Dear Respected Council Members,
First, I would like to thank you for your public service. There was a time when I thought I wanted to be the Mayor of Morgan City. It only took fifteen minutes sitting in my friend Mayor Matte’s office years ago, to realize you couldn’t pay me enough money to do that job. It made me appreciate what you do for our local government and communities. I realize how hard this job can be and I don’t think you get paid enough or get the credit you deserve.
Second, I would like to thank you for not letting me speak after the Project Engineer did his update on the Bayou Estates Project at the last Council meeting. After spending two, long hot days working on a tractor, followed by two, long hot days in an airboat, with less than fifteen hours sleep in four days, (while sick and almost lost my voice), driving 90 minutes to speak for my allotted five minutes and then being told I couldn’t, who there would have thought I was the happiest person in that room. The five minutes Mr. Willis was going to allow me to give my presentation prior to the project update, would not have allowed me the time to present enough facts to allow you to make an informed decision. I was also hoping to not be the one to put the Council in this predicament.
I’m sending you this information now via email, so the Council will have some important facts. I am glad that I got to see each one of you, and have no feelings of animosity, whatsoever. I have nothing but respect for the entire Council, as I’m sure you represent your constituents well. I also noticed that you did ask questions about the proposed protection project and didn’t just follow the leader (Chester Cedars), no questions asked. The problem I saw, is that no one asked any of the right questions. However, there was one question Lisa Nelson asked, “How can one person hold up a project for so long?”, and while over half of the residents of the subdivision are opposed to the project that includes sheet piles, I assume she was referring to me.
I have a proposition. While the answer to her question is long and detailed, I will answer it with as best as possible, if you will answer at least one of mine. I have asked this question to public and project officials and received no response.
How many homes have ever flooded in Bayou Estates Subdivision, and what were their addresses? What was the elevation of the flood waters when those homes were flooded?
I realize this is more than one question, but I will help you out. I’ve lived in Bayou Estates Subdivision since 1972. We were the third house built and I’ve seen the rise and fall of every high-water event that has happened since. I know of only five homes in Bayou Estates Subdivision that ever had water inside in their home. There may have been a couple more that I didn’t hear about, but in such a small community I can’t imagine that I wouldn’t have heard about it. The elevation of the high water when the homes were flooded was actually above the proposed 4 ft. of protection that this project is supposed to offer. So these homes would have flooded anyway, with or without the new proposed project. There are many statements made by Parish and Project Officials on Applications for Permits, Federal Grants and in Response to Public Comment that not only contract this, but they contradict each other as well.
I’m sure you can get with the Project Engineer or Parish Officials on where they obtained their facts and ask them for the addresses of these supposed flooded homes.
A few of the Contradictory statements made on Public Record & Applications:
The St. Martin Parish Government Response To Public Comments, USACE New Orleans District Permit Application No. MVN-2015-01259 WKK
March 24, 2016 from PEEC
In response to no less than nine questions from the public, PEEC responded: “The Bayou Estate Subdivision has 189 houses of which 73 houses are flooded during the rise of the water level in and around the subdivision.”
St. Martin Parish applied for and received a FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant Program project #1603-0213 in response to Hurricane Gustav and Ike. On Page 3 of the Environmental Assessment, it states that, “This subdivision, which consists of approximately 250 residents, was flooded during both Hurricanes Gustav and Ike and the Parish was forced to use sandbags and portable pumps with portable generators to pump the water out of the area.” Again, this is a lie that was used to obtain FEMA Grant money to mitigate or reduce flooding in the Stephensville area during the hurricane/storm events. I’ve only counted 160 homes in the entire subdivision, none of which flooded during Hurricane Gustav and Ike.
(In the above Environmental Assessment, it states on page four, sentence one: “Per the 2013 report by PEEC, flooding in the community occurs when the outfall canal, Bayou Long, reaches elevations of approximately 4.0 ft. MSL. “ Three pages later, last paragraph, it states, “ Potential Environmental impacts for Proposed Action: Combination of Basic Improvements and Protection up to Elevation +4.0 MSL were analyzed and summarized in the Affected Environment, and Environmental Consequence Matrix Table. This alternative would not result in significant impacts. This is due to the project location being located in an urban area, with most of the area being pre-disturbed and previously developed…”). So, how much protection are we really getting?
