Notes from New Orleans: End Run?

Posted on: January 9th, 2008 by Walter Gallas

Early Saturday, I received via email a copy of a draft environmental assessment that had been completed on November 20 for the New Orleans Veterans Administration medical complex, which the city wants built in the Mid-City National Register district. This is the kind of document which normally would be a very visible part of a comprehensive—and public—review process fro such a large development project affecting historic properties.

Instead, this has all the markings of trying to do an end-run around all environmental and historic reviews. For example, at some point, at some unknown time and place a notice had been placed seeking public comment on this document by December 19. So much for transparency and public participation.

I went through the document quickly and saw that it gives a nod to environmental, cultural, and historical issues, but not surprisingly, its language seems to want to lead to a predetermined finding of no significant impact. The correspondence attached at the end of the DEA is curious in that no communication is shown with the state historic preservation office either.

I have notified the state historic preservation office of this, and we also will be in touch with the VA’s historic preservation officer. Sadly, this all sounds much like the efforts the state medical system is using to try to ramrod through its own plans for a new public medical center in the same National Register District.

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