Nonprofit Gives Up On Saving Sinking Cemetery

LEEVILLE, LA (AP) — A nonprofit group has given up its proposal to protect the little that remains of a nearly submerged cemetery in Leeville.

         Launch Leeville wanted to build a 280-foot-long bulkhead between what's left of Lefort Cemetery and the intersection of Bayou Lafourche and the Southeast Canal.

         The nonprofit dropped its permit applications after the local coastal zone management board asked the state to put that application on hold, founder Janet Rhodus told Xerxes Wilson with The Daily Comet.

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         "We were trying to do this out of respect for those who had a grave that is now a watery grave," said Launch Leeville founder Janet Rhodus.

         About 25 people were buried there in the early 1900s, local historian Paul Chiquet said.

         Now the tops of a handful of wrecked vaults show above salty water.

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         It's one of several area cemeteries either threatened or awash in water.

         "They couldn't have done much to save the cemetery, but they could have put a marker on it with the bulkhead to remember," said Chiquet.

         The parish's Coastal Zone Management Advisory Board, which board reviews and comments on coastal-use permits before higher authorities give final judgment, asked state authorities last week to put the permit on hold.

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         The application had numerous problems, including notifying only one of the property owners, Parish Administrator Archie Chaisson said. He said the hand-drawn design also had problems.

         "The board was concerned that the wings of the bulkhead would cause more erosion in behind it from the current of the channel," Chaisson said.

         Nor was there any formal engineering to show how deep the bulkhead would need to be driven into the ground to keep it standing over time, Chaisson said.

         The board also asked state historic preservation authorities to comment as the site could be deemed one of historical significance.

         Rhodus said the company currently building the Leeville Boat Launch had volunteered materials and time to build the bulkhead, but she dropped the effort because of liability concerns and time constraints.

         "At least my action has engaged the conversation," she said. "I'm going to make sure that (the parish government) follows through on it and they do something."

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