Louisiana ‘dirt farmer’ asks Supreme Court for fair price

The Arizona Republic - - News 2 -

Louisiana’s Supreme Court ruled against Jar­reau. State supreme courts and fed­eral courts are di­vided about whether gov­ern­ments must cover busi­ness losses when they take pri­vate prop­erty, said Robert McNa­mara, a lawyer for the lib­er­tar­ian In­sti­tute for Jus­tice, rep­re­sent­ing Jar­reau.

The South Lafourche Levee District is re­spon­si­ble for flood con­trol in the por­tion of the 106-mile Bayou Lafourche that runs through Cut Off be­fore even­tu­ally drain­ing into the Gulf of Mex­ico. The district took the dirt from just un­der an acre of Jar­reau’s land as well as prop­erty from some neigh­bors, un­der Louisiana laws strength­ened af­ter hur­ri­canes Katrina and Rita.

With­out the levee sys­tem, Jar­reau’s prop­erty would flood fre­quently, said Loulan Pitre Jr., a for­mer state law­maker who is the lawyer for the levee district. “There is a strong pol­icy to say that this is all sub­ject to flood­ing and it’s rea­son­able to ex­pect a small sac­ri­fice to pro­tect ev­ery­one.”

The levee district cer­tainly thought the sac­ri­fice was small. It ini­tially sent Jar­reau a check for $1,326 af­ter no­ti­fy­ing him in 2011 that it was go­ing to take the dirt from Jar­reau’s land that was clos­est to the bayou.

Jar­reau couldn’t be­lieve the pal­try sum and kept dig­ging be­cause he had a con­tract for 23,000 cu­bic yards of dirt — enough to cover a foot­ball field nearly a foot deep — with a pri­vate com­pany that does a lot of work on the lev­ees in coastal Louisiana.

But then the levee district sued to make Jar­reau stop dig­ging. Their le­gal fight even­tu­ally went to trial.


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