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PLAQUEMINE, LA-Bayou Plaquemine, 13 miles south of Baton Rouge and 60 miles northwest of New Orleans, is on its way to reinventing itself as city officials plan to break ground in late 2007 on the third phase of an estimated $5-million, mixed-use waterfront project.

Plaquemine Mayor Tony Gulotta, who is orchestrating the project, couldn’t be reached for comment by GlobeSt.com’s publication time. But city hall sources and sources in Baton Rouge intimate with the project tell GlobeSt.com the third phase will have a 70-room Best Western Inn, an expanded boardwalk that already stretches for 1,000 feet and a 10,000-sf open air amphitheater.

“This is a big deal for Plaquemine,” a Baton Rouge real estate source tells GlobeSt.com, largely because the bayou was used for almost 30 years as a dumping ground for waste material by local industrial firms. Cut off from the Mississippi River as a source of fresh water, the bayou’s water quality suffered, harming the fish population which is Plaquemine residents’ No. 1 recreational activity. The bayou sits between the Mississippi River and Louisiana Interstate 1.

The Bayou Plaquemine Task Force, pushed by Gulotta and comprised of landowners, city officials and concerned residents, solved the bayou water crisis when Plaquemine became the first city in Louisiana in 1994 to qualify for the US Army Corps of Engineers’ 1135(b) program. Two 2,500-horsepower pumps were installed last June, moving up to 60,000 gallons of water per minute from the Mississippi into the bayou. Plaquemine’s cost: About 25% or $750,000 of the $3-million tab for the pumps, according to sources.

The city began buying up bayou-front property in 1995 and soon after began developing the first $400,000 phase of the City of Plaquemine Waterfront Park and boardwalk. The second phase of the park’s development, just completed in June, carried a price tag of over $1.2 million, according to city hall sources. The Atchafalaya Basin Program contributed $1 million to the second phase. The planned third phase, estimated to cost $2 million, will involve the conversion of a machine shop into an open-air facility where local families can gather and stage reunions, concerts and other civic events.

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