POINTE COUPEE PARISH, LA (WAFB) - Since 2011, newly appointed Pointe Coupee Parish President Major Thibaut has been part of the process to restore False River.
The sights and sounds of water, in sort of a cadence, crashing into piers is what most people in the community like. Over 30,000 acres in Pointe Coupee Parish drain into the river. The drainage is not necessarily the issue, but it’s what lies beneath the water that’s the center of a decade’s long problem.
"We’ve identified the areas that have the most silt,” Thibaut said.
“The problems are on the south side and the north side of the lake in what they call the flats,” explained Gerald Babin, project manager.
For years now, silt or soil has been washing into the False River. Thibaut says it’s common for oxbow lakes to have silt come to them.
“As water drains into this lake, it carries sediment. It comes from our canals, it comes off the banks of False River," he said.
It’s just Mother Nature doing her job, but the dirt has built up over time. It has become an issue for wildlife, hindering vegetation growth and causing problems accessing parts of the river.
The parish president says removing the silt reduces the “turbidity and makes it good for humans, animals and everybody alike. That’s whether you’re a fisherman, whether you like or ride around and cruise.”
Thibaut says some parts of the oxbow lake once 6 to 8 feet deep have now become 2 feet deep. He says there are really only two options.
“Either let it become land or you can remove it and try and prevent future sediment from coming in," he said.
The parish is opting for the second option. A dredge boat is slowly walking its way through the lake, pumping mud and water the consistency of a milkshake up the road.
“We’re vacuuming the bottom of the lake,” Babin said.
The plan is to dredge 100,000 cubic yards from the north flat area.
“Most of this area around here ranges from, 6 to 8 inches deep to maybe 3 to 4 feet deep,” Thibaut explained. “The goal is to get it around 6 feet deep.”
That depth for the False River is ideal for both fish and boaters, parish leaders say.
You might not able to see the soil escaping the lake up the road, but you can hear it. The sound of rocks and dirt can easily be heard through the pipes that stretch two miles. The silt is filtered into large sacks lying in a field that hold approximately 1,000 cubic yards. The plan, leaders say, is to pull out enough soil that’s the equivalent to a football field stacked 60 feet high.
”We don’t really want the water, we want the silt that can be deposited on the bottom of the lake,” Thibaut said. “We’re filtering out the water which leaves the sediment there. The sediment will dry out and it is available for reuse.”
The water that’s being pulled out will be pushed back into a canal and eventually the False River, where it comes out relatively clean. Parish leaders say False River was once considered a trophy lake, but over the years, it’s seen a decline. They’re hoping dredging efforts will restore the lake and bring people back.
Thibaut says this portion of restoring False River is the second phase of the project. The first phase took place on the south flat in 2015 and 2016 and consisted of crews pumping the silt into a levee, thus creating a 16-acre island on the south side. Babin says since the north side is a more populated area, they chose a different dredging method.
Parish leaders say once the project is finished, 100 sacks will be filled with reusable soil. The project is expected to be complete by summer of 2019.