Parish lake levels leave some in danger

Published 12:07am Friday, January 18, 2013

FERRIDAY— High water levels caused by days of rainfall on several lakes and waterways in Concordia and Catahoula parishes are leaving some residents hoping the rain is gone for good.

Piers on Lake St. John, Lake Concordia and Black River Lake are underwater after 10 to 15 inches of rain fell in the area over nine days.

Johnny Patrick, member of the Lake Concordia committee, said the water is an estimated three feet above the normal pool stage of 48.5 feet — bringing the total to 51.5 feet.

Those levels are higher than when Hurricane Gustav passed through the area in 2008.

“Luckily I don’t know of any houses that are under right now, but just about everyone’s piers are completely underwater,” Patrick said. “This are the highest levels we’ve seen in a long time.”

And even though the rain stopped Thursday, sheriffs from both parishes declared the waterways closed to boat traffic in an attempt to limit any more damage caused from wakes coming off boats that were inundating piers and houses.

“What’s happening is that if people’s piers aren’t under already or they don’t already have water in their houses, the wakes from the boats were slamming up and causing even more damage,” Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy David Hedrick said. “In these extreme conditions where the water levels are so high, we just want to make sure everyone is safe — both residents and boaters.”

Hedrick said boaters on Lake Concordia and Lake St. John who were traveling on those waterways before they were closed off were also reporting damages to their boats from hitting underwater piers they thought were loose pieces of debris.

That problem is also being seen on Black River Lake, Catahoula Parish Sheriff James Kelly said. His deputies were assisting boaters who found themselves with basketball-size holes from hitting a sunken pier.

Deputy George Bruce said the water levels are higher than he — and most residents — can ever remember seeing on Black River Lake.

“We’ve had people here since 1962 who are saying the water has never been this high on this lake,” Bruce said. “Luckily, we’ve seen boat traffic die down since (Thursday), but I’ve been helping people with huge holes in their boats.”

The other problem on Black River Lake, Bruce said, is dealing with houses that have electricity running to their currently underwater piers.

“Most of those have walkways going out to the pier, and if someone were to walk out there and touch the pipe railing it could be a real hazard,” Bruce said. “Those people that have camps out here that just come out for the weekend, need to make sure their houses aren’t damaged and that they shut their breakers off.”

Other lake residents, like Concordia Parish Clerk of Court Clyde Ray Webber who lives on Lake St. John, haven’t been too impacted from the high water.

“We live kind of in the center of the area which is a high spot, so it’s not affecting us as much as some of the people on the other ends,” Webber said. “I don’t remember the circumstances of when the water was this high last time, but it’s certainly been a long time.”

The waterways closed in both parishes include:

•Black River Lake

•Cross Bayou

•Cocodrie Bayou

•Workinger Bayou

•Lake Concordia

•Lake St. John

Non-emergency boat use on those waterways may result in a citation.