SRA puts brakes on Toledo Bend water sales
Last Modified: Friday, January 13, 2012 10:51 PM
BY ELONA WESTON / SPECIAL TO THE AMERICAN PRESS
MANY — Water won’t flow to Texas from the Toledo Bend Reservoir until a comprehensive study is done on Louisiana’s long-term water needs.
In a surprise move Thursday, the 13-member Sabine River Authority of Louisiana voted to suspend water sales talks with Toledo Bend Partners, a group of Texas and Louisiana investors, until the study is conducted.
The announcement drew thunderous applause from the standing-room-only crowd at the Cypress Bend Resort Conference Center.
The water sales issue has been a heated one, drawing questions and concerns from residents around the state, as well as from Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration.
Jindal’s chief of staff, Stephen Waguespack, in a recent interview said that he felt the SRA was “moving too fast” in the deal.
SRA Executive Director Jim Pratt on Thursday said at the close of the proposal’s public comment period that the agency had received 386 written comments from the public.
Pratt said of those, seven wrote in favor of the contract.
Pratt said concerns centered around the length of the contract, its drought contingency plan, power generation policies, downstream impacts and ethics, among others.
Pratt said the SRA has eyed water sales as an enhanced revenue source for years and looked to it to wean the agency’s dependency off hydroelectric power generation revenues.
State Sen. Gerald Long, R-Winnfield, who represents the area and serves as chairman of the Senate Natural Resources Committee, addressed the crowd and said that this legislative session, he’ll introduce a concurrent resolution calling for a “comprehensive analysis” of the state’s water needs.
Long said later this year, he also plans to initiate the establishment of a “blue ribbon committee” made up of experts and residents who will aid in the study. He said he will work closely with state officials on the panel’s appointments.
Long also commended people for taking an interest in the issue.
“Your part in state government and local government allows us to make good decisions,” he said.
State Rep. Jack Montoucet, D-Crowley, was also at the hearing.
Montoucet, who serves on the House Natural Resources and Environment Committee and who is a landowner in the reservoir area, echoed Long’s comments.
Montoucet, an alligator farmer, said that water will likely be needed for Louisiana’s water needs in the future. He said the state has its own interests to protect — including agricultural interests like rice and crawfish farming operations, he said.
“The lake is important to this state,” he said. “We can’t afford to give our resources away to another state.”
Despite the board’s announcement, several people still spoke during the hearing, most of whom opposed out-of-state water sales.
Many raised questions about the SRA’s current operations, and others discouraged a deal going forward at any time during the future.
Several thanked the SRA for their decision.
“I hope we can continue to express our thoughts. I appreciate everything you did tonight,” said resident Dianne Lampman.
Sulphur businessman Joe Palermo Jr., who once served on the SRA, spoke during the hearing and said that the water sales issue should be decided in a statewide vote.
Palermo also referenced an American Press article that quoted Pratt saying it was “good strategy” for TB Partners to recruit some Louisiana investors “that were connected.”
Concerns have been raised about connections in recent weeks.
One of the investors is DeRidder businessman Aubrey Temple Jr., who once served as SRA chairman. Temple and another in the group, Donald T. “Boysie” Bollinger of Bollinger Shipyards in Lockport, are Jindal supporters and have affiliations with state boards.
“That’s the reason why you and I are here tonight, because of good ole boy politics,” Palmero said to the crowd.
Shawn Rosenzweig with TB Partners responded to Palermo, defending the group. He said the Louisiana investors in the group have “records of putting the state of Louisiana first.”
Under the proposal, TB Partners had sought to reserve up to 600,000 acre-feet of water annually.
The contract proposal outlined a 50-year term with a 49-year renewable option.
The maximum monthly withdrawal under the plan would have been 75,000 acre-feet a month.
The earliest date that TB Partners would have began moving water would have reportedly been in 2018.
The plan outlined that the SRA would get $4 million up-front by July 1. TB Partners would have also been subject to escalating reservation fees which would reportedly would have generated $40.2 million in revenue during the 10 years succeeding the contract’s effective date.
Comments made about this article – 6 Total
Posted By: Richard Provain On: 1/14/2012
Title: The Genius of Louisiana
Please do not hand this project over to any elected official in this state. So many have been bought and sold by some of these same people who are trying to get this water. Please use some common sense.
Posted By: Mike Turner On: 1/14/2012
Title: what a joke
I recently read this contract and I am disgusted by the audacity of the SRA to even consider this contract. Louisiana should never let this group decide anything. The price of water will continue to increase as time goes on and to agree to one set price is purely ridiculous. The drought in Texas is expected to go on for another ten years and that makes this natural resource too valuable to just hand over to a group of greedy corporations.
Posted By: Bob Richard On: 1/14/2012
If any of the members of the SRA ever wonder why Louisiana competes with Mississippi on which one will be 49th or 50th in every category ever measured in the US, they should look in the mirror and they will see the answer.
Posted By: Francis Meyrick On: 1/14/2012
Title: A SCREAMING wake up call
I think this should be a SCREAMING wake up call for everybody. Water is becoming increasingly a resource to cherish. And protect. From profit hungry, greedy, uncaring private interest groups. There will be more challenges. More attempted “heists”. rely on it. This is only another round.
Only 386 written comments? Is that how little effort the conservation lobby can muster?
Posted By: Janice Friend On: 1/13/2012
Title: Great Report
I was at this meeting and have read other articles in other media. In my opinion this report is well written and by far, is best accurate overall coverage. Thanks
Posted By: Vic DeVille On: 1/13/2012
Title: SRA The Joke of Louisiana
How could the SRA spend an entire year preparing this contract that would sell one of our only resources in this state for some chump price with a one hundred year contract ? These people are not qualified to be on that agency. It’s time to take Jindals political appointments and replace them with people who have some serious knowledge of business and pricing of natural resources. I heard from a friend they laughed that Shawn Rosenweig almost out of the room.