Federal government to review proposed grain silo’s risks to landfills

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The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will meet with Project Descendants, a group of Louisiana slave descendants, to consider whether construction of a proposed grain elevator in St. John the Baptist Parish could harm cemeteries in slaves and other historic properties. The meeting, scheduled for Thursday, comes two weeks after members of the Descendants Project testified about the project before the United Nations at a conference in Switzerland.

The Corps of Engineers will conduct a review pursuant to Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (NHPA). The Section 106 review, according to the United States General Service Administration, must consider public opinions and concerns about historic preservation issues when making final decisions about the project.

According to a Descendants Project press release, the Corps of Engineers also invited the Cultural Landscape Foundation, Evergreen Plantation, Louisiana Trust for Historic Preservation, Louisiana Landmarks Society, National Trust for Historic Preservation, Whitney Plantation Museum, among others. , to attend the examination. . The meeting is not open to the public.

The meeting follows months of advocacy groups calling on the Corps of Engineers to heed the concerns of St. John residents and block construction of the grain elevator. Descendants Project co-founder Joy Banner said the Corps only responded after she and other members traveled to Geneva, Switzerland, and raised their concerns at the Convention. United Nations International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

Although the Corps of Engineers has agreed to conduct a Section 106 review, the agency has yet to decide whether to grant a building permit for the grain elevator.

“The Corps of Engineers has yet to prevent construction of the proposed grain elevator site and with it has failed to protect the longtime residents of St. John’s Parish,” said Banner. “We had to travel halfway around the world and testify in front of a global audience in order to make our voices heard at home. We are encouraged that this has prompted the Corps of Engineers to meet with us and consider the long-term negative impacts this grain elevator will have on Black descendants, long-time and future residents, and our parish as a whole.

Greenfield, the company behind the grain elevator project, says there are no unmarked graves at the site. Reached by email last month, a spokesperson referred to a webpage the company created to address this issue and other residents have raised.

According to the company, a cultural research firm hired by Greenfield found no signs of ancestral burial sites while surveying and carrying out shovel tests in the field, although later reports of ProPublica question the veracity of these claims.

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