For Immediate Release – March 19, 2013
Contact: Delia A. Taylor, APR, 225-931-0286 or email@example.com; State Rep. Major Thibaut at 225-638-3811 or firstname.lastname@example.org; or Justin Shaw, Fenstermaker, at 225-344-6701 or Justin@fenstermaker.com.
Researcher to Determine Amount of Sediment Entering False River
Study Important to False River Restoration Efforts
JARREAU, La. -- Justin Shaw has become a recognized face among locals along the Bayou Chenal and M-1 canals in Pointe Coupee Parish.
He can be seen on any given day in his green air raft, paddling to and from a series of research collection sites that have been set up along the two waterways. The best time to see him on the water is after a heavy rain.
That’s because the C.H. Fenstermaker & Associates water resources engineer is busily collecting data to determine the amount of sediment transported from the canals to False River, as well as what water levels and conditions increase the volume of sedimentation flow into the lake.
“To my knowledge this is the first comprehensive study to determine sediment loads entering False River from the watershed tributaries, and what conditions are contributing factors,” Shaw said. “This study is very important in addressing the long-term health of False River.”
For decades, the buildup of sediment that has drained into False River from adjoining tributaries has accumulated on the lake floor, stunting the growth of vegetation and impeding fisheries. However, government or private agencies have not been able to quantify the problem before now.
In fact, past attempts to address and correct the issue never gained traction or had a minimal impact, including a long-awaited plan of action from the U.S. Corps of Engineers that never materialized.
However, the 22-mile-long oxbow lake is now on the road to recovery thanks to the efforts of local state legislators Major Thibaut and Rick Ward who recently authored a bill to fund a restoration plan devised by the Department of Natural Resources and Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries. The State Legislature approved $500,000 last year to begin Phase I of the work, which includes Shaw’s research, and it will vote on prioritizing another $2.2 million for the effort in this year’s general session.
“While False River has been often studied, there has never been an official determination of the extent of actual damage caused to the lake by sediment infiltration in the 1980’s and 1990’s, or whether the sediment is still being released into the lake in high amounts,” Thibaut said.
Thibaut said that officials with the U.S. Corps of Engineers have indicated that most of the damage is likely over, but that the Corps has not tested its assumption. At the same time, local residents claim to have witnessed high volumes of sediment still being transported into False River after heavy rains.
“We are now doing something to restore False River, and it is important to determine how much of available money should be spent on dredging the lake and repairing the habitat, and how much should be spent on the tributary canals to stop or lessen the ongoing damage,” Thibaut said.
“Any effort to restore the lake would be a futile attempt, if we haven’t taken time to repair the source of the problem.” Thibaut concluded.
The plan is being overseen by the False River Watershed Council, which is composed of local residents, local government leaders, including Thibaut and Ward, and representatives from the state departments of Natural Resources, Health and Hospitals, and Wildlife and Fisheries.
“We are taking steps to address issues that have been overlooked in the past, or were not fully investigated,” said Department of Natural Resources Assistant Secretary Steve Chustz. “We want to do something quickly, but we also want to do it right.”
“That’s why we’re getting data on whether sediment is still being transported into the lake via the Bayou Chenal and M-1 canals,” Chustz added.
State Sen. Ward said, “People in the community are excited that we have a plan and that activity has begun. They recognize that this project needs to be done right.”
Fenstermaker was hired last year by the Department of Natural Resources, with the approval of the False River Watershed Council, to determine the level of sediment that is currently entering False River by the tributaries, and to propose sediment reducing alternatives within the area’s existing conditions.
To quantify his research, Shaw is continuously recording water and turbidity levels of the two main canals that discharge into False River – Bayou Chenal and M-1.
Turbidity is the measurement of the water clarity or cloudiness influenced by suspended particles. Typically, water contains a variety of suspended particles including silts, sands and organic material. Some of these particles are large enough and heavy enough to settle rapidly to the bottom of the canal or lake bed if undisturbed, while smaller particles settle much slower or not at all if regularly agitated.
Shaw has strategically placed data sondes in the two canals to record water level and turbidity data. The data sondes record pressure to measure water level fluctuations and water clarity in Nephelometric Turbidity Units (NTU).
“I have been collecting data and water samples since mid-October. The water samples are being analyzed at LSU, while Fenstermaker is analyzing water level and turbidity data, and Fenstermaker will issue a report this spring,” Shaw said.
Fenstermaker’s report will be presented to the False River Watershed Council upon completion, and will include recommendations for actions to remedy any issues identified, Chustz said.
Photos Available as JPG Files:
Shaw resets data sonde -- C.H. Fenstermaker & Associates Water Resources Engineer Justin Shaw deploys a data sonde to collect water level and turbidity data in Bayou Chenal near Bergeron’s on the Bayou in Jarreau, La.
Shaw reads information -- Justin Shaw, a water resources engineer with C.H. Fenstermaker & Associates, inspects the data sonde before deploying it in Bayou Chenal near Bergeron’s on the Bayou in Jarreau, La. The data sonde will collect water level and turbidity data that Shaw will analyze as part of his research.
Shaw paddling -- Justin Shaw, a water resources engineer with C.H. Fenstermaker & Associates, paddles back to Bergeron’s on the Bayou boat launch after deploying a data sonde to collect water level and turbidity data in Bayou Chenal.