The board expected plenty of pushback (indeed, Barry and two other members did not have their contracts renewed at the end of their terms this fall in what was seen as political revenge), but it also hoped to bring some companies to the table to discuss a settlement. Attorney General Buddy Caldwell hinted this spring that could be an option.
It even inspired two similar suits from Jefferson and Plaquemines parishes, and some other coastal areas are said to be considering their own.
But the industry doesn't seem ready to play ball just yet. First, it tried to get the suit tossed (the attempt was rebuffed but is being appealed).
"The levee board is a rogue state agency that went out on its own to do something it wanted to do for the benefit of some well-financed, wealthy trial lawyers. All it is is a money grab. It's not about the coast, it's about John Barry writing his next book," said Don Briggs, president of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association.
"Besides that, we don't believe we're responsible for the destruction of Louisiana's coast."
Briggs was speaking from his office in the association's Baton Rouge office, a mansion formerly owned by ex-Gov. Jimmie Davis. A window in Briggs's office looks onto the state Capitol, and it's there that the most potent opposition to the lawsuit has taken place.
Jindal has vowed to kill the suit, making it a priority for this legislative term. "We're not going to allow a single levee board that has been hijacked by a group of trial lawyers to determine flood protection, coastal restoration, and economic repercussions for the entire state of Louisiana," he said last summer.
A flurry of bills emerged to kill the suit, but the one that passed would retroactively bar the flood board's contracts with the lawyers. It effectively kills the suit, but allows ones filed by parishes to move forward.
At the heart of the legal struggle is a pair of mutually exclusive narratives about what's really happening in Louisiana: One side says it's challenging an industry that has been too powerful for too long; the other holds that a band of rogue trial lawyers are taking advantage of Louisiana's litigious climate and threatening to stifle the state's most important economic driver.
Regardless of their motivation, the flood board's suit has galvanized a long-dormant environmental movement to strike out against what's been the state's dominant economic interest. They've even got an army, led by retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, who led the Joint Task Force after Hurricane Katrina.
And he's not shy about identifying an enemy.
"This is a fight," Honoré said. "The oil companies have hijacked the f — ing democracy. They'll say they do it because of the economy "¦ but that's a sad excuse for not wanting to change and it's a poor example of the abuse of power by an industry."