If this story were a fish, it would be a gar. A toothy, stinky, big old bottom-feeding gar fish. One worthy of being bashed over the head with a four-foot long oak boat paddle.
On Thursday, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries issued a news release renewing hope that the long-awaited and much-delayed Bussey Brake restoration project had not been forgotten. The release quoted LDWF Secretary Jack Montoucet, “Please be assured that we are working towards the goal of providing an exceptional recreational area for Morehouse Parish. The setbacks have been numerous and significant, but we are continuing toward a successful path and are making good headway.”
Great news. Late, but great. That successful path is already six years long and counting. But then the garfish part of this story bites area fishermen and outdoor enthusiasts right on the buttocks.
Hours later in the very same day, our honorable Governor took his pen and dashed that hope, slicing out $2.1 million in the state budget that was to be used to do what the Secretary he appointed himself had just promised AGAIN hours earlier. Louisiana politics at its gar-stinking worst. Area residents have been more than patient waiting, and waiting, and waiting on our state to come through. And Morehouse Parish can use any economic boost it can get.
In a nutshell, the state was given nearly $10 million in property, including Bussey Brake, by International Paper when they left this part of the state six years ago. The state mounted an admirable improvement plan on paper for the Morehouse Parish lake with an announced target of 3-4 years for completion. Then it became 5-6 years for completion. Now it looks like 7, maybe 8 years. Or with the stroke of a bitterly held pen, now maybe never. It’s really sad when somebody gives you a present and you don’t even unwrap it.
When the last state budget didn’t pass after six (about to be seven) special sessions called by the current administration, the Gov called it a “blankety blank shame.” It’s a shame alright, but not the shame he’s thinking about. Most say we don’t have a money problem, we have a spending addiction. I agree. We pay tons of the taxes. Some say tax businesses more. But overtaxing business is exactly why the state got Bussey Brake to start with. An uneven playing field – including overtaxation and regulation – helped send the giant paper company and thousands of jobs packing from this area headed for smoother waters. Things like this are making Louisiana the “Bye You” State instead of the “Bayou” State. I will say this, you can gripe about business all you want, but I never ever had a poor man give me a job. Have you? And by the way, the Bussey project could have been paid for with the money wasted in any one of these special sessions.
I still have hope. Like watching a bobber when the fish just won’t bite. This is the same group who threatened there would be no LSU football and that they would put all our grandmothers out on the street from the nursing home. And this weekend they went Chicken Little again, to announce a plan to put 10,000 prisoners back on the street and cut out feeding the poor if we didn’t let them break break into our piggie banks. But those things won’t happen. So maybe, just maybe this latest snag won’t sink the Bussey boat either.
In fact, just for kicks and in the spirit of my optimism, I’m sharing the pre-budget cut LDWF news release that we all remain hopeful will one day become the truth in reality, not just on paper. One day. Under someone’s watch…
LDWF June 7, 2018 News Release: The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries would like to update the public on the status of the Bussey Brake Wildlife Management Area renovation project in Morehouse Parish. Since International Paper donated the 2,000-acre freshwater reservoir in 2012, the department has been working diligently to make the lake and its resources available to the sportsmen and women of north Louisiana, despite delays that have occurred beyond our control.
The department’s plan for the restoration project includes a complete renovation of the waterbody. The department began renovations in 2016 after receiving all necessary permits through
the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and dedicated funding through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The lake was drained, initially, to remove the overabundance of rough fish species including carp, buffalo, and others.
The project has experienced numerous setbacks including two flood events that refilled the lake with water and inundated the pump and electric motor used to refill the reservoir. Due to the age of the pump and the damage to the motor during flooding, the department must completely replace the old system, including running new electrical service.
An engineering firm has been hired to redesign a new pumping system. LDWF anticipates the new design will be put out for bid later this year, with construction beginning this fall.
“Please be assured that that we are working towards the goal of providing an exceptional recreational area for Morehouse Parish,” ensured LDWF Secretary Jack Montoucet. “The setbacks have been numerous and significant, but we are continuing down a successful path and are making good headway.”
Marked boat lanes and island construction projects to improve boater access and angler opportunity have been completed. In addition, LDWF has completed numerous fish stockings of popular game fish including bass, bream, catfish and crappie to begin rebuilding the fishery. The department is also in the design and engineering phase of constructing several ADA accessible fishing piers and a wave break project. This work is scheduled to begin in the fall of 2018. LDWF anticipates the lake will open to the public upon completion. Bussey Brake was constructed in the mid 1950’s by International Paper to serve as an alternative water source for the Louisiana mill. In 2012, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission established Bussey Brake Reservoir as a WMA.