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Engineering the waterways

Last week we began a discussion of the Ouachita River, based on the fact that the Ouachita River Valley Authority was holding its annual meeting in Monroe this year. We covered some important history of the river, including the U.S. Corps of Engineers exotic plans to straighten the river for barge traffic a few decades back. If you missed that, I hope you’ll go back to the archive selections on this page and read it (Aug. 25, “The Treasure of the Ouachita”). As promised then, I will continue that discussion the next couple of days.

LSU coach Les Miles drives lots of people crazy by being, in his own words, “deceptively honest”. If he doesn’t want to tell you something, he may tell you, but you won’t know what he told you.

Sometimes Corps of Engineers communication might be described with similar words, but in a different order. Maybe “honestly deceptive”. . . ??? Now these are good folks and many have outstanding military backgrounds. But when faced with the challenge of “going to war” with taming a resource like, say, the river, they come out with things like this statement from retiring Brigadier General Duke Deluca, Commander of the Mississippi River Division, at the ORVA meeting.

“All waterways in the future will be engineered. To think otherwise would be childish and naive.”

Wow. Note to Mother Nature….Think about that a minute. Then imagine a boat trip down an “engineered” Bayou Bartholomew, or DeLoutre, or Bayou D’Arbonne or Corney Creek. Such is the drive of the Corps. They see it as their marching orders. But then when capital projects are “complete”, such as the Ouachita River Navigation project, they don’t always stay around for the after party.

Some commerce is important on the river. There’s an issue right now with funding for 24 hour lock operation on the river. Serious bank erosion issues along the river have also been caused by barge traffic and huge swings in the river’s level. The Corps says there’s no money to fix it.  U.S. Senator David Vitter, says the Water Resources Reform Act this year makes it the Corps’ responsibility. He should know. He helped write it. He said so as the keynote speaker at the group’s meeting last week. But the General disagreed, saying the bill is not that clear.

If you are a fishermen or hunter, this may not mean a lot to you. But you have to see past deceptive honesty, or honest deception and know that somebody out there is ALWAYS looking for ways to increase barge traffic at almost any cost, “engineer” our natural resources and be the “authority” over matters.

As sportsmen, it’s our responsibility to keep our eyes and ears open, stay informed and be willing to act in the best interest of the outdoors. This is critically important for you younger folks to step up and do when the need arises. If you don’t do that, then what you have been left to enjoy in your lifetime may not be left for future generations. It’s as simple as that.

Tomorrow: More history on the river

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