In a Letter to Guy Cormier (acting Parish President) on June 5, 2012 from Residents of Proposed Flood Protection System Stephensville, La, Elwood Scully re: Bayou Estates Flood Protection Letter and Petition of Support:
On Page One, Paragraph Two: “Attached you will find signatures representing 73% of the household residents in the noted subdivisions. These signatures represent 167 of 225 residences in the proposed protection area. While more than one signature was offered per residence, the attached petitioners represent 167 households and the respective homeowners.”
Transcript of Bayou Estates Drainage Improvements & Flood Protection Project Public Hearing Meeting, Stephensville Louisiana, March 27, 2012 reported by Ginger S. Griffin, Certified Court Reporter
On Page 27, In lines 7-12: Guy Cormier states, “We know that for a fact. We shot their slabs. Everybody else is a little bit higher than that. But we have 56 homes that every time at four foot, they definitely have water in them. We can protect them up to four foot.”
Now I will answer Lisa Nelson’s question. When it became apparent to me, and many others in the community, that something was wrong, questions arose that were ignored by officials or were answered with complete bullshit. I, too, like most of the residents, believed something should be done about the sewer leaking into the streets and the streets not being pumped for weeks at a time when Guy Cormier was president. I will say, Mr. Cedars and current Parish officials did a fantastic job last year and kept our streets dry when they began to flood. It did not go unnoticed by residents who appreciated the change.
I would also support, if made possible, a common sense flood protection project that has the actual support of the community majority. I even pushed for an alternative proposal that made sense. I called Elwood Scully (who supports the current proposed project) to ask why couldn’t we use two gates and no sheet pile as it would offer the same protection with no environmental or economic impact, was over a million dollars cheaper, and would have very little, if any, opposition. I met with Mo Saleh, Guy Cormier, and Elwood Scully over a year ago in Stephensville to discuss this alternative. Mo’s response was that it would only offer protection up to 2.5 MSL and his explanation was weak and made no sense. If the alternative did, in fact, only offer 2.5 MSL, then the current proposed project would only offer that as well. The elevation along the canal of the houses where the sheet piles are proposed are above 4 feet elevation, with the exception of a couple of lots. These flood protection proposals will only protect up to the proposed protection area’s lowest point.
***This is where I wanted to include the Elevation Survey. But, after many requests, I have not yet received it. If you are able to accomplish what I couldn’t and get a legible copy of the Elevation Survey that was done by the Parish, it would show you the lowest elevations and that sandbagging would need to be done along most of Dawn Drive and Stephensville Road to bring either option up to a +4 elevation of protection.***
At the above mentioned meeting, when I asked who owned the canal bottom, instead of answering me, Guy Cormier got very animated. He stated how much he has done for the community and walked out of the meeting. Mo Saleh looked at me and said, “We think it’s State water, owned by the State.” I told him, according to the Assessor’s Office, Larry Doiron (Bayou Estate Development) owned the canal. Mr. Saleh didn’t respond. I’ve asked Guy Cormier that same question three different times and never got a straight answer. I’m asking the Council, why do you think that question has gone unanswered for so long? (Interestingly, shortly after I notified Mr. Saleh that Larry Doiron was the owner, I went back to the Assessor’s website and someone from the Assessor’s office had removed the owner and it was left blank. Whether this was done accidentally, intentionally, or because of the name change that took place, it does raise a flag.)
I knew who owned the Canal bottom, because before the Public Meeting on March 27, 2012 at the Fire Station, I looked on the Assessor’s Website/Map (Public Info) and clicked on the Canal, and it listed Bayou Estate Development, Inc (Larry Doiron) as the owner. This is what took place per Meeting Minutes:
Male audience member (me): “I’ve got a question, who owns the Canal?”
Mo Saleh: “We have not determined that officially, yet.”
Male audience member (me): “Don’t you have to pay them?”
