Rec prospects abound in Spillway plan

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 30, 2005


Staff Reporter

NORCO-A myriad of recreational possibilities await the public at the Bonnet Carre’ Spillway, and bike trails and hunting are some of the activities users may want to know and talk about.

An open house is being held by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to allow the public to discuss the updated Bonnet Carre’ Spillway Master Plan, which outlines how the Corps will manage and direct the Spillway’s flood-control function, environment, recreation and public safety.

According to Michael Stout, chief of natural resource management, the last master plan was devised in 1998, where control of public recreational use was not emphasized. Stout said that since then, significant changes have occurred and the Corps would like some public input.

“We want feedback from the folks who recreate and use the spillway and what they would like to see that needs adjustment,” Stout said.

Activities such as all-terrain vehicle and four-wheel drive use has been successful, but there is now a mountain bike trail system that Stout said they are wanting to talk about.

Stout also said the upcoming hunting season will be an area of emphasis, with the Corps recently looking to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries’ regulations to help them draft some hunting controls.

“Horseback riding has grown, hunting is recovering, and certain uses are definitely on the rise,” Stout said, “We don’t want to overlook something the public might see as important.

“That is the intent of this meeting.”

The open house is scheduled for Sunday, April 3, at the St. Charles Parish Recreation Area, just North of Highway 61 on the Norco side of the Spillway. It will be held from 1 to 5 p.m.

The Bonnet Carre Spillway exists to protect New Orleans and other downstream communities from Mississippi River floods by opening the structure to divert the flow of water into Lake Ponchatrain.

Since its completion in 1931, the Spillway has opened only eight times. The last time was in 1997 to lower river levels in New Orleans.

According to the Army Corps of Engineers website, the nearly 8,000 acre floodway attracts over 250,000 visitors a year for the recreation and wildlife. Stout believes that number is actually somewhat low and the Corps is planning to use traffic counters to get a better estimate.