When Gordon Dove was elected to the state Legislature in 2003, he knew the people of Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes were in need of better hurricane protection.
Two years later, when hurricanes Katrina and Rita came along, those issues of protection spiraled out of control when the wind and rain from each respective storm devastated south Louisiana.
With lessons learned, Dove focused his past decade in the Legislature on lobbying for funds to build levees and initiate coastal restoration projects.
“When I was elected, I had one of the quickest lessons on the condition of our levees in Terrebonne Parish after hurricanes Katrina and Rita,” Dove said. “In other words, there were none. The parish levees were inadequate.”
“Until you go down the bayou and see people walking through their homes with 3- or 4 feet of water, you have no idea what that does to someone,” he added.
Dove credits the people of Terrebonne Parish for approving a half-cent sales tax in 2012, which is helping the Terrebonne Levee and Conservation District complete the inner levees and floodgates for the Morganza-to-the-Gulf Hurricane Protection Project.
“The people of Terrebonne stepped up to the plate and voted to tax themselves for their own protection,” he said. “The people of Terrebonne had trust in us to build something better.”
In 2001, Terrebonne residents also approved an existing quarter-cent sales tax to assist in levee construction and maintenance cost.
The first phase of the levee system, which lifts levees to a 12-foot elevation, should be complete within the next 14 months, he said. With the elevation extended to 12 feet, Terrebonne stands a better chance in the future, and with that protection, would have been spared flooding in the past.
Dove also acknowledged Gov. Bobby Jindal for his efforts to fund flood protection in south Louisiana.
“Some people may not like his politics, but when it comes to coastal restoration and protection, he’s been here with us,” he said.
In August 2013, the $49 million Bubba Dove Flood Control Structure was dedicated in honor of Dove’s son who died in a car accident in 2009.
“It was a hard time in my life and my family’s life to lose a child,” Dove said. “My son’s looking down from heaven at something that will protect Terrebonne Parish. All the boats will say they’re going through the Bubba Dove Floodgate. His name will live on.”
Paid for with state and parish funds from voter-approved taxes, the 42-foot high, 273-foot wide and 60-foot deep floodgate will suppress storm surge from flowing up the Houma Navigation Canal into the rest of the parish. When sunk, the floodgate will sit 18 feet above sea level.
During this legislative session, coastal restoration continues to be one of Dove’s main focuses. He serves as chairman of the Natural Resources and Environment Committee and also sits on the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Board.
He proposed House Bill 850 to clarify what CPRA can do upon finding hazardous materials at coastal restoration sites.
The proposed law, if approved, will allow the authority to enter into a contract to study, investigate, clean up or respond to any hazardous substance found at coastal protection project sites.
“If you’re doing coastal restoration projects and come across hazardous waste, such as crude oil, then the project stops,” Dove said. “People can only do what the state law says. This bill helps to define what to do, just in case.”
HB 297 helps the state move forward with technology by adding the electronic transfer of funds to the acceptable methods of payment for deposits on mineral lease bids.
Present law limits the deposits for bids to traditional payment methods such as checks, cashier’s checks or bank money orders.
“It’s a real simple bill. It puts us into the computer world, which we should have done a long time ago,” he said.
Dove said the state has worked to make Louisiana a “business-friendly state,” pointing to Houma as an example of growth in recent years.
“We’ve accomplished a lot. Terrebonne Parish is growing leaps and bounds,” he said, also crediting Terrebonne Parish President Michel Claudet’s efforts. “I think we’ve become an oil field business hub. A society cannot survive unless you have jobs, industry and business. Whether it’s a small restaurant or large manufacturing facility.”
After this legislative session, Dove looks forward to one more fiscal session in 2015.
Reaching his limit of years in the Legislature, the representative does not want to give up politics just yet – announcing his candidacy for the Terrebonne parish president seat.
Dove said Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes are expected to receive $1 billion in BP settlement money in the near future, and he wants to make sure that money is appropriated to better protect the parish.
“When you’ve been in state government, it gives you insight to go out and get the money available out there,” he said. “I hope the people want to see me continue. I don’t want to stop where I’m at, and I want to follow through as parish president.”
As far as leaving behind his responsibilities in the Legislature, Dove said it is critical for someone knowledgeable about the coastal issues facing Terrebonne retain his chair on the Natural Resources and Environment Committee.
“I hope they have the leadership and understanding of how crucial coastal restoration and hurricane protection is to the parish,” he said.