Commission chairman says project beneficial to everyone

Published 8:21 am Friday, January 2, 2015

As chairman of the Washington Parish Reservoir Commission, Huey Pierce sees the proposed reservoir as a win-win for all citizens.

Pierce said property owners who own land on the proposed Bogue Lusa Creek site in the Oak Grove Community and all parish residents would gain in the long run from increased recreational activities, development and a larger tax base. Land owners say the reservoir would uproot them from ancestral homes and their quiet way of life. Cemeteries would also have to be relocated

Letters to the editor from both sides have of the reservoir project have poured into the Daily News. As for Pierce, he only sees the project’s benefits.

“Emotions blind human beings. They don’t want to hear the facts,” Pierce said. “They grab for any information or anything they can misconstrue. I don’t like to deal in emotion. This reservoir should be decided on fact, not emotion. All sides benefit in recreation, employment opportunities and available water.”

Pierce said property owners would be paid handsomely for the loss of their land.

“It’s like a road or any other project. Owners are paid fair market value for their land by state law,” Pierce said. “They either accept the offer or the state has ways to obtain it if it goes further with the project.”

The chairman also said the Commission would manage the water only up to the high water mark surrounding the reservoir. He said the land above the high water mark around the reservoir would be under the control of the current property owner.

“Let’s say you had 40 acres. We take 10 acres below the high water mark. The 30 acres above the high water mark the land owner would still own,” Pierce said. “

Pierce said Washington Parish can only control the surface water that flows across it. The watershed area that supplies the reservoir is wholly within the parish. He said the Southern Hills Aquifer that lies underneath the parish is also in other parishes and counties. He said Washington Parish can’t control the amount of water pumped from the aquifer.

Pierce added that a large benefit is development.

“There are developments that can go around your land,” Pierce said. “That would draw people that want to build close to the water.”

Pierce talked about taxes as well.

“Normally, people build houses that are not fully covered by homestead exemption. If you’re covered by homestead exemption, you don’t pay for the taxes that go to help the police department and public schools,” Pierce said. “The person who lives there buys gas, eats in local establishments and shops in the local stores. I believe all that helps our parish.”

Pierce said currently 11 homes and eight trailers are in the proposed reservoir site. The proposed reservoir consists of 3,262 acres. He said 63 percent of the proposed site is currently owned by Weyerhaeuser Co. while 37 percent of the land is owned by private individuals.

“There are multiple benefits for a reservoir that attract individuals who want to build nice homes and recreation,” Pierce said. “Most of that is totally dependent on the owner who owns the land. Only the public body of water is managed by the Commission for the benefit of Washington Parish.”