Leslie Turk

Energy corridor concept generating buzz

by Jeremy Alford

The chambers of commerce from Terrebonne, Lafourche and St. Mary parishes sent representatives to the State Capitol this week for the first of a series of briefings with the Legislature’s various caucuses and delegations. While most of the topics discussed were parochial in nature, there was quite a buzz building around legislation that would join the region with Acadiana in an effort to put the conversion of I-49 on solid footing.

Drake Pothier, CEO of the Houma-Terrebonne Chamber of Commerce (who once worked for the Lafayette chamber), says his organization is closely tracking Senate Bill 176 by Sen. Mike Michot, R-Lafayette, which creates the Energy Corridor Commission. “That’s something that we are very interested in,” Pothier says. “We’re a big proponent of I-49.”

Michot’s legislation would rename the existing Lafayette Metropolitan Expressway Commission and transform it into the new 15-member commission that would have the power to tax an eight-parish region, borrow money and sign into contracts with private companies. The boundaries of the proposed political subdivision would include Iberia, Lafayette, Lafourche, St. Charles, St. Martin, St. Mary, Terrebonne and Vermilion parishes.
The commission would be an extension of not only recent efforts to brand southeast Louisiana as “America’s Energy Coast” — a public relations campaign for coastal restoration and hurricane protection — but it would also piggyback on the regional popularity of other projects aside from I-49, like Lafourche’s La. 1.

Michot’s SB 176 is still awaiting its first hearing, but it has been assigned to the Senate Transportation Committee. The legislation can be viewed in full here.