Guests at the Natchitoches Chamber of Commerce Luncheon January 27th,learned about the Red River Waterway Commission from Marketing Director Robert Vinet. He explained the Red River Waterway’s history, impacts, successes and challenges.
The Red River begins as a small creek in eastern New Mexico and flows through fives states including New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana. The Waterway Commission serves the seven parishes the Red River runs through in the state.
Everyone was waiting to hear what the Waterway Commission had to say about the summer 2015 flooding.
“It was a mess, really a mess,” said Vinet. “It shut down commercial commerce for a couple of days which is something we haven’t seen in a long time.”
He explained that there will be a 1.5-million-dollar survey to find out what is happening on Red River. The survey will increase accuracy of flooding forecasts in the future. The estimated damage of the flooding totaled $1,945,000.
The Waterway Commission includes five locks and dams, 20 recreation areas, five public ports and private terminals. The Natchitoches Parish Port is the only slack-water port on the Red River it has a cargo dock, transit shed and wood chip loading facility. One of the 20 recreation areas along the Red River is Grand Ecore where a new RV Park is under construction. It is 25 percent finished and is scheduled to be complete in October.
The Waterway Commission impart with the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries released approximately 300,000 Florida largemouth bass fingerlings into five pools along the Red River from Shreveport to Marksville. The stocking was part of a larger effort by the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Foundation that began with the release of approximately 7,700 fingerlings at Clark’s Landing in September 2000 and will conclude with additional releases in the fall. Each fingerling, ranging in size from one to three inches long, has the potential to become a trophy bass. Florida largemouth bass appeal to anglers because they grow larger than our native largemouth bass. Introduction of this genetic trait into the Red River largemouth bass population is the reason behind the stocking project.
“We are very pleased to be part of this outstanding project. Releasing pure Florida strain bass into each of the waterway’s five pools will assure some exciting sport fishing for everyone along the Red River and the business opportunities the region will enjoy due to increased fishing activity by local residents and visitors will greatly contribute to our mission of economic development,” said Ken Guidry, executive director of the Red River Waterway Commission.
Vinet also discussed some of the challenges the Waterway Commission faces including reduction in federal funding for dredging and the reduction of lock and dam service.
“The Corps does the best they can with the money they have but this is a bad Idea,” said Vinet. “It will decrease economic growth and future business opportunities. This will deter recreation activities and threaten the navigation industry.”
The Red River carries a greater sediment load than any other river in the United States. This is why constant dredging is so important. The Waterway Commission must maintain a navigable waterway that is at least nine feet deep and 200 feet wide.Vinet explained how moving cargo via barge is cost effective and better for the environment.
Another challenge facing the Waterway Commission is the Giant Salvinia. It impedes access to backwaters and oxbows, decreases the quality of fish and threatens the entire food chain.