Joslin: SRA bends to public’s wishes

Last Modified: Thursday, January 19, 2012 1:12 PM

http://www.americanpress.com/Sports/Joslin-1-19-12 BY JOE JOSLIN / AMERICAN PRESS

Hello, anglers.

Wow, what a week! Most reading this column for the past two months have been following the subject of the pending long-term water sales contract between Louisiana Sabine River Authority and a broker group called Toledo Bend Partners.

Several Toledo lake area residents groups, numerous Toledo fishermen, Toledo residents and business owners have for weeks been expressing serious opposition to the proposal. These groups of people are breathing a little easier after a Jan. 12 SRA public meeting.

A packed room of 300-400 people crowed into the main meeting room at Toledo’s Cypress Bend Resort.

There was a lot of tension in the air before the meeting started as everyone was wondering what would be the response of the Louisiana SRA and the 13 commissioners to the public’s opposition.

The wait was short as the meeting was called to order. There was a roll call and a prayer for rain and the meeting agenda was changed to deal with the water sales contract subject first.

SRA Louisiana Executive Director Jim Pratt took the microphone and made a brief comment and read a prepared statement, which basically said that all 13 commissioners had voted to suspend contracts talks with TBP until Louisiana adopts a comprehensive surface water plan.

Pratt went on to add that 386 comments had been sent to the SRA in the established comment period from just before Christmas until Jan. 6. Of those, only seven expressed support for the contract while the rest — 98 percent — were opposed.

About a dozen audience members gave brief comments while several others who had signed up to speak, withdrew following SRA’s actions. The entire meeting lasted about an hour.

The top issues of public objection to the contract have been discussed in this column several times. There is much work to be done on this vital issue and I am encouraged that several local legislators appear to view this issue with significant importance.

While there were a few heated moments at the meetings I attended, most residents expressed their opinions and concerns in a civil and American free-speech manner.

Optimistically, the drought of the past 18 months could have a long-term positive impact on beautiful Toledo Bend. The drought made all of us realize the importance of plenty of water in the lake and the fact that we must get this contract right.

I saw very little in the tabled contract that put the lake first. We now have another chance. My kids and grandkids caught their first fish on Toledo, and like so many of you I love Toledo Bend and thank God for the many sunrises I have experienced there.

I personally express appreciation to Gov. Jindal’s office, Pratt and the 13 commissioners for reconsidering this important matter.

Our state agencies now have the huge task of developing a comprehensive surface water plan for water use in the rivers and lakes in our beloved Louisiana. We wish them well.