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Lake life

Tainter ups and downs

Water pouring over the old spillway in the foreground. In the background, you can see the whitewater pouring out of the new tainter gates into Bayou D'Arbonne Thursday afternoon.

Water pouring over the old spillway in the foreground. In the background, you can see the whitewater pouring out of the new tainter gates into Bayou D’Arbonne Thursday afternoon.

The new rapid-drain Tainter Gates were opened on Lake D’Arbonne Thursday morning and made significant impact on the rising waters of Lake D’Arbonne. By noon Friday, one of the two gates was closed. The other will remain open until the lake nears the 81 foot level. That shouldn’t be long. As of 7 p.m. Friday, the lake level was at 81.6 feet. It is projected to be at 81 on Tuesday or Wednesday if no really significant rainfall occurs the next four days.

The good news is this: The tainter gates work well and are offering some relief for people with low-lying property. Even though some land has flooded for 50 years since the lake was built, you don’t want to see somebody’s house flooded.  That usually doesn’t happen until the lake hits about 82.5 feet when it begins to affect a few homes and camps.

The plan, according to the lake commission, is to use the new gates to keep it from getting in people’s houses and prevent an adverse impact on the fishing. Mother Nature has proven in the past that we can’t always do that, tainter gate or not. The management plan also calls for not lowering the lake more than four inches in one day and for not using the gates below 181 feet, except to help with regular four-year lake drawdowns, of course. My unofficial eyeball test on the gauge on my boat dock shows the lake dropped nearly six inches in a day and a half after the tainters opened Thursday.

It’s complicated, and no matter what gets done, everybody won’t be happy. That’s the only given.

What would make me unhappy is if use of the tainter gates becomes political, or they are used in haste, possibly to satisfy a few or to prove that the huge investment was worth it. Lake Commission president Steve Cagle assures me that won’t happen. The gates are normally opened at the Commission’s request according to set guidelines and are operated by the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development. I also think that anytime the gates are being used, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries should be notified. If they see a potential fisheries issue, they can at least have input even if they don’t get an official vote. Steve has also assured me he will do that also.  Too fast of a drop this time of year could adversely impact fish spawning, which could affect fishing for years to come. And we might not even ever know what hit us.

I have respect for our Lake Commissioners because they are volunteers and do their best to look after the lake. I certainly wouldn’t want to be in their shoes, or in the case of high water, boots… Every time the lake inches up, they come under pressure. The Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) is a professional organization and I trust they will do what is best. We just need to make sure that a lot of thought and good record keeping goes into the use of the gates to ensure that use doesn’t come at the cost of impairment of an exceptional, well established sport fishery, owned by all.

That is why most people are interested in D’Arbonne and why it is one of our parishes, and regions, biggest economic engines. In closing, I have one suggestion above all others. Let’s use our man-made abilities cautiously to benefit every aspect of the lake. And mess with Mother Nature ONLY when it becomes absolutely necessary. Here’s why (turn your volume up…this clip is old…):




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