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Lake Pontchartrain human remains could stop flood wall

Metairie, Louisiana (AP) 9-09

Archaeologists are concerned that American Indian ancestral bones could be under Lake Pontchartrain where dredging would occur for a proposed flood wall beneath Causeway Boulevard.

It is the second cultural red flag raised in the past two months as the Army Corps of Engineers evaluates how, if approved, the flood wall work would affect people and their environments.

The lengthy evaluation process is required by federal law and must be finished before property can be acquired and a construction contract can be awarded for the project.

The first case involves a request for the corps to consider sparing the historical Lake Pontchatrain Causeway canopy that has stood sentry over the bridge’s south end for decades. And most recently, the agency was asked to consider and plan for the possibility that ancient human remains may be buried where the dredging is proposed just off the Metairie lakefront.

 

A corps official said he’s far more concerned about the time it may take to resolve issues involving the canopy, nearby Causeway Commission buildings and relocation compensation than it will to reach an agreement with tribal authorities.

“There is a clear path there to move forward there, and we’re prepared to take whatever steps are necessary to be respectful and address their concerns,” said Gib Owen, corps chief of econoligcal planning and restoration. “Tribes are sovereign nations, and we take their concerns seriously.”

Owen said an obvious resolution could include having an archaeologist or tribal representative standing by to recover, for reburial, any remains that might be unearthed during dredging tentatively planned along both sides of the bridge.

“We can’t say that human remains are there,” said Ken Carleton, archaeologist for the Mississippi Band of Choctaw. “But there is potential for remains to be buried in the lake bottom where the corps is looking at digging trenches.”

Historians have documented the existence of American Indian middens, or mounds mainly of discarded oyster shells, along the shore of Lake Pontchartrain and other state water bodies. The structures were often linear and followed a shoreline or watercourse and were sometimes big enough and high enough to be inhabited and to hold a tribe’s dead.

 

 

 

 

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