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Meeting "jumpstarts" reservoir plans
October 3, 2004
By Chuck Cannon

The preliminary plans were put in place Friday to begin the process of creating a reservoir for Lincoln Parish.

Rep. Hollis Downs, R-Ruston, hosted the meeting of area engineers, financial leaders, and government representatives.

Downs told those who gathered at his office on Mississippi Street that the project has the complete support of Lincoln Parish's congressional delegation.

"Rick (Rep. Rick Gallot, D-Grambling), Bob (Sen. Robert Kostelka) and I are committed to the project for Lincoln Parish," Downs said. "They've sort of given me the green light to run with this."

Downs said Friday's meeting was an attempt to "jump start" efforts to get a reservoir built in Lincoln Parish.

"There has been overwhelming public support," Downs said. "There's been no opposition to the concept, only skepticism from those who have tried before."

Lincoln Parish Administrator Richard Durrett asked Downs if the reservoir would hamper efforts currently in progress to lay a 42-inch pipeline from Lake D'Arbonne in Union Parish to Ruston to alleviate the strain on the Sparta Aquifer.

"We're committed to solving the Sparta problem," Downs said. "We see D'Arbonne as being a significant part of solving that problem and don't intend to do anything to jeopardize that. But we want to press on with this economic venture and what it might do to alleviate strain on the Sparta."

Dean Dick, one of four engineers invited to Friday's meeting, asked Downs how the pipeline and proposed reservoir would mesh. "The reservoir would be lagniappe," Downs said. "Our driving force is economic development; any gain for water usage is lagniappe."

The reservoir would be funded by state capital outlay funds, built by the Department of Transportation and Development and managed by the state parks system, Downs said.

Reservoir developer Mike Thompson explained that before the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers gives its approval to a project, there has to be a "justified" need.

"In this case, it would be water," Thompson said. "You have a significant problem with the Sparta which makes it easier to develop a reservoir; economic development would be a by-product."

Thompson said there would be no competition for funds between the proposed D'Arbonne pipeline and the reservoir.

"They're helpmates," he said. "These are very expensive projects, but worth every penny."

Thompson told those gathered that the local community needed to come up with approximately $100,000 to get the project started. He said he would be paid about $85,000 a year for his part in the project.

"I'll file all the capital outlay requests," he said. "This is a political process, as well as an economic process, and I have experience in both."

Thompson, the former mayor of Delhi, has built reservoirs in Richland, Allen and Washington parishes.

Downs said that in order to "get things started," an economic development corporation — structured like an eventual Lake Commission that Gov. Kathleen Blanco would appoint to oversee the reservoir's construction — needed to be set up. He recommended a seven-person board selected from among those invited to Friday's meeting.

Thompson cautioned that those who agreed to sit on the board would be open to attack from those who oppose the creation of a reservoir.

"If you don't like it, don't do it," Thompson said. "If you can't take the heat, don't be involved. It's a sensitive subject. You're going to build over people's land and property."

Downs said Thompson would file a capital outlay request so that the reservoir could be included in this year's appropriation.

He also asked representatives of the city of Ruston and the Lincoln Parish Police Jury to see if their governing bodies would agree to sponsor the economic development corporation, to be called the Lincoln Parish Lake Commission.

After further discussion, the group assembled agreed to meet again in the near future on a date determined by Downs.

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