THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
First Posted: March 25, 2012 – 12:12 pm
Last Updated: March 25, 2012 – 12:14 pm
BATON ROUGE, La. — Iberville and Ascension parishes should compensate the owners of Alligator Bayou Swamp Tours for opening a floodgate in 2009 that ruined their business, an attorney for the company told a state appellate court.
The Advocate reports (http://bit.ly/GUJypA) that Clay Garside, who represents Alligator Bayou Swamp Tours co-owners Frank Bonifay and Jim Ragland, made the argument this past week to a three-judge panel of the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal in Baton Rouge.
An attorney for Iberville Parish said the floodgate had to be opened to protect nearby landowners.
“One property owner in the area doesn’t like it — one,” Ryan Ours, who represents Iberville, told the court.
Bonifay, who attended the court hearing, said he is “praying a lot.”
“We lost all of our bookings. We’ve had no income for three years,” he said.
The floodgate, built in 1951, generally been kept closed.
Bonifay and Ragland, who own land next to Alligator Bayou, shut their business shortly after the gate was opened and the water receded from their land and the bayou.
Garside told Circuit Judges Edward “Jimmy” Gaidry, Michael McDonald and Jeff Hughes that Alligator Bayou Swamp Tours started in the mid-1990s.
He argued that Alligator Bayou’s navigability could have been maintained if the water level had merely been lowered to 3.8 feet to 4 feet — what he called the historical bank level — but the opening of the floodgate drained’ the bayou and left just six inches of water.
The decision by the governments of Iberville and Ascension to open the gate stemmed from complaints from nearby landowners that the closed gate kept too much water on their properties, limiting what they could do with their land.
State District Judge Thomas Kliebert Jr. ruled in June that Alligator Bayou Swamp Tours is not entitled to compensation because it had no private property rights on the bayou.
The 1st Circuit panel will rule later.
Information from: The Advocate, http://theadvocate.com