A Lafayette federal judge on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit brought by the Lafayette Consolidated Government against the St. Martin Parish government over the removal of an embankment along the Vermilion River.
Federal Judge James Cain Jr. wrote that he was dismissing the case against St. Martin Parish for lack of jurisdiction.
Lafayette’s lawsuit against the Corps of Engineers was not dismissed, however.
Lafayette officials secretly purchased property along the Vermilion River in St. Martin Parish and had a contractor overnight remove a spoil bank created decades ago when the Corps of Engineers dug up the river and deposited the debris on the river bank.
St. Martin Parish officials, who discovered the work after the fact, say the spoil bank created a levee that provided protection when the river overflowed. Lafayette officials allege the spoil bank interfered with the natural flow of the river in a marsh in St. Martin Parish during periods of high water.
The two had been negotiating when Lafayette secretly purchased the property and entered into a no-bid contract with Rigid Constructors to remove the spoil bank. under the cloak of darkness.
After St. Martin Parish President Chester Cedars threatened Lafayette with a lawsuit in St. Martin Parish, LCG officials filed a petition in Lafayette District Court in March. Lafayette asked the court to declare that he followed all rules and regulations in conducting the work. St. Martin’s Parish countered, alleging that LCG needed permission from St. Martin’s Parish before doing the work.
Corps officials, to whom the case has been referred in federal court, argue that Lafayette needed a federal permit to do the work. Lafayette officials said the work did not interfere with wetlands, so a Corps permit was not required.
In his ruling, Cain wrote that LCG cites in its disclaimer only the threat of a lawsuit from St. Martin Parish. LCG, he wrote, “cites statements from St. Martin’s Parish alleging “a clear danger of future flooding in St. Martin’s Parish as a result of LCG’s spoil bank destruction project “” and “his belief that legal action is necessary to prevent such harm.”
LCG lost two lawsuits it filed in district court for using the fast-track expropriation process to claim land for drainage projects. Both are awaiting a decision from the Court of Appeal.
On Tuesday, Guillory chastised city council members for questions they raised about the spoil removal project, contracts and public tender laws. He declined to answer questions Council President Nanette Cook submitted two weeks ago, saying her staff did not have time to answer as they were working on the 2022-23 budget.