Mo Saleh: “Again, the state sometimes claims they own the water bottom. Some canals are owned by private individuals. We have not determined that.”
Male audience member (me): “If it’s owned by a private individual, don’t you have to pay that private individual?”
Mo Saleh: “Again, once we get to that step, we aren’t even there yet. “
On May 26, 2015 (three years later), the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources Office of Coastal Management (OCM) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (COE) received a Joint Application from Mo Saleh of Professional Engineering and Environmental Consults, Inc (PEEC), on behalf of St. Martin Parish. It states on Page 7, “the Applicant has made every reasonable effort to determine the identity and current address of the owner(s) of the land on which the proposed described activity is to occur, which included, if necessary, a search of the public records of the Parish in which the proposed activity is to occur (this box was checked).” On Page 6, it states Under Applicant Responsibilities: “To avoid delays, it is recommended, prior to sending the application to OCM, you contact affected land owner(s) to: inform them of possible wetland impact and discuss the compensatory mitigation rights and ask them to indicate their intentions regarding compensatory mitigation on the form.”
If they did, in fact, make a reasonable effort to contact the canal bottom owner, (as they indicated on the application) they should know who owned it. (Did they contact the Assessor’s Office, because that’s how I found out) . The name was left off of the application. (see Application Photo 1 in attachments). This application was signed by Guy Cormier and Mo Saleh on 3/17/14 and was received by OCM on 5/26/15.
I confirmed in my research in the Louisiana Business Filings, prior to 12/27/13, that Bayou Estates Development, Inc. owned the canal bottom. Then Bayou Estates Development, LLC owned it from 12/27/2013 to 1/7/2014, at which time they merged with Oak Harbor Development, LLC, the current owner. All of these businesses have the same physical address, 1028 Oak Harbor Drive, c/o Larry and Mary Doiron. However, on the Assessor’s website, as of this letter, it is still unnamed. It was good to hear at the last Council meeting (the one I wasn’t allowed to speak at), Chester Cedars acknowledged Bayou Estates (Larry Doiron) as the owner of the Bayou Estates Canal bottom.
At this point, I knew I had to have more information. I began asking more detailed questions. I requested through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) all of the information I could get from the COE and DNR. While reading though hundreds of pages of more documents, I just had more questions, of which none were answered. I sent these questions to every public and project official as well state and federal agencies. Some were rerouted to different local and state agencies.
The only question that was answered was the following (directed to the DNR):
What is the it called when someone lies or uses false information to obtain a permit (for the use of taxpayers dollars) from the Corp and/or DNR? And What is the Penalty?
Excerpt from the answer: (see attached full document)
Phyllis F. Darensbourg
DNR Public Information Director, La Dept. Of Natural Resources
Additionally, the signature on the application is an affidavit that the information is true and correct to the knowledge of the requester. Since the application form is for the COE Permit, and the OCM Permit, a knowingly false application would be a violation of federal rules as well…. 18 U.S.C. Section 1001 provides that: Whoever, in any manner within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of the United States knowingly and willfully falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or disguises a material fact or makes any false, fictitious or fraudulent statements or representations, or makes or uses any false writing or document knowing same to contain any false, fictitious or fraudulent statements or entry, shall be fined not more than $10,000 or imprisoned not more than 5 years or both.
On the Application to the COE, it also stated that a reasonable effort was put forth to identify the owners of the property where the work was going to be performed. While reading through the FOIA information I had received, I realized the Public Notice (Parish and Project Officials were required to give) was issued in the Baton Rouge Advocate, a newspaper that doesn’t even deliver to Stephensville or Morgan City. I talked to many of my neighbors, who like me were adjacent landowners, and we have never been contacted directly or seen any notice anywhere from project or parish officials. I feared that if the Corp or DNR found out proper notification wasn’t given to the public or the adjacent landowners, that they may stop the project and, more importantly, lose all our funding in the process. I felt very strongly that something needed to be done, both for the residents and to ensure we didn’t lose funding for flood protection.
