Assumption may be site of sinkhole hearing

The chairman of the Louisiana Senate Natural Resources Committee said Saturday he favors holding a joint legislative hearing in mid-February in Assumption Parish concerning issues raised by the Napoleonville Dome sinkhole.

State Sen. Gerald Long, R-Winnfield, said parish officials had asked to have it in Assumption Parish and he would like it to convene there as well.

Word of the planned hearing emerged Friday, but legislators who said they had been working on setting up the gathering offered different locations about where it might be held: either in Assumption or in the State Capitol.

The Assumption Parish Police Jury adopted a resolution Wednesday asking for the joint meeting of the Senate Natural Resources Committee and the House Natural Resources and Environment Committee to be held in Pierre Part.

Long, who said he has visited the sinkhole location, said that there were discussions about a joint hearing last fall, but scheduling conflicts and the approaching holiday season prevented that from happening.

Long said he hoped that the hearing would help residents see the seriousness with which state legislators are taking the issue and allow him and other lawmakers to do a lot of listening to area residents and evacuees as well as officials of state agencies involved in the response.

Long said that Feb. 11 and 12 had been discussed as tentative dates for the meeting, but those dates are the day before and the day of Mardi Gras. He said he planned to work with House committee chairman, Gordon Dove, R-Houma, to set a date and finalize preparations for the hearing.

The sinkhole was found Aug. 3 in the swamps between Bayou Corne and Grand Bayou and prompted an evacuation of 150 nearby residents that remains in effect.

Scientists believe a Texas Brine Co. LLC salt cavern failed deep underground, setting in motion a subsurface disturbance that led to the sinkhole and let loose deposits of crude oil and natural gas that penetrated an underground aquifer as well as migrated to ground level and into area waterways.