The six bodies of water — yes, a couple of smaller ones are not that obvious — are “the lakes” of Baton Rouge. Their revitalization near LSU and Brooks-City Park would be an environmentally responsible investment in one of the iconic landscapes of the greater Baton Rouge area.
It looks like it will happen. Dredging out the lakes might begin as early as the end of next year.
State and local leaders say they have “cobbled together” nearly $50 million from a variety of sources to undertake the project, envisioned in a 2016 master plan commissioned by the Baton Rouge Area Foundation.
The detailed plan — a complex undertaking in terms of hydrology as well as urban planning — was a gift to the community from BRAF, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2014.
The lakes, of course, go back further. They were dredged in the 1930s and collectively become a shallow set of ponds. From an environmental standpoint, a complete dredging and increased water flow among the ponds, large and small, is vital to their health.
Surrounding areas of the lakes will be built up with dredged soil to provide more opportunities for recreation and just plain enjoyment of the water feature that has been a part of the lives of generations.
BRAF’s John Spain is impresario of the funding initiative, saying that it will include money from the various owners of the lakes, city-parish government and parks agencies and LSU, among other sources.
The project will also rely on RESTORE Act funds from the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, as well as dollars from federal block grants for community development in Baton Rouge.
Gov. John Bel Edwards promised to support a capital outlay request from the Legislature to supplement the partners’ contribution.
"As much of what needs to be borne by capital outlay will be; however, the overwhelming majority of the costs will be borne by the various partners," Edwards said.
The restoration will be spearheaded by LSU's Real Estate and Facilities Foundation and will follow recommendations laid out in the 2016 master plan.
Since the lakes are passed by vast amounts of traffic on Interstate 10, as well as well-traveled surface streets, the ugly algae blooms that have recently covered parts of them have been unsightly. Heat and shallow water — on average, about 3.5 feet — led to the blooms.
Perhaps nature would let the lakes become swamp. That might not be unsightly. But the lakes have been a feature of Baton Rouge life for decades.
It’s time to dredge and develop them properly for generations to come.