According to NIDIS/NOAA(National Drought Center), there have been approximately 10 time periods since the early 1900’s when Cane River Lake was formed with droughts equal to or worse than the one we are experiencing now. Being born and raised in Natchitoches and coming from a family that had a food booth on the riverbank for every festival you can imagine, I can remember the one in the mid 90’s when the river was lower than what we see now. About a decade ago the river once again experienced a severe drought like this one. The Cane River Waterway Commission began discussing at that time ways to maintain water levels on Cane River. For the River to be at pool stage it needs to be at 98MSL. This is measured how high the top of the water is from sea level. Currently we sit at 95.5MSL. After going through the bidding process and paperwork with the US Corps of Engineers, the Commission hired an Engineer to design a pump system to pump water through ¾ mile of pipe from Hampton Lake on Red River and into Cane River. According to meet specification from the Corps the pump had to have a filtration system of 40-micron filters. If someone doesn’t know how small that is the best way to explain it is, it’s like filtering water through a sheetrock wall. The pump also needed to be able to produce a flow rate of 30,000 gallons a minute. At this flow rate it would take approximately a week to raise the river 1 foot. A feat at the time being the biggest project of its kind in the US and never had been attempted on that scale in the world. Finally in 2018 work began on the pump. Just like when you hire a plumber to come fix a problem at your house and you expect they know what they are doing because they are the experts, the Commission expected that the Engineers knew what they were doing when they said they could accomplish all the specifications required for the pump project. However, the day came to turn the pump on to test it. Once the pump was turned on the filtration system clogged up within 25 minutes. Immediately it was evident that the filtration system could not maintain the flow rate that the pump was designed for. The Commission decided to file suit against the Engineering firm that designed the pump and filtration system for not being able to accomplish what the firm said it could and rendering the pump inoperable.
Shortly after I took this position in March of 2022 the lawsuit against the Engineering firm was settled. The Commission decided to consult with a new Engineering firm to see if the impossible task of a 40-micron filtration system could be accomplished. In the early summer of 2022, we arranged for 2 of the brightest engineers in the world from Israel to come to Natchitoches to see if we could come up with a solution to our problem. Let me tell you I have never met anyone smarter than these men from Israel.
When you can engineer a way to grow corn in the middle of the desert there isn’t much you can’t do. After several studies from them it was determined that the only way a 40-micron filtration system could work would be to reduce the flow of water the pump was designed for. A prototype filtration system was built by them to show just how much flow would be able to be maintained without clogging. After running the prototype for 24 hours it was determined that the max flow we could get would be less than 10,000 gallons per minute. We quickly realized that the rate of 10,000gpm would take over a month to raise the river 1 foot and furthermore that the pump itself was not designed to run at that low of a rate and could possibly burn up. It would also cost about $250,000 dollars in electricity just to maintain that month long period.
In the fall of 2022, I decided to inform myself and the Commission better on the original application of the pump project through the Corps to pump water. It was revealed that when the original Engineers applied for the permit to the Corps it was stated by the Corps that the 40-micron system was a recommendation by the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources and the US National Fisheries. Natchitoches houses the only Federal Fish Hatchery in Louisiana and they fill their ponds with water from Cane River.
The concern was/is that without a 40-micron filter the pump on Hampton would introduce Zebra mussels into Cane River. Now when I read that I also became concerned. Zebra mussels are a highly invasive species and have caused huge economic damage in the Great Lakes area, Texas and California. If all my fishing buddies who are mad about the river being closed want to know why you get those tickets in Texas for non-cleaned boats, Zebra mussels is why. The Department of Wildlife and Fisheries in some of these States wanted to put a stop to the spread of Zebra mussels that had basically closed several lakes within their states. So, immediately I had the same concern as the hatcheries but as the next several months went by those concerns dissipated. It was time to do some research.
