You don’t have to be a property-rights absolutist to twitch a whisker at this story, or even at the condescension right there in the title: “Property Rights Impede Race To Save Louisiana Coast” .

Publicly financed projects to prevent southeast Louisiana from being swallowed by the Gulf often are slowed to a crawl and in some cases stopped in deference to the property rights of the very landowners the projects are designed to protect, state officials said. And if Louisiana ends up losing its battle against the Gulf — forcing the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents — respect for the property rights of a few could well be a major contributing factor.

How selfish! How dare these few highfalutin robber-barons hijack a great public works project, planned out so carefully by their betters in the state government! Ungrateful wretches! Why wouldn’t they instantly submit to the dictates of Louisiana’s magnificent technocracy?

The issue of the state “taking” private property to rebuild the coast exploded onto the public’s radar in 2002 when judges in Plaquemines and St. Bernard parishes awarded local oyster fishers more than $1 billion in damages the harvesters claimed had been caused by the Caernarvon Freshwater Diversion Project — originally built to improve oyster grounds and strengthen wetlands against erosion.

Oh, fine, so a past project was disastrously counterproductive and ended up destroying the industry the state was trying to save. That could never happen now, under the scary-competent leadership of Governor Blanco. And what’s more, LA’s working with the infallible EPA in on this one. Surely these stiffnecks will be overawed by the imperatives of Progress, and prostrate themselves in its awesome presence!

“I have gone to meet with a willing landowner, but when he saw the federal partner on the project was the Environmental Protection Agency, everything changed,” she said. “He escorted me to the door and told me never to let my shadow darken their property again.”

Sigh. It’s like these bayou folk think these land rights actually mean something, and are not a mere formality to be overruled instantly at the sovereign’s whim! Wherever would they get such a retrograde idea?

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EXIT QUESTION: Can you imagine the Times-Picayune running a piece complaining about how, instead of property rights, the free press rights of a few loudmouths was holding up the important work of the state? Of course not, that would be outrageous. Fascist, even!

Tags: Louisiana