Kudos to BRAF, TULIPA, LSU, BREC, DPW, LDW&F and the Lakeshore Civic Association for working our City Park and LSU lakes issues toward a solution. Back in ’81, LSU environmental engineering professor Ron Malone was instrumental in bringing about the previous lakes consensus fix. Malone was also an adviser to an on-campus environmental group that I was involved with, and we followed the developments pretty closely. Landowners then, as now, had legitimate concerns.
Our profession is in the business of practical and sustainable environmental projects. Over the past 30 years, we have learned many lessons that can apply to our next lakes restoration:
1. Dredges have a hard time sucking up the runny organic muck that makes up the bottom sediment in our lakes.
2. Our lakes have countless large cypress stumps, making dredging more tedious and expensive than draining and excavating.
3. Fully draining the lakes allows the bottom muck to dry, oxidize and consolidate. This process alone is enough to restore significant water depth and quality!
4. Draining enables access for track hoes, dozers and dump trucks to rapidly excavate material in bulk —just as when our lakes were first constructed.
5. Draining also facilitates harmful detritus removal and bottom “sculpting” of channels and holes to improve the long-term aquatic ecosystem.
6. Our normally long, warm and dry fall season is well-suited for draining and drying operations.
7. However many months the project takes, if done right, it will be worth it. We don’t lament how long the previous project took, given the good things it accomplished. Once finished, everyone will enjoy and be proud of this project for decades to come.
8. Along those lines, it’s better to work with the contractor to do the project in the least expensive way, even if it takes longer. Additional requirements will be found once things get underway, and it is nice to have the funds to cover them. A few extra months should not be the overriding concern.
9. I’ve run and biked the lakes frequently for 40 years, and the current septic smells are far worse than the typical project odors. The aeration associated with well-managed draining and drying can create less odor than dredging. The same thing has been true for numerous large industrial impoundments I’ve worked on.
10. I’m sure some LSU students and the folks at BREC can also come up with some creative uses for the lakes while they’re being drained. Leave it to south Louisianans to actually turn what some folks would think would be an eyesore into a very exciting once-in-a-lifetime recreational experience — think “World-Class Mudder.”