Washington Parish Reservoir Project Continues to Face Delays
The commission that oversees the Washington Parish Reservoir District has spent more than $3 million to date on the reservoir project but still has not been able to obtain the necessary permit to begin construction and has not yet acquired land rights, the Louisiana Legislative Auditor said in a report released today.
The commission, which was established over 10 years ago, has been working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to obtain the necessary permits since 2006 and may still need to perform an Environmental Assessment or an Environmental Impact Study, which would result in additional costs and time delays. In addition, the commission has not received any state capital outlay funds since 2007 and does not currently have the funding to purchase land or begin construction. Total project costs were estimated 10 years ago at between $27 million and $29 million, not including any environmental mitigation or land acquisition costs.
If the commission does eventually receive the necessary permit, it may not be able to purchase land within the project’s “footprint” because several landowners have publicly stated that they will not sell their property. Although the commission’s chairman, Bill Jenkins, noted in his response to the auditor’s report that he believes the commission can exercise eminent domain through the Louisiana Department of Transportation, state law currently prohibits the commission from obtaining land rights through eminent domain. Auditors recommended that the commission seek an Attorney General’s opinion regarding this matter.
According to the commission’s first audit report in 2004, the reservoir project was intended to enhance economic development and offer opportunities for recreational development. Since 2004, the project’s purpose has changed to increasingly focus on water resources, in spite of evidence from the U.S. Geological Survey that Washington Parish has abundant groundwater resources.
Auditors also noted that the legislature may wish to direct the commission to evaluate the viability of the project, including ways to obtain enough funding for completion, whether or not to revise the scope and design of the project, or whether or not the project should be continued.
For more information contact:
Daryl G. Purpera, CPA, CFE