Thanks to Ryan Daniels of the Monroe Office of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries for giving us an update on the renovation of Bussey Brake Reservoir north of Bastrop. Things are a little behind schedule, but work is progressing. Here, I’ll just let Ryan tell you:
Q – It appears the Bussey project is running behind schedule. Can you tell me what is making it go slower than originally planned? “It’s actually not too far behind schedule. Weather has been the biggest obstacle. Nothing can be done on the lake bottom when wet. This delayed our boat lane clearing project and other work in the lake bottom. The March flood took out our pump and we are still waiting for parts, which are hard to come by for a 60 year old pump motor. We are told that it will be re-installed soon. The flood added 4 ft. of water to the lake, which took months to drain back out. We want to take full advantage of this renovation period as there will likely not be another for quite some time. There have also been some hurdles fulfilling permit requirements from the Corps of Engineers and USFWS.”
Q – What has been accomplished? Next up to be done? “There’s been quite a bit of activity regarding the renovation of Bussey, but most of it is not obvious to the public. boat lane clearing, stump removal, mapping, mussel surveys required by USFWS for pumping from Bayou Bartholomew to determine if threatened mussel species are in the vicinity of the pump, pump repairs, spillway repairs, etc… Not to mention the work done by folks in Baton Rouge, such as requesting and allocating funding, administering of contracts, architect and designing, etc… What’s next? fisheries renovation (removal of undesirable species), re-fill, re-stock, fishing piers and boat dock.”
Q – Is there a new “open” date scheduled or projected? “No opening date is currently scheduled as we are not sure when pumping will begin to re-fill the lake. We’ll also be dependent on water levels in Bayou Bartholomew to run the pump. Fish stocking will begin soon after we begin re-filling the lake.
Q – Has the “fish kill” been done yet to rid the lake of unwanted species that was originally thought the be a part of the decline in the lake, like carp, gar, etc.? It will be done soon to take advantage of the lowest possible water levels remaining in the lake. ** NOTE: update on this answer since we spoke: the rotenone poison application to remove the standing fish population of Bussey has been done.
Q – Is the water level lower than before, confined only to the old sloughs and deep channels? “The water is mostly confined to the perimeter canals which were dug to build the levee. Some of these canals still have over 10 ft. of water in them. There are a few potholes and very low areas in the lake bottom still holding water also.”
Q – Is any access allowed now, or is the property closed to the public? “No, it’s closed for construction.”
Q – Is any duck hunting allowed on the area? “Not now. Since the property is actually a WMA, any hunting season on it would have to be created and approved by our Wildlife section and WLF Commission. The original intent for this property was to be managed for quality fishing, whereas Wham Brake (the other property that we received from IP) will be managed for waterfowl. Not to say that there won’t be duck hunting on the lake or other hunting in the forested portions of the property in the future, as that will be determined later.”