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|Jindal formally announces state funding for West Monroe's Sparta project|
West Monroe Mayor Dave Norris said he doesn't hug governors, but when he does, Bobby Jindal will be the first one.
That's because Jindal on Thursday officially announced his commitment of $7.6 million in state capital outlay funding for the city of West Monroe's Sparta Aquifer rehabilitation project. The $7.6 million represents the first of three installments in state funding to help rehabilitate the Sparta.
The Ouachita Citizen first reported the state's financial commitment for West Monroe's Sparta project some two weeks ago.
Appearing at a news conference in Monroe to announce state funding for two local concerns, Jindal said investing in the West Monroe project would help save the Sparta Aquifer, which supplies water to 14 parishes in the region.
"I applaud the city and Graphic Packaging for being so progressive," Jindal said. "While we are committed to economic development and bringing in new jobs, it's important that we keep the jobs already here."
"This is a huge win-win for economic development and it's good for the environment as well," Jindal continued. "We don't want our grandchildren worrying about having good drinking water."
Norris said numerous studies have been conducted to show that if the Sparta issue is not addressed soon, northeast Louisiana residents would see water wells dry up and the region would eventually lose an important asset in the aquifer.
"And, when it's gone, it doesn't come back," Norris said.
"We're going to make this project work, and years from now people will look back and say this was a turning point," he said. "We're going to make a significant difference in the Sparta Aquifer for generations to come."
Norris believes the project to remove Graphic Packaging from the Sparta Aquifer will cost about $20 million. At one time, though, it was believed the project would cost as much as $200 million.
If the capital outlay bill is approved by the Legislature, Norris said officials would move forward with a plan to construct a wastewater treatment facility near Lazarre Park in West Monroe.
The initial capital outlay funding would be used to pay for dirt work, construct a pipeline and to build an operations building at the treatment facility. The money also would pay for engineering work.
Water treated by the facility would be pumped into Graphic Packaging's plant in West Monroe. Graphic would use the treated water to help mitigate the 10 million gallons per day the plant currently draws from the Sparta.
Jindal said he is confident the Legislature and Bond Commission will approve the funding for the West Monroe endeavor.
At one time, Graphic Packaging used 20 million gallons a day from the aquifer, but the company cut that in half by pulling 10 million gallons from the Ouachita River instead.
John Stamberg, vice president of Energy Ventures Analysis of Arlington, Va., has said taking Graphic Packaging off the Sparta would eliminate about 60 percent of the burden on the aquifer throughout the 14-parish region. Energy Ventures Analysis is overseeing the project for the city of West Monroe.
While in Monroe Thursday, Jindal also announced the state would provide more than $6 million to establish a new juvenile behavior center at Swanson Correctional Center for Youth.
Jindal's news conference was held at Swanson.
Besides Jindal and Norris, District Attorney Jerry Jones was on hand for the news conference, as well as a host of other elected officials and area citizens.