Regional airport plug pulled by state

Wade McIntyre

The Jindal Administration has abandoned efforts to build a $4.4 billion regional airport between Donaldsonville an White Castle.

The project championed for 17 years by the Louisiana Airport Authority died because the administration does not want to put up $300,000 taxpayer dollars for land purchases.

In a recent letter to the Joint Legislative Committee on the budget, Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret said the project suffered from a lack of private investment.

The state was required by law to decide by May 1 whether the airport would receive a green light for development.

With the state’s pullout, the LAA is expected to be abolished by July 1.

The grand-scale project was to have occupied 25,000 acres of land in Ascension, Iberville and Assumption parishes.

Glenda Jeansonne, former executive director of the LAA, and other proponents of the project have long argued that for the project to succeed, the state would have to take ownership in order to attract investors.

Hopes for the project peaked prior to Hurricane Katrina when interest shown by SNC-Lavalin, the engineering and construction arm of the Canadian government, and efforts by former member of the House of Representatives and chairman of the Transportation Committee Roy Quezaire Jr. of Donaldsonville brought the project to its high-water mark.

Project opposition, which included detractors such as a handful of landowners in the affected area, and metro airport interests in Baton Rouge and New Orleans, also increased during that time period.

After Hurricane Katrina, the project never regained the head of steam SNC-Lavalin’s interest created before the storm.

The LAA was first formed in 1992 by Gov. Edwin Edwards.

The site near Donaldsonville was selected in 2002, setting off high level of excitement over potential economic development in the area.

In his letter, Moret said his department decided that the project was not feasible economically when SNC-Lavalin officials said possible airport tenants did not want to commit to the project at the time.