NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Larto and Saline lakes in Catahoula, LaSalle and Rapides parishes are losing water into Black River because a dam designed to hold that water has failed, the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries says.
An estimated 75 yards of the embankment called Cross Bayou Weir blew out after heavy rains last week, Mike Wood, the department's director of inland fisheries said Wednesday. He estimated that the lake dropped 8 ½ to 9 ½ inches in the previous 24 hours. It will keep falling as the Red River does, he said.
"We're already getting calls about the water level falling," said Billy LaPrairie, co-manager of Uncle Bud's Cabins and RV Park on Larto Lake.
Anglers flock to the lake in mid-February because that's when crappie move into shallow water to spawn near bushes. "At the rate we're going now, by the time the spawn takes place ... all the bushes are going to be sitting on dry ground," LaPrairie said.
Wood said, "We absolutely are not forgetting about them." The question of how to fix the break is all he's working on, with advice from the Army Corps of Engineers, the Louisiana National Guard and private businesses.
"We don't want to kneejerk," he said.
Cross Bayou Weir is one of three low-water dams reinforced with rock in the late 1980s to bring back sport fishing in and around the lakes.
The complex could lose another 6 feet of water as the Black River falls, Wood said.
According to Uncle Bud's website, the lakes and surrounding bayous, swamps and creeks create an 8,000-acre complex next to the 60,000-acre Dewey W. Wills Wildlife Management Area.
LaPrairie said Uncle Bud's has 12 boat stalls on Larto Lake. "At the rate it's falling right now, by Monday morning all I'm going to have is my very outside stalls to put a boat in," he said.
After Hurricane Gustav, the state patched a blowout at the same weir by dropping in huge sandbags, Wood said. "That's what has washed out this time," he said.
LaPrairie was glad to hear that the department of wildlife plans repairs.
"If they don't do anything but come in and patch it up to stop the loss, any rains we can get will help to bring it back up," he said.