Sunday, June 05, 2005
Real Reservoir News
Good morning, Washington Parish.
God Bless the USA is one of the most patriotic songs I have ever heard. It reminds each of us that freedom is not free. We owe a great debt to those brave men and women who willingly sacrificed their lives so that we can enjoy what we have today.
As time goes by, it is becoming apparent that we are losing our freedoms, especially as land owners in this country, and in particular in this parish that we live in.
For the benefit of our new listeners, I have been informing the listeners of WBOX about the real news regarding the proposed reservoir project that is in process of being forced upon us by our elected and appointed officials.
My name is Jalon Pittman Beech. I am a daughter of Washington Parish, and in particular the Oak Grove Community. My parents are Pete and Betty Pittman. My family’s roots run as deep here in this parish as most any resident that is from this parish. My great-great grandparents, Thomas and Eliza Moore traveled to a wilderness on the Bogalusa Creek in the early 1800’s. It’s now known as the Oak Grove Community.
My family still has 70 acres of the original home place. The log cabin that was built by my great grandparents, Bouey and Louisiana Moore, is still in use by my family today. I want to encourage you to drive down Moore Road to take a look at it. This serene place is truly living history.
We would like for this place to be preserved for future generations.
Last week, I gave you an account of the House Transportation Committee meeting that was held on May 17th at the Louisiana legislature.
Senator Ben Nevers and Harold Ritchie submitted amendments to the previously passed Senate Bill 475, Act 71 that caused this reservoir mess in the first place. There were many questions and concerns raised regarding the constitutionality of the initial bill regarding levying taxes on the reservoir district of Washington Parish, and the cemeteries that would be desecrated for the construction of the reservoir project.
I watched the archived video of the Transportation Committee Meeting of May 17th. It was very enlightening to me. At the beginning of the video, before the meeting was called to order, it shows Representative Harold Ritchie standing up at the Transportation Committee Chairman’s seat. I couldn’t hear what Representative Ritchie was saying, but I could hear all too clear what the chairman was saying. It’s all on tape.
The chairman is joking with Mr. Ritchie about digging up the graves.
What kind of bill is this?
Ritchie digging up the graves.
The chairman was laughing his head off. This concerns me greatly. This is no laughing matter to those of us here at home. You see; Mr. Ritchie is in the funeral home business, and the committee chairman was very well aware of that and so were the other committee members. How cold is that?
There were people there that day to testify on our behalf. They did a wonderful job. Due to the inability of Representative Ritchie to knowledgably answer the committee’s questions and concerns, the amendments were tabled or deferred for further investigation. This was monumental because every bill that has been submitted regarding reservoir projects have been rubberstamped by all committees without any questions.
There were many phone calls and letters sent to the Transportation Committee in support of the Oak Grove Community residents. They were included with the record. On behalf of my family and our community, thank you so much for your outpouring of support. It was noticed.
On June 1st, the Transportation Committee reconvened to hear Representative Harold Ritchie’s and Senator Nevers’ amendments. Due to the last mishap, Representative Harold Ritchie deferred the speaking to Senator Ben Nevers. My family and I as well as many others from the Oak Grove Community were present at this meeting. Of course, Mr. Nevers called out the guard so to speak.
There were members of the reservoir commission, Michael Thompson, our reservoir consultant and brother to Representative Francis Thompson, and Terry Denmon with Denmon Engineering and I believe he holds some offices in our state as well.
Senator Nevers started off testifying how no one loves Washington Parish as much as he does, and how it hurts him to have to do things for the betterment of the parish that will displace his friends.
He went on that the reservoir is for much needed potable water. He mentioned nothing about economic development. He offered no evidence of the need for potable water; he just says that there is a need. I don’t see how he can call himself a friend to the residents of Oak Grove Community. You decide.
When you come into the committee room at the legislature, there are green cards placed on the testifying table in front of the committee. You can fill them out and give them to the sergeant of arms to give to the committee chairman. You indicate the bill number, if you are in support of the bill or in opposition to it. You can also request to speak. The committee chairman had a large stack of cards for the bill involving Washington Parish residents. There were a few of us who requested to speak.
