The Capital Area Ground Water Conservation Commission on Tuesday decided against moving ahead with proposed legislation that would give the group authority to levy additional surcharges to help prevent saltwater intrusion into a vital Baton Rouge area aquifer.
Last week, the group’s technical committee discussed the possibility of proposing legislation to allow the commission to charge additional fees from regulated water users to help pay for test wells and other work. Test wells will be necessary to determine where treatment measures should be located and to locate the plume of salt water being drawn north over the Baton Rouge fault.
Commission members said the delay in seeking legislation won’t slow down work being done to prepare for test well drilling because much needs to be done before that can take place, said Dale Aucoin, commission co-chairman. Work is still being done to locate the best sites for the wells, to determine how many wells are needed and then acquire the needed land.
The new surcharge would only apply to regulated users removing 50,000 gallons a day or more from the Southern Hills Aquifer. Exempt from that new charge would be wells located in the Mississippi River alluvial aquifer, wells of less than 400 feet, wells that pump less than 50,000 gallons a day and agricultural users, committee members proposed.
However, concerns about finding a legislator to author the bill during an election year was proving difficult and commissioners wanted more time to fine-tune potential legislation.
“It will allow us to work on a package over the next year that we’ll be able to get through,” said Anthony Duplechin, commission director.
Although the commission already has the authority to charge a fee per million gallons of water from regulated users in the five-parish area including East Baton Rouge, that $5 per million gallons already pays for salaries, office operations and computer modeling work. That $5 fee won’t cover additional costs of drilling test wells.
The commission was formed by the state legislature in the 1970s to address the problem of salt water being pulled across the Baton Rouge fault through increased pumping to the north. Industry and commercial operations rely on the aquifer as do residents of Baton Rouge who rely on the aquifer for drinking water.
Follow Amy Wold on Twitter, @awold10.