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Town hall meeting set for Bistineau bill

by Minden Press-Herald

A town hall meeting will be at Doyline High School Saturday to discuss and ask questions of Sen. Ryan Gatti, District 36, in regards to Senate Bill 415, which would create the Lake Bistineau Recreation and Water Conservation District.

Webster Parish Police Juror Dustin Moseley, District 12, says he wants the public to read the bill and understand what the rough draft would implicate if passed as is.

“It creates the Lake Bistineau Recreation and Water Conservation District,” he said. “It’s going to be in Bossier, Webster and Bienville parishes. It’s undetermined at this time where the district lines will be.”

Moseley says with the way the bill is currently written, the district would have complete control of the supply of fresh water from Lake Bistineau, which would benefit the property owners within the district.

The bill would give the district the authority to levy taxes, fees and present ballot issues to go before the State Bond Commission to incur debt. The idea is to generate income to pay for upkeep of the lake including dealing with aquatic plants.

It would also give the district authority to present recommendations to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries for the benefit of the lake.

“They have the power to sell water, and that’s a big deal,” said District 8 Juror Nick Cox. “The commission would have the authority to regulate the sale of water from Lake Bistineau.”

Moseley says the bill is a rough draft and is open for suggestions, comments or concerns.

“I want the public to understand what it is and how it’s going to affect them, good or bad,” Moseley said. “I’m not against a commission; in theory, it’s a good thing. The state is not going to allow anything to do be done. It’s a matter of whether the parish is in control or whether the state is in control. Something has to be done.”

Gatti says they are working on the concerns of the sale of water from Bistineau.

“We are actively working on those concerns,” he said. “I’ve met with Minden Mayor Tommy Davis about his concern on water sales and we are working on an amendment to protect his concerns.”

The board would consist of 15 members, with the District 36 senator recommending 12 nominees and the governor appointing six; the District 9 House representative would nominate six to the governor and he would appoint three (Bossier Parish); three would be chosen from House District 10 (Webster Parish); and three would be chosen from House District 13 (Bienville Parish). These appointees would be qualified voters of the state and property owners within the district.

“Lake Bistineau is a beautiful lake surrounded by great citizens,” Gatti said. “Because it spans three parishes, the voice of these citizens is sometimes not heard. The task force, police juries and state agencies are working very hard in a difficult framework. The commission provides a framework for Lake Bistineau to be heard.”

He says this week they are working on drawing the district lines, which will be right around the lake.

“Typically, this will include all areas within so many feet of the shoreline,” he said. “That number is being worked on in preparation for the meeting. The current bill is too expansive on this issue.”

Gatti says another concern regards the authority to levy taxes.

“We are also working on the geographical boundary of the taxing district for the commission,” he said. “We will have a rough draft of those boundaries by Saturday. This boundary will be larger than the area the commission regulates and will include large parts of all three parishes.

“It’s important to note that if the commission voted for a tax, all three police juries will have to approve by majority vote of each one,” he continued. “This means if Webster and Bossier police juries agree with the commission on the tax but Bienville does not, then the tax would not go before the people for a vote.”

Gatti is also expected to discuss Senate Bill 261, which, if passed, will authorize “two or more parishes to create a game and fish preserve when the preserve is located in multiple parishes.”

“It’s hard to do anything because there’s no governing body,” Moseley said. “We get to form a commission at the minimum, and I think this will take place. It would have the authority set by the commission.”

The meeting will be at 3 p.m., Saturday, April 23, at Doyline High School, located at 376 College St.

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