Raceland farmers could lose property to Army Corps of Engineers - KSLA News 12 Shreveport, Louisiana News Weather & Sports

Raceland farmers could lose property to Army Corps of Engineers

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RACELAND, LA (WVUE) -

Raceland farmers are asking why their land might be flooded in order to keep other people's land from taking on water.

A proposed project could affect miles of farmland near Highway 308 in Raceland, and some people believe the project could destroy the land of dozens of property owners.

The Army Corps of Engineers answered questions about the proposed project at a public meeting at the Mathews Government Complex Wednesday.

Corps Spokesperson Ken Holder said the Corps will explore every way to complete the project without taking private property, and he said they will save that option as a last resort. In that case, land owners would be paid what the state would deem to be a "fair market value" for the property.

However, farm owner Clarence Fields said the project seems to be pushing forward right on his land.

"It's going to make our land wet to make somebody else's land dry? That's not right," said Fields.

Fields walked through the sugar cane fields his wife's family has owned since 1924.

"What's going to happen when they take the land away?" Fields asked.

Fields and his neighbors worry the Army Corps of Engineers will take their land as part of a mitigation project. They believe the Army Corps of Engineers would turn their farm land into swamps and wetlands in order to "mitigate" the damage to other wetlands that occurred when the Corps upgraded the levees in New Orleans and on the west bank to 100-year storm protection levels.

"They built this, paid taxes all these years, and I'm sure my father and mother and law would be very upset about this," said Fields.

The project proposal is outlined a 225-page document. Report drafts include maps showing what farmland would be utilized.

"Land proposed for restoration is typically used for agricultural purposes and most land owners live in homes fronting Highway 308," the report says.

Fields believed his land, which sits next to the train tracks, is described in the report.

"It's what we anticipate is going to be the plan, and what we are looking at for the plan," said Corps Mitigation Project Manager Elizabeth Behrens.

Behrens said this plan is only the first draft of a long process, and the plan can change with public input.

"We're kind of in the scoping arena now, trying to hear from the public, so it will help us drive our plan formulation," said Behrens.

Fields said, the proposed section the Army Corps would take would cut right through his family's land in two places. It would essentially turn a section where cattle currently graze into an island.

"One of the elder sons, Franklin, he put a lot of blood and sweat into this property, and for somebody just to come and take it over, it's not right," said Fields.

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