Poverty Point erosion funds sought

Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne is seeking emergency state funding to mitigate erosion at the Poverty Point State Historic Site, which is a candidate for World Heritage Site status.

Dardenne said Thursday he has submitted a $750,000 request for funding to the Interim Emergency Board, which handles unexpected projects that crop up between legislative sessions.

Dardenne said he is trying to get the Interim Emergency Board to hold an emergency session prior to the April 8 session start to expedite funding to the project. The fallback would be for the Jindal administration to include the project in its supplemental funding bill during the legislative session, he said.

“We need it as soon as we can get it,” Dardenne said. “We discovered the gravity of the situation recently. The land loss has accelerated in a short period of time. We certainly don’t want to lose the land. It’s directly encroaching on one of the mounds.”

The erosion, caused by Harlin Bayou, is on the northern part of the site and threatens part of the approximately 3,500-year-old earthworks, Dardenne said.

Poverty Point is located in northeast Louisiana near Delhi.

“Poverty Point offers visitors a unique look into America’s earliest city and tells the story of a complex society living off Louisiana’s fertile land,” Dardenne said. “It is crucial that we are proactive in protecting this incredible prehistoric site from erosion.”

Poverty Point is the only site nominated by the U.S. secretary of the interior to be a UNESCO World Heritage site this year. If the nomination is inscribed, it will become the 22nd such site located in the United States. The Office of Cultural Development and the Office of State Parks have been working with the National Parks Service on the World Heritage Site nomination since 2008.

Leaders from northeast Louisiana are forming a nonprofit to support the State Historic Site. The Advocates of Poverty Point’s first project will be a golf tournament held at June 19 Black Bear Golf Course in Delhi.

A news conference and tour will take place June 20 at Poverty Point State Historic Site to promote the World Heritage Site nomination.

Dardenne recently met with local officials and area community leaders to talk about Poverty Point’s nomination and the benefits to the area should UNESCO select the site in 2014.

“We are hopeful that this nomination will not only attract visitors from across the globe but also create jobs and spur the economy of northeast Louisiana,” Dardenne said. “The community is coming together to support the site and create infrastructure to enhance the visitor experience.”