NEW ROADS — The Pointe Coupee Parish Police Jury decided Tuesday night to join state officials in taking a more active role in the False River Ecosystem Restoration Project.
The jury voted to allocate between $100,000 and $300,000 in the next few months to help the Legislature and state agencies, such as the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, put together their own plan to restore the lake’s health since the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plan is apparently on hold pending further funding.
State Rep. Major Thibaut, D-New Roads, told the Police Jury on Tuesday evening that he would be meeting with state and possibly some federal agency officials at 10 a.m. Wednesday to determine what happens next.
For several years now, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been spending millions of dollars studying whether or not the lake’s surface should be drawn down to stimulate lake bottom grass growth and improve fish habitat.
Many lakefront property owners want the declining fish population stabilized but they don’t want the lake drawn down, claiming to do so would damage their property. The lake’s level is dropping anyway due to extended drought conditions, said Owen J. “Jimmy” Bello, parish administrator.
A decision to actually draw the lake down was delayed earlier this year and now corps officials are waiting on further funding to study it for another five years.
“All the state’s agencies and you guys are in a fight with these guys (the corps) and now we’re sitting here and we’re waiting on the corps to make a decision,” Thibaut told the Police Jury. “Now we’ve got to start fending for ourselves.
“We’ve got to come up with our own plan as to how we’re going to fix False River and we’ve got state agencies with the expertise to put together some plans to restore False River,” Thibaut said.
He encouraged the jury to complete paperwork for a $2.7 million state match for the corps’ $7.5 million study, and “in the meantime” allocate at least $100,000 to help the state find an alternative.
Thibaut said he needs a resolution from the jury to take before the Legislature for further state funding to get the issue moving again.
“Gov. Jindal knows this is a huge priority for the parish and he will help us get that $2.7 million — but if there is nothing there, if the corps can’t come up with any more money — there are other things that need to be done,” Thibaut said, “so you, I, state agencies, can have a plan of our own we are working on.”
He reminded the jury and a dozen residents in attendance that although the corps delayed drawing the lake down this year, “it is not off the table in the years to come.”