[StBernard] Boasso lays out his plans for port

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Mon Aug 11 22:58:02 EDT 2008

Boasso lays out his plans for port
Time to get on board, Nungesser tells parish
Monday, August 11, 2008
By Allen Powell II
West Bank bureau

Seeking to clear the air after his controversial hiring, former state Sen.
Walter Boasso met with the Plaquemines Parish Council last week to discuss
his plans for the parish's port -- and allay any lingering concerns about
him taking the position.

The planned expansion of the parish's Port, Harbor and Terminal District has
become a contentious issue as the council, Parish President William
Nungesser and state officials have jousted over how that growth should

Boasso discussed creating new rail connections and using private money to
expand the port. He also stressed that all governmental entities have a
stake in the expansion and must come together for it to ever come to

"This project is so much bigger than me. . . . I do not want to be the
person this project is focused on," he said. "I feel very confident that I
can be the common denominator and pull everybody together."

Plaquemines Parish officials have discussed port expansion for years, but
those plans often crumbled. The parish's most recent action was spurred
after the Legislature openly considered placing the Plaquemines port under
the control of the Port of New Orleans, or giving the New Orleans port the
authority to conduct independent projects in Plaquemines.

Plaquemines officials have said that if the parish doesn't take some action
on their expansion soon, they fear the state will revive discussions of

With millions of acres in the eastern Gulf of Mexico open for oil and gas
leasing, officials are pushing to make Plaquemines the hub of offshore oil
operations because of its proximity.

Boasso said he is not interested in Plaquemines relinquishing control to
another entity and that he is confident the parish could fight any takeover.
He also said that any concern about his relationship with Gov. Bobby Jindal
after running against him for the state's highest office is unfounded.

Boasso said it's important for the parish to view the expansion as a
regional project that should involve parties from all over the state.

"You are sitting in the best spot in the whole United States of America to
make (a port) happen," said Boasso, who claimed to have already spoken with
shipping companies and other ports interested in the area. "Whoever is
involved with the port in Plaquemines Parish, we all need to speak with one

To that end, Boasso suggested the council establish an advisory board
comprised of individuals in the maritime industry. He said the board would
make companies more comfortable investing in the parish. That idea,
previously pushed by Nungesser and rejected by several council members, was
greeted warmly when Boasso presented it.

Still, some aspects of Boasso's plans might be a difficult sell to the
council, particularly any new railroad that might go through Belle Chasse.

"We don't want an additional rail coming through Belle Chasse," said
Councilman Keith Hinkley. "We can't have that."

Boasso was hired Aug. 1 after a 5-4 vote by the council, rankling Nungesser
and several council members who said the hiring was rammed down their

The council has not decided on a salary for Boasso. He agreed to work on a
"performance contract" under which he will be paid only when he brings the
council a finished deal for the port construction. Upon completion, he will
be paid all accrued salary from his start date.

Nungesser said that although he did not support Boasso's hiring, it was not
due to any personal animosity, and he pledged his assistance. The parish
president urged the council to move quickly to get the expansion started,
because if they do not, other entities are waiting to move in.

"If we don't move in that direction, we don't have the political muscle to
stop New Orleans," Nungesser said.

. . . . . . .

Allen Powell II can be reached at apowell at timespicayune.com and

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