House Bill 321, was introduced by Rep. Jean Doerge (co-authored by Rep. Jim Fannin) and it seeks to form a pact involving the three parishes and the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries that would use all proceeds from water sales to benefit Lake Bistineau.
“We didn’t foresee any problems when we went down there,” said Bossier Police Juror Glenn Benton, who went to defend the bill with Webster Police Juror Jim Bonsall. “After going down there it’s clear the state is opposed to this, but we’ve got a lot of help down there (Baton Rouge).”
Bonsall and Benton gave an update of the bill at the seventh Bistineau Task Force meeting held May 26 at the Webster Parish Courthouse with more than 40 people in attendance.
The opposition Benton and Bonsall discussed first came from Rep. Thomas Carmody, R-Shreveport, who questioned why the bill wasn’t before the Department of Natural Resources Committee. According to Bonsall, Rep. Doerge said she tried to get someone from DNR to work with her, but her calls went unanswered.
“I’m really disappointed in Rep. Carmody. I don’t know where he got his information from, but I think he’s one of the ones who got it (the bill) out of the House Committee,” said Benton.
More opposition came from Lou Buatt, assistant secretary of the Department of Natural Resources, who said the bill could interfere with an ongoing study of water management in the region. He added that taking action before that study is complete late next year could have “unintended consequences.”
“He started talking about possible flooding and other issues,” said Bonsall. “He made it sound really good to that committee that we were about to take control of something we had no clue about. We didn’t get a chance to rebutt, but all we’re asking is to sell the water. We’re not trying to take control of anything. I think this is a no-brainer. They are already out there pulling the water out for free.”
The funds from the water would be used to battle giant salvinia and restoring Bistineau’s recreation areas. It could also help with a state plan that involves cutting trees and restructuring the spillway so the lake could be drained.
Bonsall and Benton said they don’t want to put the bill off any longer because the funding may not be available in another year.
The bill should be moved to the DNR committee within two weeks, but Bonsall said if it doesn’t make it in by then he’s afraid it won’t make it in at all.
BTF members present at the meeting: Greg Wilson and Bill Sims (Bienville Parish Police Jury), Elmore Morris (Bodcau SWCD), Billy Montgomery, Bill Altimus and Glenn Benton (Bossier Parish Police Jury), David Lowe and Rick Yager (Dorcheat SWCD), George McConathy and Bill Conly (Saline SWCD), and Charlie Walker and Jim Bonsall (Webster Parish Police Jury).
Look for more information on the meeting in Tuesday’s edition of the Minden Press-Herald.