In May, District 3 Webster Parish Police Juror Daniel Thomas called a special meeting to discuss the possibility of adding a recharge lake to the borrow (or bar) pits between Dixie Inn and Minden as a way to help add water to the depleting Sparta Aquifer.
"The groundwater that all of us take for granted will become a major issue in the future," said Thomas at that meeting. "It just really makes sense to me that we need to look at the possibilities of building a lake over the major recharge to the Sparta. I feel that adding head pressure (in the form of depth of water) makes sense. These bar pits go dry some years and a lake naturally would hold the water where the recharge would potentially continue 365 days a year."
However, others feel a recharge lake in Minden would be useless, and they have concerns about Bayou Dorcheat should a recharge lake happen.
The Stream Preservation Alliance (SPA) is a local committee focusing on the protection and preservation of Bayou Dorcheat and its public use. According to SPA, the proposed lake may inundate the last remaining public section of Bayou Dorcheat.
In February of 2004, the Webster Parish Police Jury (WPPJ) joined the Claiborne Parish Police Jury in support of the North Hills Lake Project (NHLP). One part of this project was to determine where recharge lakes could be placed in the two parishes.
In an open letter to the jury dated June 1, 2011, SPA said the NHLP indicated dams would have to be built across every tributary of the recharge lake.
This procedure would create settling lakes and ponds on every tributary on Bayou Dorcheat to capture clay and other solids.
According to SPA and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Bayou Dorcheat is a scenic stream and it is illegal to construct a dam across it within Webster Parish unless it is declassified as a scenic stream.
"The SPA very strongly opposes any dam proposed upon Bayou Dorcheat," SPA said in their letter. "The SPA will also oppose all public funding to study any proposal that could result in declassifying of the Bayou Dorcheat.
"From recent conversations with Keith Cascio, the LDWF Scenic Stream Coordinator, SPA does recognize that recharge lakes could possibly be constructed alongside Dorcheat. Such lakes could serve many purposes while not adversely affecting the bayou," the letter continued.
However, even the effectiveness of recharge lakes that don't affect Dorcheat are in question.
According to SPA, the Sparta lies beneath seven states and a single recharge lake is tiny in its comparison. One member of the NHLP Committee said a single recharge lake would actually have little effect on the Sparta.
Sparta Commission information says it takes 70 million gallons of water a day to service these areas. In order for the water rate to stabilize, that number needs to drop to 52 million gallons a day.
A conservation project expected to be in place by the end of this year in West Monroe would take 10 million gallons of wastewater and run it through a treatment plant for reuse.
Thomas and others believe a recharge lake in Minden could help with the remaining eight million gallons, but Ben McGee, a supervisory hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Ruston, and the SPA disagree.
"If the Sparta aquifer exists at land surface, any portion of rainfall percolating into the substrate would be considered recharge to the Sparta aquifer" said McGee in an email to Webster Parish resident and SPA member, Lane Merritt. "However, even in the recharge (outcrop) area of the Sparta, the Sparta aquifer may not exist at land surface, but at some shallow depth below surface material. In that case, the time for recharge water to reach the Sparta will be extended depending upon the thickness and transmissivity of the surface material."
That would mean the time for recharge water to reach the Sparta aquifer, in the outcrop area, would vary from immediately to months or years.
"Typically, groundwater velocities in the Sparta aquifer vary from 0.1 to 0.4 ft/day, depending upon the hydraulic conductivity, water-level gradient and effective porosity, which varies by location and by depth," McGee wrote in that email. "So, assuming water in the Sparta travels in a straight line (which it does not) between Minden and Monroe, it would take anywhere from approximately 2,500 to 9,800 years."
According to McGee, since the Sparta does not move in a straight line it would take closer to 8,000 years for water in a recharge lake in Minden to reach Monroe, where it is needed most. Also, a recharge lake would gain silt over time.
That silt would clog the connection between the impoundment (entrance for the water to the Sparta) and the aquifer, causing diminish in the amount of water that reaches the aquifer.
Due to the silt issue, recharge lakes require a leaky bottom to be efficient.
"Therefore, with receding shorelines we question will this be friendly to boat ramps, access points, fish and wildlife and waterfront residences," said the SPA in their letter. "The entire bed and bottom of the lake must be removed by excavation down a foot or two or even more to allow the water to contact the more porous soils. This would appear to leave the lake bed flat and featureless and void of all woody plants, including cypress trees."
There are currently conservation efforts going on around the state and some have seen major results from efforts in southern Arkansas.
In their letter, SPA suggested forgoing artificial recharging in favor of conserving the ground water as conservation "has an immediate and more profound effect on the aquifer."