There were 4 of us from the Oak Grove Community who spoke: Dana Magee, Win Pittman, Jim Stokes, and myself. Leslie March with the Sierra Club, and Lee Kelley of Bogalusa also spoke on behalf of residents who are in opposition to the reservoir. I believe that all of us from the Oak Grove Community were in support of amendments to the bad bill that was passed in 2003. The amendments made the reservoir bill more palatable for some, but it still will destroy the Oak Grove Community, as it is known today. The room was full with residents from Washington Parish. People were standing around the walls and flowing to the outside. We had pretty good representation. It greatly impressed the committee that we would all cared so much.
For me, I will not be satisfied until we have representation that will submit and amendment to Senate Bill 475, Act 71 that will abolish the reservoir district and its commission. When I testified before the committee, I told them of my family’s rich heritage and the beauty of the community where I grew up.
Mr. Nevers and Mr. Ritchie said they didn’t know about the civil war veteran buried in the Rester Cemetery when asked by one of the committee members.
I told them that his name was John Rester, and that he had a beautiful white marble head stone. I understood that this committee was put in a position to where they were forced to amend Act 71 because of the unconstitutionality of the bill that was passed on the last day of legislative session in 2003. Since we didn’t have public input then, the amendments submitted gave us an opportunity to go on record to voice our opposition to the reservoir, and to let the committee know that there were many people in Washington Parish that are just now finding out about the reservoir.
I’ll read you the letter that I submitted for the Transportation Committee record for June 1st 2005:
As a citizen of Washington Parish and the state of Louisiana, I would like to let you know that I oppose the reservoir that is proposed in Washington Parish.It is my understanding that the concept of a reservoir was conceived and the planning stages began several years ago without the people of our parish being properly informed as to what was in their future.We became aware as we saw the planes taking photographs over our homes. I am finding that the more people who are becoming aware of the proposed reservoir, the more people we find who are against the reservoir.
If the proposed reservoir comes to fruition, it will wipe away an entire community called Oak Grove. Oak Grove is in the center or heart of Washington Parish. This community was established in the early 1800's by pioneers. I am a great-great granddaughter of two of those pioneers. Their names are Thomas and Eliza Moore. The land that they purchased before the civil war still remains in my father's possession today. We have 70 acres of the original home place that we wish to keep and pass on to the next generation. The old log home that was built by my great-grandparents, Bouey and Louisiana Moore, is still in use by my family today.
There are two cemeteries that will definitely be desecrated by the reservoir.
There could possibly be three more. If they are not inundated with the reservoir, they will be in the flood zone.
I have family in nearly all of them. The Rester family cemetery has seven generations in it. People are still being buried there.
Mr. John Rester was a civil war veteran. Over one hundred graves are in that cemetery alone. If I were to desecrate one grave that would be a $500 fine, but the state wishes to desecrate two to five entire cemeteries in one community. Cemeteries are considered sacred in our culture. One of the granddaughters of John Rester told me about when John Rester's young daughter died; he buried her in this cemetery. He couldn't stand the thought of it raining on his daughter's grave, so he constructed a covering for her little grave. What has become of us that we don't respect the burial place of people who have gone before us?
As I was listening to the archived video, I heard Rep. Downs say that the word desecration was an inflammatory word. I beg to differ. The word desecration fits what is happening to where I grew up. An entire community will be desecrated so that the state can go into the real estate business. I call that disrespectful of the living and the dead.
My parents have been public servants all of their adult lives. My dad, Nevels Pittman, is a Korean War Veteran, retired from the Army Reserve, and a retiree from the Louisiana Forestry Commission. My mother, Betty Pittman, is a retired hospice nurse. They’ve worked all of their lives to now be in a nightmare caused by people who supposedly represent their needs.
I, and others of my family and neighbors do not want our homes and cemeteries disturbed.
I watched the archived video of the May 17th Transportation Committee Meeting. I appreciate the questions raised by other representatives. We have had those questions and concerns all along. The circumstances surrounding the way SB 475, Act 71 was submitted to the legislature is questionable in the very least. It was passed with another bill on top of it on the last day of session in 2003. We, in Washington Parish, woke up in 2004 as a reservoir district and an agency of the state. No, we were not informed or consulted about this reservoir project. Our elected officials know very well that we would have opposed it then as we do now.