I was in Washington, D.C. and ran into our Lt. Governor, Mr. Billy Nungessor, who was promoting Louisiana and handing out King Cakes. I told him about our situation and he advised me to get public support and hold a Town Hall Meeting. So I did.
To ensure we didn’t lose the funding, I, at my own expense, went door to door and put a Public Notice and Survey on every door in the subdivision. I also notified, via certified mail, every adjacent landowner, including the landowners where the work was going to be performed, and also included the seventeen landowners north and east of where the sheet piles were to be driven. These property owners were not on the list of adjacent landowners on the original joint Permit Application. They would be the most affected by the project because the properties are considered wetlands.
I had the Town Hall Meeting at Stephensville Elementary on March 6, 2018. I invited all Parish and Project Officials, as well as state agencies involved with the project, none of whom attended. I did find out from Chester Cedars, that there was a Parish Council meeting that same night. He said that is why he didn’t come. We had a full gym turnout of residents, most of whom were opposed to the permitted project, but not all. A large number of those attending had thought the project was dead until they received my Survey and invitation. KWBJ TV-22 attended and filmed the meeting Live on Facebook. When I spoke at the meeting, I read only the facts that I had gathered, as well as the results of the survey. A few other people spoke and voiced their opinions. It was a very good and informative meeting for both sides of the issue.
Full Town Hall Meeting KWBJ TV-22 Facebook Live:
Lisa Nelson, if my answer to your question seems long, it was as short as I could make it, but long enough for you to understand the answer. I could speak or write for hours on this subject, and will gladly answer any and all questions that you, or any other Council member, may have. I have many more questions that have gone unanswered. If you’re interested, I would like to share them with you, and if you deem them worthy and feel you can accomplish what I’ve been unable to, I hope you will obtain the answers.
Esteemed Council members, now that we’ve got the questions out of the way, and you have a better idea of who I am, I’m confident you understand my concerns and why this project has been delayed for so long. It wasn’t until just prior to the meeting at the COE a few months ago, that I read the FEMA Block Mitigation Grant Application. This is when I realized the information on that Application was false, and if the Parish would have accepted the alternative proposal that I had presented (and was supported by most residents), that I would be no better than the people that filled out that application. Because, I can’t, and will not, support ANY project, where the money was obtained by fraudulent means. If I thought there was a way around this that my conscience would allow, then I would also fight for the alternative project. While I always believe there are peaceful and mutually beneficial ways to solve differences, I don’t see a way forward with these set of circumstances.
“St. Martin Parish applied for and received a FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant Program project #1603-0213 in response to Hurricane Gustav and Ike. On Page 3 of the Environmental Assessment, it states that, “This subdivision, which consists of approximately 250 residents, was flooded during both Hurricanes Gustav and Ike and the Parish was forced to use sandbags and portable pumps with portable generators to pump the water out of the area.” Again, this is a lie that was used to obtain FEMA Grant money to mitigate or reduce flooding in the Stephensville area during the hurricane/storm events. I’ve only counted 160 homes in the entire subdivision, none of which flooded during Hurricane Gustav and Ike. “
After our meeting at the COE, Mr. Cedars contacted FBI Special Agent Mark Ducatel from the Lafayette office, and had him call and question me about my friend, Rodney Carvin. (Sergeant Major Rodney Carvin has done special investigations on the state and federal level. He had offered his support and attended the Town Hall Meeting). Mr. Cedars had claimed to Mr. Ducatel that Mr. Carvin was impersonating an FBI Agent. I explained to Mr. Ducatel how I met Mr. Carvin, who he was, and what was going on with the Bayou Estates Flood Protection Project. I am including him in this email so he can be informed of all the facts as well. Mr. Cedars also contacted the New Orleans branch of the FBI and told them Mr. Carvin was impersonating an FBI agent. They sent two agents to his mother’s house to question him. He answered their questions, then met with the NOLA FBI Director and explained what is going on with the Bayou Estates Project.
