Daily World from Opelousas, Louisiana on May 29, 2005 · Page 9
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Daily World from Opelousas, Louisiana · Page 9

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Opelousas, Louisiana
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Sunday, May 29, 2005
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WWW.DAILYW0RLD.COM DAILY WORLD SUNDAY, MAY 29, 2005 9 A tRhSnirosiay State's man-made lake craze questioned , V. " J ' VII Vf JZT ' - bonne and would partner with that project because "not one thing is going to solve the problem." Powell said he's concerned about how much the state is spending on lake projects "when we have so many other needs. Where is this on our priority scale?" ing final passage by the Senate, having already been approved by the House and a Senate committee. "We're concerned about our water resource, the Sparta Aquifer," Downs told the House. "In addition, there would be economic development," if a reservoir is constructed. Asked about the cost of the project by state Rep. Mike Powell, R-Shreveport, Downs said it was "subject to a guess" but he estimated $25 million. He said it would not interfere with a proposal to pipe drinking water from Lake D'Ar- Louisiana Gannett Newt Service Photo Mike Thompson recently discusses what Poverty Point lake will mean to North Louisiana. Happy Birthday In Loving Memory Of Our Beloved- Helen Ventress Your Birthday May 28th Passed Away 3 Months Ago your memory lingers, On Who Sadly Missed By: Sister: Joanne, Vv fin our hearts Sweetly There is That we tender, fond and true, not a day, dear Helen, do not think of you. Ml Beth Guines, regulatory branch chief of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Vicks-burg, says the Corps takes a close look at projects before issuing permits. If it's a reservoir in an area without a critical water shortage, applicants must show there's no alternative water source and must show it's the least environmentally damaging location. "We need to know the purpose of the project, whether it's for recreation or water supply," she said. "We want the details." Guines' office looks at public , interest factors, wildlife safety, amount of land taken from wildlife and people, and other factors. If wetlands or streams are harmed, mitigation is required. "The benefits must outweigh the adverse impacts," she said. "We're not for or against any project. It's not up to us to decide if a site should be a reservoir or a Wal-Mart." . Lincoln Parish officials are awaiting the outcome of legislation that seeks to create a reservoir commission before deciding whether to take Mike Thompson up on his offer to be director of lake development there. State Reps. Hollis Downs, R-Ruston, and Jim Fannin, D-Jonesboro, used the beleaguered Sparta Aquifer in their legislative arguments for constructing reservoirs in their districts. Both bills are await- To see why it makes sense to roll over your 401(k) to Edward Jones, call today. By Mike Hasten and Jordan Blum Louisiana Gannett News Service BATON ROUGE The state of Louisiana is investing heavily in the creation artificial lakes deemed necessary by some for solving water short-ages. Others question whether the lakes are being built more for water than for commercial development and who is profiting from the state's expenditures. State lawmakers are currently debating legislation to create five more reservoirs, patterned after the 2,700-acre state-funded Poverty Point Reservoir built in Richland Parish. If they are approved, Louisiana will have 14 such projects on the books. Most have received state funding over the past 10 years. So far, only one Poverty Point Reservoir in Richland Parish is complete. The 13 others, despite funding appropriated and spent on most, hold no water. . The man at the epicenter of the booming business of state-financed lake construction is state Rep. Francis Thompson, D-Delhi. Thompson pushed the legis-. lation that created the Poverty Point Reservoir and he help secure almost $40 million in state funding for the project, plus another $1 million in federal funding. His brother, Mike Thompson, landed the lucrative job as the director of the Poverty Point Reservoir district and other lake districts, and Mike Thompson's former business partner did the engineering and construction work on Poverty Point Reservoir. Mike Thompson and Terry Denman, the former business partner, are also involved in other lake districts. Francis Thompson also takes on the title of developer, as owner of a 12-acre peninsula and abutting land area on Poverty Point Reservoir. Thompson said he paid about $10,000 per acre for the land. Lakefront lots each less than an acre are marketed for between $27,000 and $50,000. Thompson would not specify how much his lots sold for. The primary push for reset--, voir construction is in North jj Louisiana, where the Sparta j' Aquifer is low. Wells in some? areas have gone dry and water quality in some others is poor. However, some of the proposed lakes are to be built in areas of the state that have no water crisis. Although it is not located in the Sparta Aquifer area, the need for drinking' water in Northeast Louisiana was a primary argument for building the Poverty Point Reservoir. "When we built Poverty Point, we built it for water," Francis Thompson said. But now, after the lake was filled using water pumped from four 16-inch-diameter wells drilled into the Mississippi Alluvial Aquifer and drawn from nearby Bayou Macon, no water has been withdrawn. "We have a pump to extract water," Thompson said, "but we're not