Only people that were promoting this project were aware of its existence, and details of what was involved in a reservoir.
My elderly parents, my brother and myself will be traveling to sit in on your committee meeting June 1st. Our home place is precious to us and we would like to keep it for future generations to enjoy.
I appreciate your attention to this matter.
Mrs. Jalon Pittman Beech
Again, I would like to thank all who called, wrote in, and visited the legislature June 1st even Mr. Huey Pierce, the Chairman of the reservoir commission who so valiantly testified to the need for potable water as he waved his water bottle to the committee. All of this just proves our point. Potable water, my foot.
In regard to the Washington Parish reservoir commission, Michael Thompson, the reservoir consultant, and Denmon Engineering, it has come to light that there are many possible conflicts of interest regarding this committee as well as our own locally elected officials. It’s all a matter of public record and one doesn’t have to look to deep to find it.
To learn more about the Reservoir Political Wrongdoing, go to this informative web site: http://gundamreservoir.angelfire.com/ It spells it out all too clear.
It is a shame that our own local newspapers and other news media don’t report on all of the information and events pertaining to the reservoir. I’ve spoken with news people from Baton Rouge. They are very interested in our plight. It is apparent that the local newspapers are politician worshippers, and don’t want to offend them by telling the truth.
As I’ve told you before, I’m from the Oak Grove Community. I love the people there with all of my heart. It’s such a beautiful, peaceful place to go to get a way from the hustle and bustle of things. I cannot bear the thought of an entire community being flushed away like waste so that some may profit from its demise. Profit, they will.
The recent amendments take care of a few errors in Act 71 and left some that live on the outside of the footprint of the reservoir with a feeling of relief, but let me tell you that your property is still not safe.
If you live anywhere within a half-mile around the footprint of the reservoir, you will be in jeopardy of losing your property. Expropriation is still in the bill. There’s no such thing as floating golf courses and resorts. That will require land. There’s no limitation to the size of the reservoir. Right now, they have thrown us the bone of 3310 acres with a 90-100 feet by mile and a half wide earthen dam. They could make the reservoir 20,000 acres if they desired it. These reservoir commissioners, politicians and supporters of the reservoir have the desire to take our community. The Bible calls this sin covetousness. They want something that belongs to someone else.
It is a shame that we have to plead with our local politicians to not desecrate our cemeteries. The abuse of the eminent domain law is very blatant in our case. The eminent domain law was to be used to obtain property for projects such as roads and bridges for public use. Eminent domain means to take without asking. I never thought in my wildest dreams that people would want to destroy the community where I grew up. It’s unbearable to dwell on it, but it’s fast coming to reality if we don’t stand up and tell our officials that we don’t want a reservoir covering the Oak Grove Community.
How dare they force this upon us, and then expect us to lie down and be mowed over like grass. I want you to look into your heart, and ask yourself, what have we become? Do we want to see our neighbors treated like refuse? I would also like to ask all of my Christian brothers and sisters out there to get involved. The church has fallen asleep to let the Bible and prayer be removed from our schools; children are aborted by the millions every year in this country. Wake up! We are losing everything that makes us American. This country was built on Christian principles, and we have let it go to the dogs. Now, they want the very land that our ancestors toiled and labored over so that we may have something of value and a piece of our heritage one day.
For the many people who live in the Oak Grove Community, this is your community, stand up for it just as our ancestors did many years ago. Go to the council meetings and demand that your councilman represent your needs and withdraw their support for the reservoir. Times have changed.
We can no longer depend on our elected and appointed officials to represent our needs. Most are self-serving. We are in a sad state of affairs here in Washington Parish, but with a little effort, we can make a difference.
Don’t feel like the reservoir is too big of an issue to tackle. The few of us who have been working have made great strides for the better. We have been attacking this issue from every angle that we can find, and it’s working. We need more people to get involved in changing the direction we are heading in this parish. I long for some of the people that I have had in my life who have passed on who would have never allowed our community to be subject to this destruction, but I believe that there are those out there who could take their rightful place and forge ahead with what’s right.
We have wonderful help from outside of our parish. I would like to see more of the same effort from within our parish.
