A 50-year water sale agreement negotiated between the SRA-LA and a private limited partnership – Toledo Bend Partners L.P. is being considered for approval by the SRA-LA Board of Commissioners on January 26, 2012. All indications are that the Commissioners vote will result in approval of the agreement. A copy of the agreement can be accessed at www.srala-toledo.com. If approved by the SRA it must be sent to Governor Jindal for his approval because the agreement calls for sale of the water outside the boundaries of the state of Louisiana.
We agree with the SRA-LA’s stance that water sales provide a better economical and ecological use of the lake as compared to hydroelectric power generation.
However, while this proposed agreement may serve the SRA’s mission in regard to economic development, the length and water volume of the contract and the drought contingency plan, puts the preservation of the lake in serious jeopardy.
Major issues that call for this agreement to be rejected, as currently written, include:
• This agreement commits 600,000 acre feet, equal to 195.5 billion gallons, annually. This represents 62.9% of Louisiana’s share of the firm yield of the reservoir to be sent outside our state for the next 50 years with an option to renew for another 49 years. That runs counter to the SRA’s mission as it relates to “improved water supply for the citizens of Louisiana”.
• Drought Contingency Plan – Exhibit 5 to the agreement: The agreement states that if the lake level reaches 163.71 ft. mean sea level, the purchaser could have their water diversion reduced by only 10%. If the lake level reaches 160.42 ft. mean sea level, water diversion could be reduced by only 20%. Neither of those restrictions is mandatory.
• According to the agreement terms, if the lake level at any time during this contract got to 160.42 ft. mean sea level, the purchaser would still have the right to withdraw 80% or approximately 156 billion gallons of water annually. Anyone who sees the lake at its recent level of 160.90 would easily understand why these contingency provisions would be disastrous.
• The economic impact of the extremely low lake level has been devastating to many local businesses in Sabine and Desoto parishes as well as the counties on the Texas side. Sales tax revenue in Sabine Parish is down almost 50% based on information from the Sabine Parish Chamber of Commerce. Public water companies and fire departments along the lake have been forced by this low water level to extend their intake piping and upgrade their supply pumps.
The governor should review this contract carefully and reject it unless major changes are negotiated to address these serious concerns that threaten the future of one of Louisiana’s most important natural resources.
If you care about the long-term future of the lake you need to send your comments by email to the governor at firstname.lastname@example.org or call his office at 1-225-342-1015 and let your feelings be known.
James D. Mifflin