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Sunday, February 5, 2023

Meraux Foundation Opposes Port Container Terminal in St. Bernard Parish

Automation means the container terminal will not create many jobs.

A Statement by The Meraux Foundation’s Board of Directors

The Meraux Foundation’s mission is to improve the quality of life in St. Bernard Parish. With each project we take on to advance this mission, we carefully weigh the pros and cons and make data-driven decisions based on a clear and compelling net gain for the people of St. Bernard Parish — such as when we provided land for the hospital, an elementary school, and a sheriff’s substation and when we invest in arts, education, environment, and economic development.

The recent passing of Hurricane Ida reminded us of just how far we’ve come since Hurricane Katrina. Since that devastating event, we have been determined to help our parish come back stronger and better than before, and together, we are exceeding expectations. Our neighborhoods are among the safest and fastest-growing in the state, our schools remain among the best in the state, a new film industry is growing, our culture and environment are fertile grounds for tourism, the arts district is blooming, and a blue-green infrastructure industry is emerging.

St. Bernard is on the right path, and we must not allow anything to knock us off course. That is why the Meraux Foundation opposes the Port of New Orleans’ proposed container terminal. We stand with the St. Bernard Parish Council, which voted unanimously to oppose the project, and thousands of residents who have voiced their opposition to it.

Our decision to oppose the container terminal is based on the limited facts available. The information provided publicly has lacked detail. Furthermore, as a minority shareholder in Borgnemouth Realty Co., a group selling land to the Port of New Orleans for the development, the Meraux Foundation has requested basic information about the transaction and received no response. The lack of transparency is itself cause for concern.

What we do know is that the proposed container terminal would add millions of containers to our streets, and the infrastructure cannot support it. The true impact to the environment and costs to St. Bernard Parish remain unclear. We hear promises of tax revenue and jobs, but we have seen no credible data to support, much less quantify, these claims. We are concerned that automation means the container terminal will not create many jobs and that the port enjoys tax exempt status.

Any decision to move forward on a such a development must be grounded in a clear and compelling net gain to the people of St. Bernard Parish — now and into the future. The current proposal does not meet this threshold for our support.

Around 2018, the Port of New Orleans approached our board to explore developing the Meraux Foundation’s property at 3911 E. St. Bernard Highway (Sinclair Tract) as a container facility. In contrast to the current proposal, we made it clear at that time in a press release that because the property was owned by the Meraux Foundation, any development project must conform with its mission to improve quality of life in St. Bernard Parish. We went on to explain that the “exploratory period [would] help us determine whether the proposed project will deliver a compelling net gain for the people of St. Bernard.”

In it, we also said: “Our board is highly strategic in how we approach land use, and we always seek to ensure that our actions advance St. Bernard.

“Our goal is to make this parish a place where our children and grandchildren can prosper and raise their families…”

We remain deeply committed to these principles. The current container terminal project has no such safeguards in place to protect and promote the interests of the people of St. Bernard Parish.

The Meraux Foundation continues to embrace smart growth economic development and, together, we will strengthen St. Bernard Parish’s standing as a wonderful place in which to live, work, and play.

The Meraux Foundation is a private 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that was established by Arlene Meraux to benefit the community of St. Bernard Parish by leveraging its landholdings. Today, the Foundation’s board of directors is presided over by Arlene’s niece, Rita Gue, and consists of members Floyd Gue, Bill Haines, Chris Haines, and Sidney Torres, III. Guided by Arlene’s vision, the Board is implementing an innovative strategy to create lasting change and build a better St. Bernard.

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