Economic stimulus -- or not

Sometimes a person has to wonder whether the U.S. is basing its economic future on museums and coffee shops. That thought is prompted by recent developments on the Mississippi River front in New Orleans.

The Times-Picayune reports that Mary Landrieu, D-La., has weighed in on the side of not-in-my-backyard opponents who are protesting plans by the Port of New Orleans to convert an old breakbulk wharf at the edge of the French Quarter into a new freezer and export facility for New Orleans Cold Storage.

NOCS, a century-old exporter of frozen chicken and other products, lost its deep-draft water access when the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet canal was closed after Hurricane Katrina. The port found a new location at the Gov. Nicholls Street Wharf on the riverfront, but complaints quickly surfaced from gentrifying historic neighborhoods nearby.

Opponents of the planned cold-storage terminal say it would interrupt a planned park along miles of riverfront formerly occupied by obsolete wharves. The opponents have papered nearby neighborhoods with signs criticizing the "poison port," complained of truck traffic on a wide boulevard leading from Interstate  10 to the wharf, and claimed that the use of ammonia in the freezing process creates a dire  threat to health and safety. Never mind that experts dismiss the safety claims, that railroads already carry hazardous material along the riverfront, and that the land in question has been used for maritiime cargo siince almost the date of the city's founding in 1718.

Recognizing the opponents' intensity, port officials are searching for another riverfront location. NOCS says that if a suitable location can't be found, it will have to shift its operations -- and jobs -- outside  New Orleans.

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