It’s not unusual for the Ouachita River level to slowly drop this time of year. Yesterday, I saw the Facebook post above and started to share it. But knowing how Facebook is today with people fabricating news and putting other people’s names by them, I was a bit skeptical. But this one is legit. I tried to verify the information with the Corps of Engineers and through the local media, but got nothing. I was able to verify that the 3-4 foot drop, possibly more, is already underway. By the way, when the Facebook post above was shared to the Lake D’Arbonne and Union Parish Crappie Report, 15,000 people had read it in the first 24 hours!
With that kind of expected interest, you’d think the managers of this endeavor, the multi-billion dollar Corps of Engineers, could have at least issued a one-paragraph official news release to let the public know about it. But there is absolutely nothing on the Corps of Engineers site in Monroe or Vicksburg about the sudden drop in the river. I clicked on the site, looked under news releases and the latest two new releases on that site are about someone in Vicksburg receiving the Commander’s Award for Outstanding Achievement in Equal Employment Opportunity and about a Blessing of the Fleet ceremony next week in Vicksburg. I seriously doubt 15,000 people read about those in a 24-hour period. As for the Ouachita drop, no local media still has anything about it as far as I can tell.
I tried to call the Monroe Corps office, but only got a maze of telephone options that repeated over and over. Each number I pushed to reach an individual went to voice mail.
Having a bit of a skeptical side (who, me again?) I also started wondering if this was the beginning of some sort of conspiracy to call more attention to the Corps perpetual budget problems (the budget is falling!…the budget is falling!). I mean, just two weeks ago the semi-local USA Today News Star published a banner story entitled, “What if the River Dried Up?” The story opened with “Before 1919, the Ouachita River at Monroe would be about 3 feet deep in the middle of the summer. Cows could walk between Monroe and West Monroe at Lazarre Point.” Hmmmm.
To make a short story longer, the river is falling fast. The chart below shows the river level. I guess this time of the year is the only time you could check the lock and dam structures, but that fast of a drop — even if it stops at 3 feet — could cause some serious fish kills in the backwater lakes and areas like up Bayou D’Arbonne, especially with extreme hot water and no rain in sight to replenish it. It may not be that big of a deal to the Corps folks, but apparently it is to the public around here who use the river and pay taxes to run the Corps. But I guess we just have to guess and wonder, because official word seems to be harder to come by than a crappie bite after a six-inch summer rain and lightning storm. Judging from the chart below, the river will end up somewhere around the 17-18 foot level. The river at Felsenthal is holding steady at 65 feet so maybe when this work is completed, they’ll open those gates and let us borrow a little of their water down here on our stretch of the river.
I’m just thankful for one individual in the know taking to Facebook to tell us what is going on.
PS – IF YOU ARE GOING TO BE ON THE RIVER, KEEP A CLOSE EYE OUT FOR DEBRIS THAT OFTEN ACCOMPANIES A FAST DROP IN THE RIVER. ALSO BE AWARE THAT SOME NAVIGABLE WATERS MAY SUDDENLY BE HAZARDOUSLY LOW AND COULD CAUSE YOU TO RUN AGROUND OR DAMAGE YOUR BOAT — OR YOURSELF. USE EXTRA CARE THE NEXT WEEK AND UNTIL THE RIVER STABILIZES. I’M NOT SURE WHEN THAT WILL BE, BUT MAYBE WE CAN FIND OUT ON FACEBOOK.
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