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Publication: American Press
Publication Date: 04/24/2002
Page and Section: 6 B

Allen Parish waits for governor to grant reservoir district



OBERLIN -- Allen Parish officials are waiting nervously for Gov. Mike Foster to sign a bill creating the Allen Parish reservoir district and commission.

A bill introduced by state Rep. Herman Ray Hill, D-Dry Creek, and state Sen. Don Hines, D-Bunkie, was approved by the state Legislature earlier this month, but Foster has yet to sign it into law.

Oberlin mayor and lake committee chairman Phil Beard spoke on the status of the project at Monday's Allen Parish Police Jury meeting.

"We're just trying to keep our fingers crossed," Beard said. "It looks pretty good if we can get the governor to sign the bill."

Beard said that a large landowner in Allen Parish who is opposed to the project has been lobbying Foster. Beard did not know any specifics of the opposition.

No site has been selected, and any land that is used for the reservoir will be purchased at fair market value, Beard said.

In a telephone interview, Hines said that the parish's major landowners already agreed to the project. He said Hill met with landowners and timber companies before the bill was drafted.

Hines said he was optimistic that the bill would be signed.

The bill received minor resistance from industry in the recent legislative session.

A spokesman for Roy O. Martin Lumber Co. spoke against the bill, saying it could set a precedent in other parishes and deplete the state's forestry resources.

An amendment was added in a House committee that restricts the size of the lake to no more than 6,000 acres. The House voted 97-3 for the bill.

Police Jury President Kenneth Hebert said that he and other parish officials had considered traveling to Baton Rouge to press the issue, but were reassured by Hill that the trip was not necessary.

If the bill is signed, the reservoir would be administered by five commissioners. They would be appointed by the governor and would have to be confirmed by the state Senate. Commissioners would not be paid.

The panel again delayed the approval of a contract for consultant Mike Thompson until the commission is formed. Thompson played a vital role in moving the bill through the Legislature, Beard said.

In other business,