BRAF: Consultants wanted for ‘Destination: The Lakes’ project

A master plan for the future of the deteriorating LSU and City Park lakes could be completed by summer 2015.

The Baton Rouge Area Foundation is seeking a team of consultants to craft the $400,000 plan that will outline upgrades that can be made at the lakes, identify funding sources for improvements and recommend a governance structure to guide the lakes’ future.

Firms have until 3 p.m. May 23 to submit proposals and finalists are expected to make public presentations on preliminary plans in June.

BRAF announced in March that it would take on the master plan effort, which is needed to keep the lakes from reverting to swampland. The undertaking has been nicknamed “Destination: The Lakes.”

In announcing its request for proposals from consultants, BRAF stressed that “the planning team must engage residents of East Baton Rouge Parish to seek ideas for making the lakes an even better destination for the community.”

The request makes it clear that officials will still need to come up with the estimated $20 million to $30 million, or more, necessary to complete the lakes revival project — a hurdle that has long hindered efforts.

The 16 stated goals for the project are mixed between recreational and environmentally focused.

BRAF’s request also specifies that the plan should include a chart ranking the priority level of each recommendation , so that the project can be piecemealed, if necessary.

The condition of the lakes has been a long-standing problem, with several studies highlighting the need to dredge the lakes to preserve them.

The six lakes owned by the city-parish and LSU — City Park, University, Campus, College, Crest and Erie — were created from swamps as a public works project in the 1930s.

The lakes have steadily grown shallower, and poor water quality, due partly to residential and commercial development that has increased pollution in the area, has had a negative impact on wildlife.

The two main lakes in the system — City Park Lake and University Lake — average about 2 feet deep, according to a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study, and fish kills from depleted oxygen in the water have become increasingly common.

In recent weeks, crews have begun surveying the lake to gauge the depth and soil quality.

A team from Fugro Consultants used a “swamp buggy” last week to gather soil samples from the lake so that planners will know how much material needs to be dredged and whether it can be used to build paths and other amenities.