After several months of research, the Commission decided it was time to reapply to the Corps for a water withdrawal permit. Again, the Corps sent back that the recommendations of the LDNR and the US Wildlife and Fisheries were still in effect. I sent a letter back to the Corps in reference to the recommendations stating that not only did the LDNR have any jurisdiction of the Commission by state law, neither did the US Wildlife and Fisheries by Constitutional Law. The letter stated that although the Commission does agree that the introduction of Zebra mussels into Cane River would be a horrible event, there was no proof that Zebra mussels existed in Red River in the Coushatta pool where Hampton Lake is located.
It also stated that the most current research of Zebra mussels as of December 2022 in Louisiana as pertaining to Red River shows the last and only report of sightings have been in the Lower Red in 2010. Below the Overton dam and West Feliciana. We also argued that our studies show that Zebra mussels cannot survive in Red River because of the hypoxic conditions that the river produces and the calcium levels hence the reason most likely there have been no more sightings since 2010 and those sighting were only single clusters. To add to our argument, we stated that had Zebra mussels been an issue in Red River they would have made it to Cane River as a traveler on boats with the amount of fishing boats that travel between the Red and Cane River on a weekly basis. Zebra mussels can survive up to a week out of water. When asked why our pump was the only one recommended to have a 40-micron filter out of the 97 other pumps on Red River north of us we could not get an answer other than the Fisheries concerns. Finally, we advised them that our pump, just like Red River, causes too much of a hypoxic condition for Zebra mussels to survive the pumping process even if they were present.
I contacted Allan Brown, Assistant Regional Director of the US Wildlife and Fisheries, with a proposal. It was proposed to Mr. Brown that if the only concern was that of the Fisheries ponds that the Commission would fund either a pump at 40-microns(since the flow rate would not have to be as high as our pump) for them to pump water from Cane River into their ponds or a closed loop ground water well to fill their ponds. Mr. Brown contacted me a few days ago and thanked me for the proposals. He is currently taking that proposal to his bosses within the US Department of Interior.
In conclusion, the Cane River Waterway CAN NOT pump water without the issuance of the permit from the US Corps of Engineers. The Corps will not issue that permit without a solution/compromise between the Commission and the US Wildlife and Fisheries or a working 40 -micron filtration system on our pump. The Cane River Waterway Commission has been actively trying to resolve this issue that was placed on them by government agencies.
The preceding being said, on behalf of the CRWC, the unprecedent drought that has forced us to close the River since August is a natural devastation and is mother nature. Just like the droughts before there was ever talk about a pump it was mother nature. The River was closed for safety reasons as some parts of the river are less than 4 feet deep even in the channel. It is also to protect the homeowner’s property that wake can cause as it hits the exposed bottoms of seawalls. I understand it is frustrating because we all love our beautiful river but if you cannot understand the reasoning behind the Commission closing it or feel the need to bad mouth probably the most helpful government body to its people then you might need to look in a mirror and get some of your own priorities straight. The board members on this Commission are only required to meet 1 time annually. Yet meet several times a year for a measly $50 a meeting to help promote and prosper Natchitoches and Cane River. Cane River means just as much to its members as most all live on the River, so to the people in the general public that say they don’t care I have a few questions for you.
- Do you live on the River? And if so for how long?
- Have you attended a meeting? I can tell you that since I have taken this position I have seen a max of 10 people at a meeting (most of them in a group) and I’ve seen 0 people at a meeting.
- If you live on the River have you used the low water to your advantage to clean up around your banks/cleanup dilapidated structures?
Rainy season will come, and the river will rise back like always and no one will seem to care about this issue until it happens again, except the members of this Commission who constantly are trying to make life on the river better. My phone number and email are listed below. Please reach out to talk and discuss concerns. But also please remember that my position is the only full time position therefore please leave a message, text or email if I don’t answer.
We also ask that the public refrain from accosting workers at the Natchitoches Fish Hatchery. Even though our roadblock is the Fish Hatchery it is not the local workers fault.
Jason L Adcock, Director of Operations
244 Cedar Bend Natchez, La. 71456