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Reservoir proponent speaks out

Dear Editor:

Hopefully, the final decision concerning the proposed Washington Parish Reservoir will be determined on fact — not emotion!

Unfortunately, the recent letters to the editor concerning the Reservoir Project have been very long on emotion but sparse on relevant facts.

I am 79 years old and I have ancestral heritage in Washington and St. Tammany parishes. I am living on ancestral land that dates back prior to 1811. My house is located on a hill at the same location to which my great-grandfather relocated due to the flood of 1900 before the Pearl River Navigational Canal was build in the 1940s through the area. The four-lane highway project from Bogalusa to Bush affected more houses than will the Washington Parish Reservoir Project. These projects took several acres of our ancestral land. These projects did not cause destruction/extinction of the communities of Lee’s Creek, Poole’s Bluff, Rio, Sun nor Bush! None of us got to vote specifically on either of these projects — nor should we! Our “culture,” the act of developing the intellectual and moral facilities by education, enlightenment and excellence, has not been degraded. Nor will the Reservoir Project cause your true “culture” to vanish! We eagerly await the completion of Highway 3241 for the “Betterment of Washington Parish.”

The following short factual points for support of the Reservoir in Washington Parish are presented in an effort to inform the general public and combat the rumors and outright misinformation being willfully sown.

• Washington Parish can only control the surface-water that flows across it. The watershed area for supplying this Reservoir is entirely within Washington Parish.

• The Southern Hills Aquifer lying underneath Washington Parish also lies beneath other parishes and state counties. Washington Parish cannot control how much they pump from the aquifer.

• Water data documentation by governmental agencies indicates that the Southern Hills Aquifer System is under unsustainable stress, being depleted at the rate of one to two feet per year! The EPA has classified the Southern Hills Aquifer system as a Sole Source Aquifer, meaning this aquifer system is the only major source of water available in the region.

• International Paper Company, the major job provider and tax base industry in the parish, utilized approximately 21 million gallons of water daily.

• With a normal rainfall year, the Reservoir’s average daily capture rate is estimated to be over 51.2 million gallons of water per day.

• The proposed Reservoir would be able to help with water resource management through proper utilization, conservation and flood control.

• Land of the proposed reservoir: The Reservoir Commission would manage only the public body of water up to the “high water mark” and by law for the benefit of Washington Parish. The land above the “high water mark” surrounding the reservoir remains under the control of the present owner.

• The present land ownership of the proposed location of the 3262 acre reservoir pool is 63 percent (2055 acres) Weyerheauser Company and 37 percent private individuals. The reservoir lake would impact only 11 houses and eight mobile homes.

• This Reservoir Project is greatly needed for the long-term welfare and development of Washington Parish, as well as the region. The reservoir would provide an alternative supply of water to an area that has no alternatives, and clearly needs alternatives.

The Washington Parish Reservoir Commission, a state commission under DOTD, is composed of local volunteers appointed by the governor. The tasking of the Commission was to research the need and feasibility of constructing a potable water reservoir in Washington Parish and to make application for permits based on need and feasibility. This we have done! Three locations solely within Washington Parish were studied — Lawrence Creek, Bogue Lusa Creek and Pushepatapa Creek. The Bogue Lusa Creek location was factually determined the most feasible, cost effective and beneficial to Washington Parish. These volunteer commissioners are prohibited by state law from receiving any pay for their service — not one cent! These commissioners are citizens of our parish who look beyond today and focus on providing better opportunities now and for our future generations of this area. To my knowledge, no commissioner owns one square inch of land within shouting distance of the proposed reservoir footprints. The nearest is approximately five miles to the south.

Do you not know that “any and all tax issues” are votes by the people? About 70 percent of all property owners of Washington Parish are completely covered by “homestead exemption” thus they pay no property tax!

So, if you really want to help Washington Parish prepare for the future, digest the above “factual” bullet remarks the formulate your own factual — not emotional — thoughts for supporting the Washington Parish Reservoir Project and please write out a short note of support and address as follows:

Vicksburg District, USACE

Attention: CEMVK-OD-F

4155 Clay Street

Vicksburg, MS 39183-3435

Please include your name and address.

Mail before Jan. 12, 2015.

For the betterment of Washington Parish, I pray that the permitting decisions will be made on fact — not emotion!

– Thanks

Huey L. Pierce

Chairman

Washington Parish Reservoir Commission