Parish council hears reservoir concerns

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Parish Council met Monday for a routine meeting and heard some suggestions for maintaining the Pearl River canal from resident Gary Parker.

Parker, who is a fisherman and hunter, told the council he’s been in contact with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the they told him they’re going to give maintenance responsibilities of the canal to the state. He said the Corps will turn the canal over in three years.

The canal runs parallel to the river and it was cut as a straightaway route. Over the years the river has grown choked with logjams, though now the canal is getting choked as well.

Parker said he hopes the parish will begin looking at funding options, including grants, to at least clear the canal. In addition, Parker suggested that the small dams called sills should be taken out at two access points. He said the sills are dangerous and inhibit access to the rest of the swamp.

Parker also suggested that the parish government could look at creating a reservoir with the river.

“It could be some of the best fishing and recreation in the area,” he said.

He noted that there are no reservoirs in this part of the state, and such an attraction could bring boaters and fishermen to the area.

“There’s no fishing reservoirs on this side of the state,” he said. “We need something, we really do.”

Parker made it clear he was opposed to “taking people’s land,” and against the current parish reservoir project that is poised to die upon passage of a Senate bill.

“I hate we’re losing a reservoir, but I’m against taking people’s land,” he said.

Parker pointed out that there is lots of land for sale along the canal, so if a reservoir were created it could possibly be done without eminent domain.

Councilman Michael Fussell said the parish would need to get with the Corps to see what their plans are regarding the canal. Fussell asked for Parker’s contact details.

Phillipp Bedwell, a member of the parish’s Republican Executive Committee, told the council the committee will be hosting all the Republican candidates for U.S. Senate on June 11.

Bedwell said the public forum will run from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the First Pentecostal Church in Bogalusa.

“If any other Republican candidates announce before then, we’ll invite them, too,” he said.

The deadline for filing is July 22, and the election will replace Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter, who is not running for re-election.

Parish President Richard “Ned” Thomas reported that he has been in contact with the state’s Wildlife and Fisheries Department about removing the sills along the Pearl River, and the process is ongoing. He also said he’s been in contact with federal authorities about the logjam in the river, and noted that the jam is in Mississippi’s waters. He then gave an update on FEMA flood assistance and reported that 98 percent of households in the parish that reported damage have been inspected. Thomas said that over $5.1 million in funding was given to parish residents.

Thomas said FEMA representatives are still at the Bogalusa library and the deadline to register for aid is June 13.

The council also approved the introduction of an ordinance that could include Deer Run Drive on the parish’s inventory list, pending a public hearing prior to the May 23 meeting and a council vote. That public hearing will be at 5:45 p.m.

The meeting wrapped up with the members of the council thanking Parker for his concerns. Councilman Perry Talley in particular noted the severity of the logjam.

“Somebody is going to die down there if something’s not done with that log jam,” he said. “It’s not a matter of if, but when. Someone is going to die.”

The next parish council meeting is Monday, May 23.