Meeting on False River revitalization plans scheduled Wednesday

Pointe Coupee Parish residents will be given their first opportunity to comment on and receive updates about the ongoing restoration efforts for False River at an open house Wednesday in New Roads.

The meeting is scheduled from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Cottonport Bank on Main Street in New Roads.

The meeting will be the first time state and local officials have gathered in a public forum to discuss revitalizing the ailing oxbow lake since the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources unveiled its comprehensive restoration plan in May 2012.

Since then, the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, along with the Department of Natural Resources and the False River Watershed Council, have implemented several of the measures outlined in the plan and will give the public a progress report on those efforts.

Once designated a trophy lake for bass fishing, False River has been in decline due to heavy silt buildup over the past two decades. It has affected the lake’s water quality, stifled vegetation growth and curtailed fish-spawning habitats.

“It’ll be a two-hour period of time people can come in … to talk to representatives from the council, engineers and elected officials who will be on standby to answer questions,” said Mike Wood, director of Inland Fisheries for Wildlife and Fisheries.

Wood also serves as chairman of the False River Watershed Council, a 15-member board composed of state and local government officials and Pointe Coupee community leaders charged with overseeing False River’s recovery efforts.

One of the primary goals of the council was to prepare a detailed report for the state Legislature on curbing the lake’s 20-year decline. That report outlined techniques to reduce siltation and to better manage the lake’s drainage canals.

The details of that 65-page report, which was released in May, will be presented at Wednesday’s meeting.

“It’s a much broader plan than anything we’ve done before,” Wood said. “We want to make sure we address the whole problem and not just symptoms.”

The Legislature has already awarded more than $1.5 million in funding toward False River.

Those funds have been used to finance most of the revitalization initiatives last year — like the creation of gravel spawning beds in October that will encourage breeding of the lake’s fish species.

Other efforts have included lifting a 1991 ban on commercial fishing in False River and restocking the lake with 300 pounds of redear sunfish.

State Rep. Major Thibaut, D-New Roads, has said the state could allocate another $1.2 million in priority capital outlay funding given the progress made in False River within the past two years.

Future funds most likely would be used for the slate of projects on tap for later this year, including possibly dredging the lake and using the sediment to create islands.

“Before we move forward, we want to get some feedback from the public,” Thibaut said. “People want to know what’s going on, and there will be enough experts in the room to get the answers they need.”