Prior to this, Mr. Carvin had also attended a meeting in New Orleans with COE (at Mr. Cedars invitation). Mr Cedars had informed me (in an earlier phone conversation) of the meeting and said “everyone involved in Bayou Estates Flood Protection Project will be at the meeting” and all my questions will get answered. Mr. Carvin and I showed up for the meeting and signed in. However, the only Project/ Parish officials in attendance were Mr. Cedars, Mr. Elwood Scully, and Guy Cormier (via phone conference).
As you would guess, none of my questions were answered at the COE meeting by Mr. Cedars or anyone else. I believe Mr. Cedars had thought Mr. Carvin worked for COE, and that is the only reason we had the meeting. When we signed in, it clearly stated who we were, so at that time Mr. Cedars had the information of who Mr. Carvin was. I believe that’s why no questions were answered.
This is when I informed everyone in attendance about the false information used in the FEMA application to obtain the Grant for the proposed project.
Mr. Cedars responded, “I am moving forward with this permitted project unless the man in the black robe tells me I can’t.” I was surprised to hear him repeat this exact statement at the last Parish Council Meeting, as it shows his intentions.
This statement upset me to the point that after the meeting, I called a friend of mine, Steven J. Morello, the former General Council to the Army, under President George W. Bush. I asked him, “If a Public or Project Official knows that fraud was committed to obtain Federal Money for a Block Mitigation Flood Protection Project and used it instead for a Drainage Project, and proceeded with it anyway, does he assume any liability or responsibility, even if he didn’t commit the fraud himself?” His answer was “Yes, absolutely. One hundred percent.”
I would like to thank Mr. Cedars for informing the FBI about this situation and allowing Mr. Carvin and me to explain what’s going on and shining the light on the Bayou Estate Flood Protection Project. Without his efforts, the FBI would know nothing about this.
Mr. Cedars is an attorney and knows the facts I’ve presented, and made his decision to proceed anyway. I can’t apologize enough to the Council Members, because now you know it as well. As I see it, you have two options:
1. Do nothing and allow this project to move forward as is, and assume the same liability as Mr. Cedars.
2. Vote on the Project so each individual council member can go on record as to their position on this matter.
If you Vote to keep the project, you will assume the same liability as Mr. Cedars.
If you Vote to stop the project, you have no liability but may have a responsibility to report it.
In a conversation with Pat Garcia, from the Office of Engineer Inspector General US Army Corps of Engineers, she informed me that fraud committed to the COE and DNR should be reported to Homeland Security.
You can go the St. Martin Parish Council Website and it will take you to the link: https://lla.la.gov/report-fraud
Fraud committed to FEMA should be reported to the FEMA Inspector General’s Office:
Department of Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20528
Attn: Office of Inspector General, Hotline
Fax: (202) 254-4292
FOIA Requests have been made to FEMA for the list of where the money from the Block Mitigation Grant was spent. According to Mr. Guy Cormier at the Public Meeting on March 27, 2012 at the Fire Department, “The Parish received $5.2 million from FEMA, of which $2.1 or $2.2 million were to be used in Bayou Estates Subdivision.“ The same inconsistencies that were noted on how many homes were flooded were also found in money received, spent and allocated. At the last Parish Council meeting, it was stated that we had $3 million for the proposed project, one million was designated from FEMA. What happened to the other $4.2 million from the original 5.2 million?
I contacted Laci Laperouse today at 11:20am to be included on the agenda for next week’s meeting. I told her my reason for the request was so that I could inform you, the Parish Council members, of all the facts. I was denied and was told the deadline was yesterday at noon. She also wanted me to send her the email to send to you, but I told her I wanted to send this to you all personally. If you would like, please forward this to her.
I wanted to give you this opportunity to state your position on record. I informed Mrs Laperouse that I could read this email at the meeting and make it public or you could vote on it discreetly and handle it the best way you see fit. I now pass this burden to you. If this project moves forward or is stopped, it will be because of your vote or your decision to do nothing.
I would appreciate being informed of your intentions.
Again, I apologize for putting you in this position. It is not my job, nor responsibility to handle this. It requires the Parish Council. If you have any questions or would like to talk, please do not hesitate to contact me. I can, and will, provide any and all documents for all my statements. Again, thank you for your Public Service.
Scott Green (985) 714-2505 cell