- Associated Press - Monday, September 22, 2014

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - As plans to restore the LSU lakes move forward, saving them as lakes could mean draining them.

The six lakes - City Park, University, Campus, College, Crest and Erie - were created in the 1930s when a cypress swamp on the property was cut down. Ever since, soil from the surrounding land has been washing into the lakes making them too shallow to be healthy.

To help keep the lakes from reverting to swamp, workers could use dredging equipment to remove much of the sediment that has accumulated over the decades.

An attempt in the 1980s to dredge the lakes without draining them ran into problems because of myriad stumps left underwater after the swamp was cleared. The dredges could only cut a channel through the middle of the largest lake - not a long-term solution.

John Spain, executive vice president of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, tells The Advocate (https://bit.ly/1uRY5NB ) there are two scenarios.

The entire lake system would be drained while the sediment is removed. In the other, “coffer dams” would be built to wall off smaller areas at a time for dredging.

How long each scenario would take is unclear, though Spain says the best guess right now is about two years for either. Cost could also be a factor in choosing between the two, he noted.

“It’s also true at the end of the day there could be policy issues that could dictate that,” Spain said. “BREC and LSU own the lakes, we don’t.”

If the lakes are drained, what will be left behind until they refill with water will largely be muck - smelly and unsightly.

Lakeshore Civic Association President George Bayhi says his group, whose members live around four of the lakes, hasn’t yet officially met to discuss what they’d like to see done.

“Of course, everybody wants it dredged,” he said. “There may be an odor problem associated with it, but hey, I don’t think there’s anything that can be done about that, and we need to do what we need to do to do it right.”

Spain said the sediment taken from the lakes could be used to improve biking and walking paths around them. But that would make the lakes slightly smaller, he said.

“You’re going to have compromises here, and people understand that,” he said.

The Baton Rouge Area Foundation will have no shortage of ideas on how to proceed. Public meetings are set to start in November.

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Information from: The Advocate, https://theadvocate.com


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