Lake Commission to focus on Spring Bayou
Although each of the men sworn in as unpaid commissioners on the parish’s newest advisory board may have their own personal reason for wanting to serve, each of them said their reason for wanting to serve is to make Spring Bayou better for this and future generations.
“Team” and “teamwork” were mentioned by several members of the Avoyelles Parish/Spring Bayou Lake Commission as the nine-member panel discussed why they are on the board and what they hope to accomplish.
The nine voting members are Rayford Laborde of Hessmer, Dr. L.J. Mayeux of Marksville, Artha Hale of Mansura, Roland Dugas of Baton Rouge (Spring Bayou landowner), Jimmy Landry of Hessmer, Phillip Lamartiniere of Fifth Ward, J.K. Bordelon of Moreauville, Terry Laborde of Mansura and Kenneth Pickett of Mansura. Police Jurors Mark Borrel and Trent Clark will serve as non-voting members and the commission’s liaison to the Police Jury.
There was some brief discussion that the name should be Spring Bayou Lake Commission and that the board should limit its efforts to that waterway complex.
Police Jury President Charles Jones, who served as moderator for the meeting, said the name and scope of work for the commission will be decided by the commissioners.
Mayeux told his fellow commissioners that one of the first orders of business will be to adopt a mission statement that will tell the public why the commission exists and what it will be trying to achieve.
Jones agreed, adding the members will also need to elect a president, vice president and secretary at their next meeting.
Once those “house cleaning” measures are addressed, the commissioners will delve into the more meaty issues that prompted the creation of the board in the first place.
While Dugas was, in many ways, the “odd man out” on the commission, there were no direct attacks on the large
landowner many claim is “trying to pump Spring Bayou dry.”
In fact, it seemed the other commissioners accepted the need for a member that could represent the non-sportsman, non-boating aspect of Spring Bayou’s importance.
Dugas took the opportunity to speak to his fellow commissioners and the public about his relationship with Spring Bayou.
“I have been involved with Spring Bayou for 15 years as a property owner,” Dugas said. “I live in Baton Rouge, but I would much rather be in Avoyelles Parish.”
Dugas said the meeting with Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries officials a few months ago yielded a wealth of information about problems facing Spring Bayou, including a major siltation issue.
“We left that meeting realizing there are more issues that are more important than the pumping issue,” Dugas noted.
Although he has often been cast in the role of the villain in the Spring Bayou drama, Dugas said if “anyone has a recommendation on improving Spring Bayou, I am all for that.” Dugas pointed out that the commission “is only an advisory board” and any recommendations it may have must be approved by the state.
Even though it has no regulatory authority on its own, several new commissioners spoke about the importance of the board’s task and what can be done to address important issues such as siltation, dredging, flood control/management, etc.
APPLY FOR GRANTS
Jones noted that a key role for the commission could be in applying for and managing state, federal and private grants for projects to improve Spring Bayou.
Rayford Laborde said the main problem is siltation and a lack of depth in the Spring Bayou complex.
“If we had another 30 inches of depth, we wouldn’t be here today,” Laborde said. “If we don’t solve the sediment problem, in 20 years we will have no Spring Bayou.”
Laborde said the commission “needs to see how we can strop the sedimentation and find a way to put more water into Spring Bayou.”
Jones said there has been discussion about raising the height of the Old River dam to make the upside area’s level deeper. That will be reviewed to determine what effect, if any, it might have on landowners.
The prospect of dredging to deepen boat lanes and other areas has also been considered, but there has been concern over the expense of disposing of spoil material.
There have also been proposals to pump water from Red River into Bayou Choctaw which would then run into Spring Bayou.
Landry said commissioners need to work together, treat each other with respect, “act like adults and strive for the good of the whole complex.”
Landry, one of the most vocal opponents of large-scale pumping from Spring Bayou, said commissioners must realize “pumping is not the only issue” affecting the well-being and future of Spring Bayou.
“The effectiveness of this commission will only be as good as its funding,” Landry said.
‘A LOT OF EXPERTISE’
Terry Laborde said he was optimistic about the commission’s chances for success.
“We all want the same thing,” Laborde said. “I look at this table and I see a lot of expertise here. We have to work together as a team.”
Bordelon said the commission can’t solve the problems in Spring Bayou until it looks at what caused those problems in the first place.
For example, he said the Old River dam stopped the natural flow of water to artificially raise the water level above the dam. The structure also caused sediment to deposit because the water was no longer flowing.
“Silt is being brought in,” Bordelon said. “We need to look at what will stop the silt before it gets there.”
He recommended asking the federal Fish & Wildlife Service to join in efforts to try to reduce sediment from entering Spring Bayou from drainageways in the area.
Bordelon cautioned against limiting the scope of the commission’s jurisdiction too narrowly or it would not be able to adequately consider influences on Spring Bayou that are not typically considered to be the Spring Bayou Complex.
State Rep. Robert Johnson concluded the meeting by thanking the nine men for volunteering to work to help make Spring Bayou a better place for sportsmen and non-sportsmen alike.
He noted that the commission’s role is advisory in nature and that the state Wildlife & Fisheries Commission has the final approval on any recommendations the commission makes.
He said the commission is a good first step in the effort to resolve the troubles facing Spring Bayou.
Clark praised the commissioners for volunteering for an unpaid position, which he joked is almost guaranteed to make them more enemies than friends.
“This is a challenge,” he added.
ABOUT THE COMMISSION
If the new commissioners are going to achieve anything before their term expires, they need to hit the ground running.
The nine members’ terms will end Jan. 1, 2020, when the new Police Jury’s terms begin. At that time
The commissioners will have to be reappointed or new commissioners appointed when the new Police Jury is seated in January 2020.
At this time there is no selection criteria for a commissioner. Each one on the board volunteered to serve shortly after the Police Jury created the advisory panel. The commissioners must be residents and/or taxpayers of this parish, serve without compensation with terms that are concurrent with those of the Police Jury that appoints them.
The resolution creating the Lake Commission also states the commission “may make rules and regulations for the government, regulation and control of the preserve and for the conservation, protection and propagation of game and fish in the preserver, provided that such rules and regulations shall be finally approved, adopted and promulgated by the Louisiana Wildlife & Fisheries Commission.”
The commission will meet monthly or as necessary.