Jury hears lake concerns

Published 12:01 am Tuesday, April 26, 2011

NATCHEZ — A standing room only crowd attended Monday’s Concordia Parish Police Jury meeting to get answers about the low water level of Lake Concordia.

Fisherman Eddie Roberts spoke first at the meeting, saying low water in the first four months of the year during spawning season is harmful to the area’s fishing.

Roberts aimed to discover if the lake commission intentionally lowered the water level and what could be done to remedy the problem.

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Roberts said a committee member told him the lake commission decided to remove a weir, which regulates water levels, after two residents complained their piers had flooded.

When Roberts noticed two top boards missing from the weir, he originally assumed it was vandalized, which had happened in he past.

Lake commission member Johnny Patrick responded.

“We did not draw the lake down,” Patrick said.

Patrick said the only reason the commission would have removed weirs would be to replace timber beams.

“We were waiting until (the weir) naturally failed on its own,” Patrick said.

Patrick said the weirs are, however, seeping water and likely need repairs.

“Boards are sometimes going to leak,” Patrick said. “I don’t know if the jury wants to spend a bunch of money to redesign (the weirs).”

Some Lake Concordia residents said the lake is as low as they have it since a 2006 drought.

Commission member Ronnie Hendricks said the lake will flood all but approximately 10 of the 214 piers on Lake Concordia if the water level rises one foot.

Resident Doug Schexnayder said Lake Concordia’s water level does have naturally occurring issues, such as the runoff from Bayou Cocodrie, but the lake needs more guidelines to regulate the water levels and other issues.

“(Lake Concordia users) either have fastest-drying lake in United States, or the lake is too low,” Schexnayder said.

Schexnayder suggested the police jury or commission create a pier policy to manage the lake and water levels to avoid the same problem in the future.

Commission members said no pier policy currently exists.

“All these issues with the weirs are not going to go away,” Schexnayder said.

Schexnayder said a gauge measuring the water level should be installed by which the commission, the pubic and police jury can measure the lake’s water level.

“Somebody needs a game plan,” Schexnayder said.

Roberts said no wake zones should also be enforced.

When asked by members of the public, commission members said they meet twice a year.

Schexnayder also questioned the jury about their responsibility in the situation.

“We will not take taxpayers’ money to control level of Lake Concordia. We will not have funds for that,” Jury President Melvin Ferrington said.

Ferrington suggested a person representing interests of fishermen join the lake commission.

Ferrington also said he will call a special meeting to discuss the Lake Concordia issues and invite the public, the lake commission and representatives from Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries.

Ferrington said the jury will see if Wildlife and Fisheries has grant funds available for the parish to install a water level gauge or make repairs to the weirs.