selling it right now. Will it ever be used for drinking water? I hope so." Reservoir critic James Moore of Allen Parish, where a proposed lake threatened to take his property, says that from what he's seen at Poverty Point and heard in reservoir planning meetings, water is just an excuse being used to By Mike Hasten and Jordan Blum Uuisiana Gannett News Service Frank Finchum. AAMS 1105 Heather 942-8727 Family, Relatives A Friends Lenny DeVillier.AAMS 1717 S. Union 942-8753 y k v -? .A JS"" -ft ( r "i Ml EdwardJones MAKING SENSE OF INVESTING www.edwardjones.com. Member sipc secure permits and state funding for reservoirs so some people can make money. "They're not being built for water; they're built for money," Moore said. "They're taking people's homes to resell as new homes and golf courses." Moore has documented most of his claims on his Web site www.angelfire.comgundam reservoir and questions why so many lakes are being proposed. Thompson says it's because "The water level in a lot of our aquifers has come down over the years, not just the Sparta," so reservoirs are needed to relieve some of the strain on aquifers. "It takes a long time to come down but it takes even longer to recharge them. It's not like recharging a battery." In 1977, Thompson passed legislation calling for a study of building a reservoir in Northeast Louisiana. Later, he authored legislation creating a board with powers to expropriate property and use state, local and federal funds to build a lake. State funding followed. Thompson's , legislation, which he says he borrowed from other Btates where reservoirs have been built, has been used as a model for similar projects and is being this year as lawmakers seek new reservoirs in . Lincoln, Morehouse, Allen and Washington parishes. Providing drinking water is a major factor in whether the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will issue permits for reservoir construction, ,; said Mike Thompson, brother of Rep. Thompson and lake director for Poverty Point and a series of already-approved projects that have not been built. Although parishes that develop lakes enjoy economic development, the permit application has to show a justified" need, he told Lincoln Parish officials in a meeting where they considered applying for a lake. "In this case, it would be water. You have a significant problem with the Sparta which makes it easier to develop a reservoir. Economic development would be a by-product." "I'll file all the capital outlay requests," he told Lincoln officials. "This is a political process, as well as an economic process, and I have experience in both." Mike Thompson also was once director of a state-funded Rural Development Program. In an interview following that meeting, Choudrant Mayor Bill Sanderson acknowledged, "In all honesty, we're riding the coattails of the need for water, but the biggest impact is economic development. We have to be realistic about that." WIN YOUR SHARE OF inHiictrioo IIIUUOllICO By Jordan Blum Louisiana Gannett Newt Service MONROE The develop-; ing trend of reservoir projects in the state has much of the timber and paper industry casting a wary eye with fears of Louisiana becoming a giant reservoir. In theory, the growing number of proposed lake projects 14 statewide creates an intriguing Catch-22 situation. The development of lakes eliminates valuable forestry and agriculture land, while proponents argue lakes are necessary to provide surface water for industrial use. . The Louisiana Forestry Association is holding back opposition on the projects while judging them on a ; case-by-case basis to pre-'- serve the state's timber Louisiana's most profitable crop. "The issue with the reservoirs is we know they're not going to build them in cities or high residential areas," said Buck Vandersteen, executive director of the Louisiana Forestry Associa- tion. "They're building on agricultural or forested lands. It takes that land out of production permanently." . ' ' The permanent effects are why Vandersteen hopes the state will take the issue seriously and conduct a t, fully comprehensive study of the economic negatives of reservoirs, as well as the positives such as new housing and tourism that are constantly being touted. All the information must be known, he said, before , everyone starts jumping on the bandwagon" to have a man-made lake. "Every parish is going to ' want their own lake soon," ; Vandersteen-said. "How , many do we need? It certainly seems like the popular thing to do. Everyone wants to live around water and increase their property values, but too often we don't weigh the costs with the benefits." For example, Gov. Kathleen Blanco proudly cites !' 'with regularity the com-'! 1 -ymitment Alexandria-based " Roy 0. Martin Lumber Company made to expand with a new plant in Louisiana after she took office. However, the Martin lumber company holds about 700 acres on the proposed site for a 3,700-acre reservoir in Allen Parish on Mill Creek southwest of Alexandria. Allen Parish lies on the Chicot Aquifer, which is facing strain from over-pumping. The lumber company is not opposing the project now but may do so if the landowners do not receive fair property values and if the state does not purchase equal acreage for the company elsewhere as mitiga-, , tion, said Scott Poole, Martin Lumber chief operating officer. "The whole state doesn't need to be a reservoir," Poole said. "We need to limit the number and size. I'm not sure we need a hundred of them. There's positive and negative economic !. development." 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