NEW ROADS — The Pointe Coupee Parish Police Jury on Tuesday approved a drawdown schedule for False River which locks in place another human-induced manipulation of the lake's water level for later this year, and future drawdowns every three years thereafter.
The jury made the unanimous decision after officials with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries touted the improvements that past drawdowns have made to the ailing oxbow lake.
The LDWF has recommended the lake's water level be lowered this year from Sept. 5 until Jan. 15, 2017. And the state agency says future drawdowns should occur around the same time in 2020, 2023 and 2026.
Since state and local leaders launched restoration efforts for the lake in 2012, human-induced drawdowns of the lake's water level have been the most controversial.
False River, once a premier spot for trophy bass fishing, has been in a state of decline for several decades due to heavy silt buildup at the bottom of the lake that impeded vegetation growth and curtailed fish-spawning habitats.
The parish has implemented drawdowns twice since restoration efforts began.
The first year, property owners along the lakeshore complained that reducing the lake's water level had caused structural damage to their bulkheads. And the second year, the drawdown was criticized by a few residents because it caused a massive fish kill.
Last year, the Police Jury was allowed to lower the lake's water level by a maximum of 5½ feet. It's normal pooling stage is around 16 feet.
Brian Heiman, an LDWF biologist, said reducing the water level every so often reduces turbidity and exposes more of the lakebed to sunlight, helping dissolve the heavy build-up of sediment beneath the water.
Drawdowns, which Wildlife and Fisheries commonly use in many lakes across the state, also increase sports fish reproduction and aquatic vegetation growth, Heiman told the Police Jury Tuesday night.
"When the lake's water level comes up, that's food for fish," he said.
After the most recent drawdown, Heiman said, the state environmental agency is already seeing a vast amount of aquatic vegetation growth and he said the soggy lakebed is solidifying in spots, which will make it easier for sports fish to lay eggs and replenish their populations.
Drawdowns "have to be done over a period of time for habitat and fishery changes to start and take effect," Heiman said. "We're going to keep tracking things. We're not just going to do the drawdowns and be done."