By any means necessary?


Chuck Cannon, chuck@rustonleader.com
03-06-2005




I’ve got a problem.

It has to do with an issue that some of our local politicians — men whom I respect and believe want what’s best for this area — support.

The issue is a reservoir for Lincoln Parish.
On the surface, a nice recreational lake for our parish seems like a good idea. We are in the heart of Sportsman’s Paradise, and one need only look at Lakes D’Arbonne, Claiborne and Caney to see that a recreational lake would probably bring some people to the parish that might not otherwise visit.

But when you start weighing the cost of such a venture — and the way one advisor recommends we go about getting its approval — some very serious questions arise.
To get approval for such a lake, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers must give its blessing. Lake planner Mike Thompson, brother of State Rep. Francis Thompson, D-Delhi, suggested we tell the Corps of Engineers that the lake — or reservoir — would be used to relieve pressure on the Sparta Aquifer. If this was indeed the case, then a reservoir for the parish would be a no-brainer.

But consider this — during a planning meeting a few months ago when the idea of a reservoir was first being bandied about, Thompson told a gathering of engineers, political leaders and potential investors that there were no watersheds within Lincoln Parish that could hold enough water to make a significant impact on the Sparta. He said a reservoir would be an economic development project, but that the Corps would probably not give approval unless we said it was for producing potable water.

In other words, Thompson recommended that we lie to the Corps of Engineers — or at the very least, stretch the truth to an unrecognizable shape.
Perhaps I’m naive, but this does not sound like the way our parish should conduct business. Once you’ve gone down that path, it gets easier and easier to make the trip.

I guess I can understand Thompson’s zeal in building a reservoir in Lincoln Parish — he stands to make a bundle “advising” us on what we should do. With his political connections in Baton Rouge, he seemed sure that he could grease the skids and get the necessary permits to make a reservoir happen, much like he did with the Poverty Point Reservoir.

But there is a problem with that body of water located to our east. At this time, there is no potable water being used from Poverty Point Reservoir. There is also no water flowing over its spillway. In fact, there are four wells drawing water from the Sparta to fill the reservoir. This hardly seems like a venture that is working to save our precious resource.

In addition to the question of if a reservoir would actually help the Sparta, there is the funding needed to build such a project. Thompson said the funding could be acquired from state capital outlay funds. What he did not say is that if money is allocated for a reservoir in Lincoln Parish, then funds originally dedicated for other projects in the parish would be cut. The state only has a certain amount of capital outlay funds to divvy up — if some of those funds are dedicated to a reservoir, it only stands to reason that other projects — projects that could mean infrastructure that would foster economic development — will lose their funding, or be further delayed.

We have three wonderful recreational lakes within 20 miles of Ruston. Before we build another one, let’s make sure it is really needed. And if it turns out that it is needed, then let’s go about it the right way. We don’t need to build a lake by telling a fish tale to the Corps of Engineers.

Chuck Cannon is editor of The Ruston Daily Leader. Write him with comments or story ideas at chuck@rustonleader.com.

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