Reservoir unnecessary, say project opponents

Published 8:25 am Friday, January 2, 2015

Property owners say a proposed Washington Parish Reservoir Project along Bogue Lusa Creek in the Oak Grove Community is simply a land grab and must be stopped to preserve their tranquil way of life.

Though permits were previously denied by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Washington Parish Reservoir Commission recently filed a new proposal and is seeking the corps’ approval to go ahead with the project.

In the latest plan filed by the Reservoir Commission, the purpose of the 3,262-acre reservoir would be to “provide additional supplies of potable and non-potable water, recharging underlying aquifers, provide recreation areas and economic development opportunities and provide storage of flood waters that can be available for use.” The watershed area would include 30,497 acres.

Jalon Pittman Beech, who lives on Moore Road, is one of the more out-spoken opponents of the project. She said approximately 20 to 25 homes and trailers would be affected.

“The Legislature is trying to take people’s property using eminent domain under the guise of public use,” Beech said. “They just want to build high-end homes around the lake, and it’s not about potable water. The U.S. Geological Service did a survey, and it stated there is no need for a reservoir to supply potable water in our area.”

Beech said Washington Parish Reservoir Commission Chairman Huey Pierce stated potable water is the primary reason the reservoir is needed.

“That is false,” Beech said. “The U.S. Geological Service survey conflicts with his statement. They talk about all this fluffy stuff about the reservoir is needed for potable water, recreation and real estate development. It’s only development for a certain few if the reservoir is ever built.”

Denman Engineering of Monroe is the engineering company hired by the Reservoir Commission.

Property owners say nine cemeteries in the area would be flooded or blocked by water from the reservoir. Additionally, they say houses built in the 1870s would be under water, including the Bouey Moore home. The log home is on the National Historic Registry.

“The reservoir would cover the entire length of the Oak Grove Community,” Beech said. “I would expect the Army Corps of Engineers would investigate permits if a project was going to flood a forest, which encompasses homes, cemeteries communities and wildlife, and put people in in potential danger of an earthen dam break. The communities of Plainview and Ben’s Ford and Bogalusa would all be affected.”

She said two 30-inch gas pipelines are below the proposed dam and pose a danger should anything go wrong.

Beech and a handful of opponents spoke out against the project at the Dec. 22 Washington Parish Council meeting. Washington Parish Council Chairman Michael Fussell voiced his support of Beech against the project.

“I will work for the rest of my life to see the Reservoir Commission dissolved,” Beech said. “I will make it my life’s work. If Commission members want to enjoy fishing and boating over my mother’s house and where my people are buried, then what does that say about them? To destroy a whole community and uproot hard working people so other people can go fishing is ridiculous. There are plenty of nice places in Washington Parish where they can go purchase beautiful waterfront properties.”