Major pipeline project halted by history

By Carolyn Roy – bio|email|Twitter

FRIERSON, LA (KSLA) – A major pipeline project has been brought to a grinding halt after coming across a 150 year old cemetery in its path.  The Tiger Pipeline is a 42" natural gas pipeline that will stretch 175 miles across North Louisiana, from Carthage, Texas to the eastern edge of Richland Parish. Construction is just getting underway on the $1 billion dollar project, but work in DeSoto Parish is at a standstill after the discovery of what the company calls an "unexpected burial site."

The owner of the land granted Energy Transfer Partners right-of-way access across his 800 acres of pasture in Frierson. Reggie Rowe says also he warned them of the hilltop cemetery, "but they come in here after I told them not to come in here and knocked the tombstones over."

Rowe says there were five stone markers at the site, which used to be surrounded by a small wrought iron fence and filled with wildflowers. "According to the monuments and the names, it was a family of five: husband, wife and three kids.  One of them was a one-year-old baby."

Rowe says the dates on the markers ranged from 1864 to 1907, and belonged to members of the Lafitte family. "There are still a lot of Lafittes in DeSoto Parish." He says a couple from Michigan visited the site a couple of years ago, trying to trace their family tree.  "It's important to them, so therefore, it's important to me."

The company building the Tiger Pipeline says there was no mention of the cemetery in any of the records searched by the company as they planned the route.  "When beginning to clear the right of way, a headstone was detected and work was stopped immediately," explains Vicki Anderson Granado of Granado Communications Group, a Dallas-based public relations firm contracted by Energy Transfer Partners.

Granado says the company has called in the services of an archeologist to ensure it could determine the boundaries of the cemetery so the route of the pipeline could be altered."  As of Wednesday afternoon, the archaeologist had counted 10 graves.

"The family was marked with tombstones and the rest of the people were buried around them with just wooden crosses, and that's why they're finding more graves than what was marked," explains Rowe.

Granado says, "The company will do everything it can to repair any disturbance to the cemetery and regrets that this situation ever came about."  Rowe says he will be satisfied with that outcome, and hopes the experience informs future pipeline projects as they survey the land and plan their paths.  "I think they really ought to maybe send somebody in front of the clearing and make sure."

©2010 KSLA-TV. All rights reserved.