POSTED: Sunday, November 18, 2012 - 6:00am
UPDATED: Sunday, November 18, 2012 - 6:04am
Baton Rouge, La — The State Bond Commission on Thursday, November 15, approved the sale of $500,000 in general obligation bonds to begin restoration efforts for False River, improving the oxbow lake’s habitat for commercial and recreational fishing, as well as for recreational use.
State Rep. Major Thibaut, D-Oscar, and State Sen. Rick Ward, D-Livonia, led the effort to prioritize the funds in the 2012-2013 Legislative Budget. The funding will support Phase I of False River’s restoration, which includes dredging work and the creation of artificial reefs in the lake.
Over the years, silt from the Mississippi River has formed a thick cover over vegetation in False River, damaging the lake’s habitat, and creating shallow areas that hinder boat traffic and produce excessive muddy water.
“We are pleased to have earned the State Bond Commission’s approval for this project,” Thibaut said. “This gives us the green light to move forward, and I want to thank my fellow legislators for making this a funding priority in the budget.”
“This phase of funding for restoring False River is significant – it will begin to correct the problems that affect its ecosystem. We intend to maximize on our initial efforts in implementing the lake’s restoration plan,” Thibaut said.
Thibaut said the State Legislature also approved an additional $2.2 million in priority funding for completing the lake restoration project. He said those funds will need to be “moved up” on the state’s project list in next year’s Legislative Session.
Stephen Chustz, Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Nature Resources (DNR), said this phase of funding is planned to implement work on the south end of False River.
“The plan will construct islands and terraces to create aquatic habitat and promote fisheries in False River,” Chustz said. He also noted that the work will be overseen by the newly created False River Watershed Council, composed of state and local government agencies and community leaders who are helping to further develop and implement the restoration plan.
Those other agencies and government bodies providing input to the plan include the state departments of Wildlife and Fisheries, Health and Hospitals, Agriculture, and Environmental Quality, and the Pointe Coupee Parish Policy Jury.
According to Sen. Ward, “The implementation of a long-range restoration plan for False River is very good news. Maintaining the current activity on the lake, including the ongoing commercial fishing season, is critical. We must continue managing channel and sediment trap maintenance, collecting data, and taking steps to fully implement this plan.”
Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Director of Inland Fisheries Mike Wood serves as the Chairman of the False River Watershed Council. “We are ready to address the issues that have plagued the lake for some time, starting with improvements in the aquatic habitat as we work to implement the multi-faceted plan that has been developed. In implementing our strategies, we will begin to see improvements to wildlife habitat, fisheries and water quality. Hopefully, with continued sources of funding, our long-range conservation and watershed management actions can be accomplished,” Wood said.
Thibaut led the effort to commission the Department of Natural Resources to develop a comprehensive plan for resolving the issues with False River last year after struggling with delays and escalating costs while trying to work with the U.S. Corps of Engineers.
“The implementation can start straight away, and the plan of action is viable for False River – it’s what so many of us have been working towards for a long time. Thanks to the leadership of Rep. Thibaut and Sen. Ward, along with the bond commission, restoration work is on the way,” Chustz said.