Spring Bayou ‘master plan’ adopted

Addresses issues of silted channels, vegetation, low-water levels

While there was talk at the Avoyelles Police Jury meeting of possibly creating an overall master plan for economic development, another more narrowly focused master plan was presented and approved.

The “Spring Bayou Watershed Restoration Master Plan” was unanimously endorsed by the Spring Bayou Lake Commission and forwarded to the Police Jury for final approval, which it received at the June 11 meeting.

“The next move is to send letters out to our partnering agencies and seeking funding assistance,” Lake Commission Chairman Jim Landry said. “The plan is contingent on funding to implement it.”

Current “project partners” include the U.S. Agriculture Department Natural Resources Conservation Services, Ducks Unlimited, USA Rice, La. Department of Wildlife & Fisheries, Tunica-Biloxi Tribe, Avoyelles Soil Conservation District, Avoyelles Police Jury, Red River-Atchafalaya-Bayou Boeuf Levee District, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Spring Bayou Restoration Team and the Avoyelles Parish Wildlife Federation.

He said there are several other government and private agencies considered to be “potential supporters.”

Landry said the fact that the diverse membership of the commission was able to unanimously agree on the plan is a good indicator that it addresses everyone’s problems and concerns.”

Landry said Spring Bayou Watershed is “one of the most significant fish, wildlife and wetland ecosystem in the South.”

He said the watershed includes a state Wildlife Management Area, two National Wildlife Refuges and is located within the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area.

“To native Louisianans and tourists alike, it exemplifies the unique lowland habitats that give this state its nickname -- Sportsman’s Paradise,” Landry added.

He said those environmental features deteriorated over time due primarily to sedimentation, rampant growth of aquatic vegetation, decreased fish spawning habitat and degraded water quality due to environmental conditions and seasonal flooding.

The “Ecological Restoration Master Plan” presents ways to restore the watershed with the ultimate goal of restoring fresh water sources and retaining proper water levels and removing and preventing sedimentation.

‘NOW IS THE TIME...’

“For the sake of future generations, now is the time to take action,” Landry said.

He noted the plan is still “an on-going work-in-progress” and will be revised as needed to address future issues that arise.

The Spring Bayou Watershed includes a 70-mile stretch along the south bank of Red River from where it empties into the Atchafalaya/Mississippi north. It drains about 260,000 acres of timber, farm and pasture land in north Rapides and Avoyelles parishes.

Of that acreage, only 21,650 acres -- about 8 percent -- are developed.

The Spring Bayou Lake Complex is located within the overall watershed and stretches from the Marksville area to Bordelonville. A large part of the complex is included in the state’s Spring Bayou WMA.

The master plan sets out a “blueprint for the ecological restoration of Spring Bayou,” the plan states.

PRIMARY GOALS

Its primary goals are to remove unnatural sediment deposits from the lake and stream bottoms with dredging, prevent future sediment deposits and the overgrowth of aquatic vegetation, implement a management plan for retaining and releasing water in the lake complex and identify/develop access to new surface water sources to supply fresh water to “better mimic the historic, natural, hydrologic processes of the ecosystem.”

A major component of the master plan, and a key to the future growth and success of Spring Bayou, is to find a way to introduce more fresh water into the complex during the low-water period of July-September.

One suggestion has been to construct a pumping station on Red River. That would be expensive to build and also incur continuous maintenance and operational expenses.

To replace water lost to evaporation during the summer months would require pumping 27,000 gallons per minute into the complex. The report indicates two possible sites for a pumping station -- one near the Red River Oxbow between H. Dauzat Road and Breanna Lane and the other in the Fifth Ward area.

This project would also require a control structure at the juncture of Choctaw Bayou and Coulee des Grues to prevent backflow into Li’l Choctaw Bayou flowing toward Belledeau.

“This project is considered to be a long-term project,” the written report notes, adding that “progress will depend on set priorities and available funding.”

Landry said no overall estimate has been determined yet, “but all indications are it will be high.”

The combined costs of the dredging project and bringing freshwater into the complex could exceed $10 million.

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