“The world is all gates, all opportunities, strings of tension waiting to be struck.”
That’s what Ralph Waldo Emerson said. It’s been a while since I took English Lit 404, but what I think he meant was that the world is full of open doors and opportunities. If we enter and encounter success, we revel in. If we don’t, the gates close and tension follows because we didn’t take advantage for lack of effort or enthusiasm.
Yes, this is all about empty lakes. Trust me. Lakes of opportunity that, if we don’t take start to take advantage of in a more timely manner, will become quite contentious.
With all the rain we’ve been having, the last thing I figured to be writing about this week would be empty lakes. But, here we are. Two of the oldest, most productive legendary lakes in our area have few fish and almost no water. Cheniere Lake near West Monroe and Bussey Brake near Bastrop are not doing well, stuck in the lake hospital waiting room waiting on Dr. Politicians.
I checked in on the slow-moving Bussey Brake project north of Bastrop and found that a few folks were concerned the past couple of weeks when they found water running OUT of the lake instead of water being put into the lake.
The water running out was intentional. But, the bad news is that progress continues at a rate slower than the bream bite after a cold front.
“Everything is in the hands of Facility Planning and engineers right now,” Ryan Daniels with LDWF told me. “We only received one bid for the pier and wavebreak project and it was rejected. It will soon be re-advertised with slight variation. We did have to let a little water out of the lake to completely dry the construction site and provide easier access. This will lower the construction cost and hopefully entice more bidders.”
The LDWF continues to wait for the final signatures from the engineers on the pump replacement project, then the job will be put out for bids. This is a pump that the LDWF knew was in bad shape six years ago. There are already a lot of fish stocked in the lake and that will continue as work progresses. The Governor announced earlier this summer that some funding would be cut from Bussey. But apparently all the current projects are fully funded and just waiting on acceptable bids. But that in itself seems to be a challenge.
International Paper donated the lake to the state in good faith that it would be renewed and opened back up to the public. That was back in November 2012. The project should have taken about three years. In case you haven’t been blessed with state induced common core math skills, we are now at six years and counting.
Things could be worse. At Cheniere Lake outside West Monroe, there is no lake. And worse even, there is no plan. No money. No light at the end of the pier. It sounds like the lake may have had it’s life support line pulled, but is still heroically fighting for life.
In 2016, floods devastated a large part of our state including the Cheniere Lake Spillway. The damage was severe, causing the lake to drain into the Ouachita River. The roadway had to be closed for a year for repairs. The area has never recovered. The spillway sits battered and broken. The lake remains basically empty.
And now, officials from the state and local political bodies are struggling to find out where funds can come from to replace the spillway and Hwy. 3033 bridge and who is going to do it, if anybody. Frankly, I don’t know what to tell you. One reason they are struggling is apparently this team effort does have an “I” in it.
The Ouachita Citizen newspaper has had several reports about the situation and who said what
about when or where something might be done. Citizens are still floundering like a fish on the muddy lake bottom trying to figure it out.
State, local and parish elected bodies, the LDOTD and a volunteer Citizen’s Committee are involved in the discussions. The only thing that hasn’t stepped forward is the purse containing an estimated eight to nine million dollars that are believed to be needed to fix the bridge and spillway. And that’s just the start to getting water and fish back in the lake. I mention it quite often, but when it comes to state involvement, projects like this north of I-10 just don’t seem to matter. The LDWF folks up here care, but the purse stringers seldom look this way. Perhaps since Louisiana has a brand new Deputy Secretary of LDWF from north Louisiana these projects can get some attention.
Federal funds could help complete the project, but the Police Jury hasn’t got the money for the match. The state may have the money, but hasn’t stepped forward yet. They’re spending dollars left and right since we taxed our citizens and businesses clear out of the same parish as the fiscal cliff. The highway is owned by the state, while the spillway and lake are owned by the parish. Frankly, from what I’ve heard, if the money was found, I don’t know who would take the lead in fixing this situation. Sadly the last thing that I heard about the whole situation came from Mike Wood, retired head of the LDWF Inland Fisheries and head of the Citizen’s Committee.trying to help with plans speaking to the media:
“We don’t know that the parish has that kind of funding, and there are not many alternatives,” Wood said. “Without the spillway, there is no Cheniere Lake. It could be known as the place formerly known as Cheniere Lake.”
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Since we’re waxing poetic today, I’ll close with a quote from Mark Twain: “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”
Dear folks in charge: Getting these projects completed does matter. It’s time to move them up the priority list, work together for the folks that elected you and trust you to get these things done. Bussey and Cheniere are two swamps we don’t want to stay drained.
And in case you are too busy to know, I would like to tell you this issue does matter. There are a bunch of us old guys that would like to once again wet a hook and tempt a perch in these playgrounds of our youth. There are young folks that deserve to use these areas and make their own memories. Don’t dilly dally too long. There are strings of tension waiting to be struck. Think about it.