoir district was first authorized by state law, there has been growing opposition to the project.

Critics oppose the reservoir project as it currently exists because the project would require the relocation of some cemeteries in the Oak Grove area, and because it could use eminent domain to take property from individuals for the purpose of the reservoir.

More recently, Mizell has pointed out that in a lean budget year, the state should not finance unpopular projects like a reservoir and instead focus on the Bogalusa hospital.

Mizell’s bill, which would dismantle the reservoir district, passed unopposed in the Senate on Wednesday and on Thursday it was introduced to the House Committee on Transportation, Highways and Public Works. That committee is helmed by State Rep. Kenneth Havard, and it includes State Rep. Malinda White.

On Thursday, while the House debated hospital funding, White said she believes the Mizell’s reservoir district bill will pass. However, she also said that it’s not as big a priority for her as securing funding for the parish’s two hospitals.

“I feel like it will (pass),” she said, adding that she didn’t want to make a statement until she’s had a chance to talk with parish council members.

White said Mizell has been following the reservoir project much closer than she had been.

“I have not been involved in the process as it’s been going on over the years, and that’s just being very honest about it,” she said.

In addition, White she would like to talk with members of the parish council before she decides the best way to vote.

However, White did say she didn’t like the idea that homeowners lived in fear of losing their land to a development deal.

“I don’t want people living in fear with a black cloud over their heads,” she said. “That’s not right. And I don’t know that it’s been handled right.”

One longtime opponent of the reservoir, Jalon Pittman Beech, said she’s been unhappy with the reluctance of Rep. White to take a definitive position on the bill.

“We are all getting generic responses,” Beech said. “Many people in our parish supported (White) in her campaign because we were led to believe that she saw the doomed reservoir project for what it really was — a money pit that has been mishandled from the inception.

“Killing the law that created it will not kill the concept and future possibilities of a reservoir in our area. SB 475, Act 71 is a horror and should be repealed.”