SRA commissioners would do well to heed governor, consider impact

Last Modified: Saturday, January 07, 2012 11:24 PM American Press Editorials- Lake Charles

A proposed contract to sell water from Toledo Bend to several well-heeled investors in Texas is generating heat.

And well it should.

Here-to-date, it has been poorly publicized and equally poorly thought out by the Sabine River Authority staff and 13-member board commissioners that governs the lake, and has taken on the trappings of a runaway train.

The board is considering entering a 50-year contract, with an additional 49-year option, to sell up to 195 billion gallons of water to investors who would pipe the water to Texas. The contract would net nearly $55 million a year, according to the SRA.

But critics suggest the SRA staff and board are being penny-wise and dollar-foolish.

SRA Executive Director Jim Pratt has promoted the economic impact the contract would have on the area around the lake.

But what is sorely lacking is an environmental impact study from an independent, reputable scientific firm that would examine not only the impact of the sale on the lake, but on timber and farming interests the western corridor of the state, Southwest Louisiana’s petro-chemical industry and ultimately the aquifers that supply drinking water to more than a million people in western Louisiana.

Critics also raise a legitimate concern when they point out that the contract calls for a fixed price on the sale of the water. Environmentalists and scientists project that water will become this nation’s next ‘‘hot’’ commodity. Does it make sense to lock in a price for the water for 50 years?

There’s no question the sale of water would bring in revenue to the state and SRA. But what good is the money if the reservoir continues to dry up?

Lost is all of this appears to be the real stakeholders, the property and home- and camp-owners, many of whom invested their hard-earned money to settle along the lake’s shore. Today, many of them find the lake in full retreat and their property, wharves and boathouses removed from its waters.

Will the annual sale of water cause the lake to recede even further?

All of this should give SRA staff and commissioners pause to consider that they are selling the very commodity that makes Toledo Bend’s reservoir.

Southwest Louisiana residents can express their concerns to area SRA board members Byron Gibbs of Hackberry, Danny Cupit of Westlake, Carlton Gibson of Starks, Estella Scott and Stanley Vidrine, both of DeRidder, and Larry E. Kelly and Therman Nash, both of Anacoco.

The governor’s office has weighed in on the matter. Gov. Bobby Jindal’s chief of staff, Stephen Waguespack, told the American Press last week that the commissioners are ‘‘moving to fast’’ on the proposal, which is scheduled for a public hearing on Thursday and a vote on Jan. 26.

If the commissioners would do well to heed not only the governor, but consider the impact of the contract on the thousands of people who either live adjacent to Toledo Bend or take advantage of its numerous recreational opportunities.