We have had meetings in a couple of locations when it was necessary to disseminate information. We will have more. You would be surprised at the network of people who have emerged in opposition to the reservoir.
For those of you who live or know people who reside in Plainview, Bens Ford, and Bogalusa, if this reservoir is constructed, you will be at risk of a dam failure.
The proposed reservoir is 3310 acres. A 90-100 feet high by mile and half wide dam will strain to hold back the billions of gallons of water to be housed by this reservoir. There is no provision for you in Senate Bill 475, Act 71 or its amendments if the dam breaks. This will be an earthen dam-not concrete and steel. It will dam up the Bogalusa Creek. Yes, the same one that flows through Bogalusa’s Cassidy Park and supplies water to the paper mill. There have been many major earthen dam failures reported in our country this passed year. How irresponsible of the reservoir commission to select a site for the reservoir that would put thousands at risk of falling victim to a manmade Tsunami.
We had a major dam failure in March of 2004 not too far from here. The damage sustained as reported by the national weather service was comparable to an F2 to F3 tornado. This happened at Big Bay Lake near Purvis, Mississippi. By the grace of God, the dam broke while people were at work and children were in school.
If it had happened in the middle of the night, hundreds of lives would have been lost. If you want to take a look for yourself and have access to the Internet, type in Big Bay Lake Dam Failure in your search engine. It should pop right up for you. Big Bay Lake was only a 900-acre lake with a 50-foot high dam. Just think what would happen if the dam just above Bens Ford failed. It would be catastrophic.
I have become a proponent of attending council meetings. I would like to encourage all of you who are able, to attend the parish council meetings that are normally held every 2nd and 4th Monday of the month. This month, the first council meeting will be held, Monday June 6th, 6:00 pm at the courthouse in Franklinton.
All of this reservoir business was started at one of our parish council meetings a couple of years ago when our councilmen were asked to submit names to be selected for a reservoir commission. Had we been there to see what they were up to, I wouldn’t have to be talking to you about it today. If we go, then maybe they will remember whom they represent.
I would like to thank all of you who have listened faithfully to this broadcast. I will try to keep this up for as long as I can. I may need to take a much-needed break from time to time. It’s tough fighting reservoirs, and we could use a little help. I hope to see you at the parish council meetings. I may not be at every single one, but I’m going to try my best to make it at least once a month.
The people of this parish are precious to me, and I don’t want to see our way of life spoiled by self-serving officials and supporters of the reservoir.
I’ll repeat some questions that I proposed in a previous broadcast to people who are in support of the reservoir, or they just haven’t made up their minds yet. Here they are:
Do you believe in your heart of hearts that it is appropriate to expropriate for eminent domain someone’s private property for the sake of “possible” economic development and recreation? Please remember that the word expropriate means to take without asking.
Putting yourself in the place of someone whose property will be seized for the construction of this reservoir, would you just submit to it, or would you try to stop it from happening?
If your grandparents, mother, father, sister, brother, wife or child were going to be removed from their place of burial so someone could water ski, fish, or play golf, does that seem right to you?
If you have a high school diploma or G.E.D., do you think you or members of your family could get a high paying job because of this reservoir? If yes, please list some of the job opportunities that you believe a high school graduate would be qualified for, and what the salary would be.
My personal feeling is that the concept of this reservoir was fueled by the greed of those who will stand to profit from the construction of the reservoir and the real estate deals that will be made.
I do take issue with those few who would want to profit from the demise of the community that I love, and I praise those who so valiantly stand up for the community that they love.
It’s my understanding that there is a right and a wrong way of conducting our selves, an inborn code of ethics that most of us are brought up by. Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you. If we applied this principle, what a wonderful place this would be.
I’ll repeat the reservoir political wrongdoing web site for those of you who missed it earlier in the broadcast, it is http://gundamreservoir.angelfire.com/
If you would like to speak to me personally, you are welcome to call me at 985-730-5052 between the hours of 9:00am and 8:00 pm. If you get my voicemail, please leave your name and phone number. I’ll return your call as soon as I can.
For the real reservoir news, tune into WBOX FM 92.9 or 920 AM Sunday Mornings at 8:00 a.m. This is Jalon Beech. God Bless
[WBOX NO RESERVOIR BROADCAST 06052005-Jalon Beech]