Proposed reservoir sparks more dissent

Published 9:25 am Friday, January 9, 2015

Dear Editor:

It was very disappointing to learn that the Reservoir Commission had again renewed their permit application despite the overwhelming public rejection of the earlier attempt to cram an unwanted and unneeded reservoir down an unwilling public’s throats. It was simply incredible that amongst their litany of purpose justifications they have once again seized on the supposed need for more water supply, as that rationale was thoroughly debunked (with my assistance) in the original permitting round.

For the record, I am a now-retired geologist, with degrees from LSU and Stanford and with professional experience that includes several years of dam/reservoir assessments for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

I hereby challenge the commission to document the supposed “fact” that the “Southern Hills Aquifer System is under unsustainable stress, being depleted at the rate of one to two feet per year.” That inflammatory statement defies the actual facts since the aquifer system is neither under such stress nor decline in Washington Parish. The recognized neutral federal agency, the U.S. Geological Survey, Water Resources Division, indicates that this aquifer system is under stress only in the vicinity of extreme industrial use of ground water in the Baton Rouge area. Otherwise, the USGS publications and personal communications indicate that the remainder of the Florida Parishes have abundant supplies of good quality groundwater.

Due to space limitations, the commission’s other “purposes/justifications” must be more briefly rebutted. The issue of “recharging underlying aquifers” is without merit since there is no real aquifer stress as is. Recreation could only be a very small percentage contribution toward a reservoir. As for floodwater storage/control, that is a non-issue now, however with the advent of a reservoir dam, the potential for a major flooding threat due to dam failure is introduced (obviously dependent on how carefully the dam is built and indefinitely maintained).

As for the supposed economic development issue, in my view that is certainly the actual driving force behind the commission’s continued delusions of grandeur. Poverty Point was also permitted as a potable water supply but has apparently produced none to date. Instead waterfront property developments have produced direct financial benefit and legal entanglements for the group controlling that reservoir and their selected friends and family. Washington Parish certainly does not need “imported graft and corruption.” The actual very few new jobs that a reservoir might bring are in sharp contrast to the major jobs increase forecast by the commission.

Hydraulic (stream flow, etc.) calculations done for the commission by their “advisors” are suspect because calculations done apparently by the same group at Poverty Point were so wrong that in the end that reservoir would not fill, leading to the truly absurd “solution” of drilling large-bore water wells into the supposed declining Sparta aquifer and allowing that massive well flow to fill the reservoir. In the real world, the flow of Bogue Lusa Creek is unlikely to be adequate to fill this proposed reservoir and most certainly would not be adequate to maintain the commission’s “ideal” of a near constant (5-foot variation) “full” level, especially if any significant actual use of potable or non-potable water occurred.

The commission continues to try to confuse the issue of property rights around the reservoir, to include the absurd claim that adjacent landowners will remain in “full control” of their land usage. Even a cursory examination of the reservoir enactment law indicates just how much land usage control the commission could claim out to the full extent of the reservoir watershed.

Contrary to the continued assertions of the commission, they have totally failed in their most important duty, that of determining whether there was ever any real public need for a water reservoir, as that answer is quite clearly “no” (and that determination would have not cost untold hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer funds). After deciding to blunder ahead, the commission then failed to do due diligence in their second major duty, that of acquiring the assistance of only fully technically competent, experienced and trustworthy advisors. As it is, the main expertise of the “advisors” who somehow “magically/secretively” appeared in the parish, seems to be in their political connections. Finally, the commission demolished any remaining public support when they failed to distance themselves from their advisors after some of those advisors incurred legal charges arising from Poverty Point. Oh, what a difference for good it could have been if people with water supply knowledge, or at least a modicum of intelligent common sense, had been appointed to the commission instead of those so obsessed with a tyrannical power trip, as if as a wannabe dictator, determined to try to wield that presumed power even in the face of overwhelming public rejection, all conducted in as secretive a manner as they could get away with.

– Sincerely,

John B. Thigpen