Heavy rain causes flooding at False River

VENTRESS (AP) — Pointe Coupee Parish residents living along the shore of False River are pressing parish officials to manage the oxbow lake’s water levels after this month’s weeklong heavy rainfall pushed floodwater onto their land.

But Parish Administrator Jim Bello said three gates controlling False River’s water depth were opened on Jan. 6 and have remained open.

Bello said the rainfall — more than 10 inches — has overwhelmed the capacity to control the lake’s level.

“They don’t understand this lake and what the watershed around it does when you get more than 10 inches of rain,” Bello said. “This is going to happen. I’ve been living on this lake since 1973 and this is going to occur again and again.”

Frank Salario said the lake flooded the yards of all three waterfront homes he owns in Ventress. He said the water didn’t get high enough to enter the homes.

Salario said he thinks the flooding could have been prevented if the Police Jury had had opened the gates before the stormy weather arrived.

“We need to get to a point where we can keep everyone’s property from getting flooded,” Salario said. “Most of the people that have houses sitting along the river have piers and their piers are all underwater right now.”

Mary Vought, who also lives along the shoreline in Ventress, said the lake waters flooded her back yard, but didn’t get into her house.

“I just did some new landscaping out there a couple days ago,” she said. “I’m looking at my landscaping and wondering who’s going to repay me for that work? I know we got an unusual amount of rain lately but they need to start maintaining the water levels like they did in the past.”

Between Jan. 8 and Jan. 15, Pointe Coupee was drenched by 16.9 inches of rain, said Phil Grigsby, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

Resident Denny Vicknair said he believes the “common sense” approach to keeping the lake from overtopping its banks would involve implementing an annual drawdown of the lake’s water level during wintertime, when there is minimal fishing and recreational activity.

False River’s ecosystem has been declining for more than 30 years due to excessive siltation. The 10.5-mile-long, crescent-shaped oxbow lake formed in the early 1700s when the Mississippi River changed course.

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