- Associated Press - Thursday, December 17, 2015

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - A whistleblower who lost his state contract after reporting his concerns that a state-funded dredging project violated environmental laws is set to receive $750,000 after a Baton Rouge jury ruled in his favor.

Dan Collins was under contract to the state Department of Natural Resources as a land research consultant when he reported his concerns about the Bayou Postillion dredging project in Iberia Parish, The Advocate reported (http://bit.ly/1mpDksD).

Collins said the water quality improvement project was actually a million-dollar oil-and-gas access canal project that benefited a family of landowners along the bayou.

“It reads like a John Grisham novel,” Collins said. “It’s so remarkable. … It was total obstruction once I uncovered it.”

The landowners and DNR have denied those allegations. DNR spokesman Patrick Courreges said the department complied with environmental regulations and plans to appeal.

Collins said the dredging violated state and federal environmental laws. But the Natural Resources Department ignored Collins’ report and allowed the canal to be dredged and prevented Collins and his company, CPL & Associates Inc., from doing any more work for the agency.

Collins said he brought the information to then-Gov.-elect Bobby Jindal’s transition team in 2007, the state Attorney General’s Office and the state Legislative Auditor’s Office, but DNR convinced other state officials that the agency’s position was correct.

In 2008, the Atchafalaya Basin Group and the Louisiana Environmental Action Network filed a federal lawsuit against the state, which was tossed on the grounds that the environmental groups didn’t have proper standing to file.

Collins’ case went to trial last week. His attorney Crystal Bounds said the jury awarded Collins $250,000. Under Louisiana’s environmental whistleblower law, Collins is entitled to triple the award, plus attorney’s fees and costs.

“This is a great victory for my client. We are pleased that the jury recognized what had been done by DNR and saw the truth,” Bounds said.

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Information from: The Advocate, http://theadvocate.com

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