For the second time, family finds themselves in way of progress
The first time the Mathernes were asked to leave was because of the pending Interstate Highway 49 project. This time around, it could be because the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers might need their land to build a levee.
“Luckily for us, the department of transportation chose to go a different route,” Frank Matherne said about his family’s ability to dodge the first I-49 bullet. “This time around dealing with the corps, we may be asked to leave again.”
Julie Vignes, manager for the levee project, confirmed that the second alignment chosen by the corps could include the Matherne property. However, a final decision has not been made yet.
“We haven’t made a decision on which alignment we’ll pick,” Vignes said. “We are currently surveying the second alignment that could impact some families, but we’ve also conducted similar surveys on alignments one and three.”
All three levee alignments tie into the Lake Cataouatche levee system on Highway 90 and end at the Davis Pond Guide Levee. To see exactly where each will go, view the maps to the right.
Vignes says that the surveys and soil studies are conducted as part of the planning process.
“We want to go with the alignment that has the least impact to the community and the wetlands,” she said. “Our choice of alignment will also take into consideration the amount of time it will take to complete the levee for each alignment and the cost.”
Vignes says that alignment one is the least favored of the three options.
“The second and third alignments are the two we’re considering now,” she said. “But all three will be or have been surveyed.”
Councilman Terry Authement says the corps has already released projection figures on the project and he’s in favor of alignment three.
“I like that alignment better,” he said. “It will have the greatest economic impact for us over the next 50 years.”
The Matherne family is worried because they live on waterfront property that is protected by wetlands on both sides.
“We attended the levee meeting at Cytec two weeks ago and the second alignment they showed us for the plans to construct a levee have us worried because it means we’d have to find somewhere else to live and basically start all over again,” he said. “This isn’t just our home; it’s my way of life.”
Jerry Sporher, executive director of the West Jefferson Levee District, says if the corps chooses alignment two, the Matherne family will be forced to move under the Relocation Act.
“If that happens the families will be compensated and given fair market value for their property,” Sporher said.
Matherne bought the waterfront property because of the hunting and fishing opportunities the area presents. He had hoped to live out the rest of his life there.
“If the corps chooses to take this alignment we’ll lose our home,” he said. “I’ve spoken to a couple of councilmen and they told us not to worry because they’ll take care of us, but the surveyors have been on our property to look at it and see what’s going on and we’re concerned.”
Matherne says he loves St. Charles Parish and hopes this will all be over soon. Vignes says the corps could have a decision by mid-summer.
“We have looked at putting in a floodwall to keep the people from having to move,” she said. “We do know with alignment three some wetlands are at risk, and all of those things must be considered.”
But the Matherne family fears a flood wall running anywhere near their property will take the river right up through their land and prevent them from getting any kind of property insurance.
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