La. task force working toward a water resources plan

Louisiana doesn’t have a comprehensive plan on how to manage its groundwater and surface water resources, and it’s time it did, speakers at a Water Management Advisory Task Force said Wednesday.

“I haven’t met anyone here or elsewhere who doesn’t want a comprehensive plan that looks to the future,” said Jim Pratt, executive director of the Sabine River Authority and chairman of the task force. “How do we get there? I’m actually at a loss for words and looking for some recommendations.”

In March, the Louisiana Ground Water Resources Commission sent a report to the legislature on managing groundwater resources, with an addendum on surface water resources.

Since that time, the legislature gave the commission a new name — Louisiana Water Resources Commission — and included new duties to include surface water resources.

A problem with the water management task force, which advises the commission, was getting a quorum of its 49 representatives to hold meetings. As a result, not much has been accomplished, Pratt said.

In the 2011 regular legislative session, a bill authored by Sen. Gerald Long, R-Winnfield, changed the quorum requirement to 15 members to make it easier for the group to take action.

Then, in the 2012 regular legislative session, Long authored a bill that expanded the task force’s duty to develop a comprehensive plan not only for ground water but also for surface water.

“I see it as an opportunity for this group to be at least a fire starter for getting this done,” Pratt said of the need for a comprehensive plan.

“Everybody wants it, but how do we get it?” Pratt asked. “The tools are out there, but we’re so fragmented.”

Several people suggested the task force could take lessons on how to pull this information together from the state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority. That authority pulled together decades of studies, research and public input into a master plan for coastal Louisiana passed by the state legislature last year.

Long, a member of the task force, recommended that a smaller group be formed from the task force to draft a framework of how the task force should proceed.

“If you want to get it done, you’re going to get it done at this level,” Long said.