Suspension of Toledo Bend water sale negotiations huge victory for state

Last Modified: Tuesday, January 17, 2012 6:09 PM

http://www.americanpress.com/AP-Editorial-1-18-12

It’s been a glum beginning to 2012 for most Louisiana residents, first with LSU’s pitiful performance in losing to Alabama in the BCS bowl game and the Saints suffering a heart-breaking, last-second elimination loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

But while it didn’t merit a Second Line or a Mardi Gras parade, the decision to suspend Toledo Bend water sale negotiations respresented a huge victory for state residents.

The 13-member Sabine River Authority board was considering signing a 50-year contract with investors to sell nearly 200 billion gallons of water Toledo Bend. The water would have been piped to Texas and netted the SRA about $55 million a year.
But lake residents, property owners, industry spokesmen and environmentalists all howled in protest when they got wind of the negotiations, in large part due to stories published by the American Press and The Advocate of Baton Rouge.

SRA Director Jim Pratt said of the 386 written comments the SRA received from the public about the proposed water sale, only seven favored the sale.

Many critics complained about the length of the contract and the fact there were no ironclad safeguards in it should the reservoir’s level continue to fall.

Even more concerning was the lack of a independent, science-based, comprehensive study that would project Louisiana’s long-range water needs.

State Sen. Gerald Long, R-Winnfield, who chairs the Senate’s Natural Resources Committee, said he plans to ask for a blue-ribbon committee to study the Louisiana’s future water demands.

State Rep. Jack Montoucet, D-Crowley, said Louisiana’s water needs should come first and the state could ill afford ‘‘to give our resources away to another state.’’

Gov. Bobby Jindal had signaled his disapproval earlier this month when his chief of staff, Stephen Waguespack, told this newspaper that he believed the SRA was moving to fast.

The 13-member board, who are all appointed by the governor, heard the message from the governor’s mansion and the public clearly, voting unanimously to suspend the negotiations until the study can be completed.

This, of course, is but a chapter in the ongoing saga of the potential sale of Toledo Bend water, but it is one that Louisiana residents clearly won by a four-touchdown margin.