Confusion, concern and caution are at the heart of water permit issues for the Webster Parish Police Jury.
Jurors voted to retract support from a feasibility study and permit process with the Bossier Parish Police Jury, which aimed to revive a water treatment plant on Camp Minden and potentially supply water to Webster and Bossier parishes.
Support was given by the WPPJ in May 2015, and the application to Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries was filed in October by Bossier Parish.
WPPJ President Jim Bonsall said last year the jury voted to work in conjunction with the Bossier jury to pursue the permit.
However, some jurors expressed concerns about the effects of removing water, especially as it relates to draw downs and fighting salvania and prioritization of customers.
Jurors and area leaders expressed concern with how it would affect municipalities and water sources for Webster Parish.
“This does affect the whole parish, not just the south part,” juror Daniel Thomas said. “As we move forward, surface water will become more and more important. While I don’t think there is any ill intent, it’s our job to think about the position we are leaving future generations in. We need a water study for our parish and to be cautious and plan for decades down the road.”
Minden Mayor Tommy Davis and Sibley Mayor Jimmy Williams attended the meeting and expressed their concerns, stating their first priority was to their municipalities.
“I’m concerned about how this would affect Minden and Webster Parish as whole,” Davis said. “I am not for it.”
Williams shared his concern was not only for who would be permitted to take water from Bayou Dorcheat, but also how it would affect Lake Bistineau and the quality of life for property owners and recreational activities on the lake.
Sibley and Minden were among several municipalities to pass resolutions last year in opposition to joining BPPJ in applying for a permit.
“I think we should look into our future needs in Webster Parish before we support a neighboring parish that has many water sources, taking water out of our only source,” juror Dustin Moseley said. “I also feel that we should look into the effects this would have on Lake Bistineau and the salvania. I have nothing against Bossier Parish, I just feel that our obligation is to Webster Parish, it’s future water needs, and the future of Lake Bistineau.”
The water from Bayou Dorcheat is owned by the State of Louisiana. Permits to take water from the bayou are given from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
“The real truth is this is state water. We could not stop them if they went through all the red tape to do this,” Bonsall said. “It is just as much their water as it is ours. Anyone can apply for a permit.”
KSA Alliance is the engineering firm conducting a feasibility study to opening a long dormant surface water treatment plant located at Camp Minden. During the May 2015 police jury meeting, KSA representatives reportedly said they would have to get a permit to draw water from Bayou Dorcheat.
“We’ll look at the plant essentially to see if water is available and if we can get it permitted,” Lanny Buck with KSA said at that time. “We will see what it will cost to get back on line, and we will develop who needs the water. We’ll see about the quantity of water, the quality and what the well situation is.”
In 2010 a study by Shaw Group for the Bossier Parish Police Jury revealed most of the need for water was in Webster Parish along with at least one water system in Bossier Parish.
Shaw’s study reviewed existing customers, identified potential new customers, produced a future growth analysis, presented a supply and demand review and gave assessments on operating costs. The Shaw report identified 25 utilities as potential users of Camp Minden water; 17 of those are in Webster Parish.
According to that study, the impact to Bayou Dorcheat was minimal.
Bonsall told the jury last year the inquiry into opening the water station on Camp Minden would need a permit, and that by supporting a permit with the Bossier Parish Police Jury, which agreed to absorb cost for the permitting and feasibility process, Webster Parish would not lose its water supply or be put in a compromising situation.
“Not only that, but if Bossier can’t get the permit, then there’s no point in doing the study,” Bonsall said. “It’s not something we would support if it was just Bossier Parish coming into Webster Parish to get water. Bossier Parish needs some water, and that’s why they are willing to pay for this first study.”
Bonsall said he was told last year that if the WPPJ did not support the proposal, BPPJ would not proceed with the process.
At the May 2015 meeting, Randy Thomas motioned to move forward with the feasibility study, seconded by Steve Lemmons to support the Bossier Parish Police Jury efforts to look into the feasibility of the Water Treatment Plant Rehabilitation and to concur with the study as presented. Only two jurors, Daniel Thomas and Bruce Blanton abstained from voting.
After the WPPJ gave BPPJ their support last year, Bossier Parish Administrator Bill Altimus reached an agreement with KSA engineers to study the quantity and quality of water that would go through the plant.
KSA representative reportedly gave Webster police jurors an explanation of the study, noting it would be conducted in steps.
Step one would determine if enough water is available, if the plant can be permitted and what it will cost to bring the plant back on line.
Reports on water quality and quantity, and the condition of the plant, were to take 150 days and the distribution study will require another 210 days. If KSA were to have found a roadblock to the project, KSA representatives said the study process would stop.
“I am aware that in 2015 the WPPJ voted to support a study done by Bossier Parish on the feasibility of Dorcheat being a viable water source. I think there is a lot of confusion on what that vote actually meant,” Moseley said. “The police jury records show that it was in support of a study. Some say it was in support of a permit.
“I’m all for studying, but I am 100 percent against the permit,” Moseley continued. “I was not on the jury at the time but I was following the issue. I don’t think we have enough information to support that and I don’t think we will have enough information until we have done our own parish wide water study.”
Bonsall said the miscommunication and lack of understanding has caused him to be embarrassed of the action taken by the jury at the December meeting.
“By withdrawing support, we went back on our word,” he said. “That does not sit well with me. I had to call and tell Bill Altimus and I worried over it for hours, because the action just taken does not reflect what the jury set out to do last year. We wasted Bossier Parish’s time and money and I am ashamed of that.
“As the jury president, I respect that some jurors did not agree with me, for what ever reason,” Bonsall continued. “And so even though I am disappointed, I have to follow their lead in what steps to take next. We all care so much about our responsibilities and are passionate about serving our districts and our parish, and that’s a really good thing, even if we don’t see eye to eye.”
The water permit issue was added to the jury’s December road committee meeting, which all jurors are a member of and were present.
Daniel Thomas made a motion to withdraw support of the permit application and withdraw support for efforts to look into the feasibility of the Water Treatment Plant Rehabilitation Study by KSA for the Bossier Parish Police Jury.
It was seconded by Blanton, with Dustin Moseley, Nick Cox, Bernard Hudson and Allen Gilbert voting in favor.
Opposed to the motion were Jim Bonsall, Steve Lemmons, Randy Thomas, Vera Davison and Jerri Lee.
Because Steve Ramsey is the chairman of the committee, he did not cast a vote.