Latest developments:  

The Louisiana Dept. of Wildlife and Fisheries people were wanting to expose the lake bottom to the Hot Sun of summer and the Cold Frost of winter ...providing "The Lord's willing and the creek don't rise...". 

...and the rains came..and came again...and the creek did rise.


Scroll down for History...

Suit filed to stop Bistineau drawdown

Suit claims LDWF failed to comply with Constitutional responsibilities

Kristi Richie
Press-Herald Staff

A Shreveport group has filed an injunction seeking to halt the draw down of Lake Bistineau.

The Lake Bistineau Preservation Society and H.F. Anderson filed suit Thursday afternoon against the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to prohibit LDWF from lowering the lake until it has complied with "constitutional and statutory duties, obligations and responsibilities."

The society consists of people who own homes, camps, property and businesses on and near the lake. Anderson owns a camp on Lake Bistineau in Bossier Parish and claims to own a portion of the lakebed.

The suit claims LDWF failed to comply with their duties and responsibilities under the Constitution, state law and the public trust doctrine as they made no effort to quantify the economic losses and the recreational losses resulting from the draw down.

The suit also claims LDWF implemented the plan without conferring with other state and federal governmental agencies.

However, LDWF official maintain they have gone through all proper controls in preparation of beginning the draw down to save the lake.

The plan includes conducting a series of three consecutive drawdowns to reduce the accumulating "muck" on the lakebed.

The lake, which encompasses 17,200 acres in Webster, Bossier and Bienville Parishes, has historically had problems with heavy infestations of water hyacinth, alligator weed and submersed native aquatic vegetation. Over the years, those plants, along with leaf litter from the cypress canopy, have built up a large amount of organic matter on the lakebed.

The build up has resulted in the loss of spawning habitat for several sport fish, including largemouth and spotted bass, crappie and bream. Also many areas have become nearly impassable to boat traffic due to the build up of aquatic matter.

A successful drawdown of the lake occurred in 1983 as the exposed vegetation was subjected to several days of below freezing temperatures in January 1984.

In 1996, another draw down was attempted for hydrilla control, but heavy rains kept the lake several feet above pool stage, not giving the bed a chance to dry out.

A fall-winter draw down was conducted again in 2000 in which the lake did reach the targeted goal of seven feet below normal pool, but again heavy rain prevented the drying. Some benefits were noted, but there was not sufficient drying action to significantly reduce the amount of organic matter in most areas.

The proposed series of drawdowns was to begin July 15 and run through the end of January 2005. The second and third year's drawdowns would follow the same time schedule, beginning in mid-July and running through the end of January.

The lake would be dewatered at a rate of four to six inches per day until it reaches seven feet below normal pool stage, which is the maximum draw down capability of the control structure.

The fisheries habitat, fish population and vegetation coverage would then be reevaluated at the end of the series of drawdowns.

Decomposition of some of the organic material should improve spawning habitat and fisheries habitat, hence brining back some of the "family" type fishing opportunities for bedding bream and school bass fishing.

Also, a reduction in aquatic vegetation coverage, including an aggressive spraying program to reduce water hyacinths, would also be a benefit. Should the exposed lake see below-freezing temperatures for several days, the vegetation should be killed and excellent results may be obtained.




A review of Lake Bistineau Drawdowns

by Joe Hinton,, Feb 2004

 [Plagued with controversy, vandalism, lawsuits, court injunctions…]

 The recent (Jan 2004) proposal by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) to once again lower Lake Bistineau has prompted inquiries from some lake property owners as well as other local residents as to the impact of this planned three consecutive year drawdown.  A common misconception found among many of those concerned is expressed in the following quote, “I don’t know what will happen…they have never before drained the lake three years in a row…” 

Well, it may come as a surprise to some to learn that there was indeed a six-year drawdown. It was started in the 60s by the then Lake Commission. Plagued with controversy, vandalism, lawsuits, court injunctions, the drawdowns resulted in abolishment of the lake Commission and its powers and duties transferred to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF).  Some believe drawdowns are necessary to protect the lake, others believe drawdowns hurt the lake and some believe both. Therein lies a dilemma.

 The problem stems (pun intended) from the prolific weeds that grow throughout the lake. Unchecked, these plants not only block boat navigation but threaten fish populations as well.  Over the years these plants have built up a large amount of organic matter on the lake bottom further exacerbating the problem by destroying fish spawning habitat. LDWF Biologists believe drying can reduce this accumulation of muck on the lakebed. Exposure to air will allow for the material to decompose. To allow for this drying and decomposing process the lake water must be lowered to expose the material to air. This lowering of the lake has taken on the label of “drawdown” because that is precisely what happens. The gates are opened and the water is drawn out to expose the lakebed.

 The periodic lowering of Lake Bistineau has been a subject of controversy for almost as long as the Dam is old.  A walk back in time may help to better understand some of the who, what, when, where and why’s surrounding this thing we call “drawdown”. The following is a review of past drawdowns and includes some brief background on Lake Bistineau as well as information further defining the effects and impact on the lake and it’s users.


 Let’s look at Lake Bistineau from the beginning. History documents tell us that during the period 1400-1500AD a great logjam was blocking the flow of Red River causing an overflow of the river waters upstream of the log jam. The overflowing waters soon cut new channels around the logjam. One of these new channels created what we know today as Bayou Dorcheat. Waters from Dorcheat in turn spread out over the lower level areas during seasonal periods of flooding creating Lake Bistineau.

 As the Red River became increasingly clogged by more logs and debris, the current in Dorcheat and Lake Bistineau became more rapid and cut deeper creating permanent channels. This went on for hundreds of years and after the logjam was finally cleared in the 1800s, Dorcheat and Lake Bistineau remained as natural streams, with the lake filling during seasonal high water and emptying during seasonal dry periods.

 I have not found any record of problems with aquatic weeds growing out of control during this period when Lake Bistineau was in its natural setting. One could easily reason that the seasonal fluctuations of water levels contributed to a natural control of aquatic weeds, exposing them to air during dry periods when the lake was empty.

So when did today’s problem with excessive growth of Aquatic weeds begin?  I mentioned earlier that it was almost as old as the dam, so let’s start there, with the building of the Dam.

  Not only did the above-mentioned natural fluctuations in water levels serve to control the lake’s aquatic weeds, it was because of these same fluctuations that the dam was built.  Railroads had replaced boats as modes of transportation throughout this region in the late 1800s and the lake was no longer the primary means for transporting goods to and from the region. With the demise of boat traffic, Lake Bistineau soon was recognized as a natural environment for game and fisheries. In 1930 Lake Bistineau was given the designation as “The Lake Bistineau State Game and Fish Preserve” by Legislation and a Lake Commission was created to govern the lake.  With the lake now primarily being used for fishing and hunting, the seasonal filling and emptying of the lake became a problem to its users. Fishermen and hunters wanted a stable water level and businesses wanted constant access to the lake for their customers.

 In 1933 the Lake Commission proposed the Bistineau Dam Project. Two years later funding was provided and construction by Dubach contractor, R.T.Henry, began on the dam. The dam was completed in 1938 at a cost of $100,000.  Formal dedication was held on 22 December 1942 with Governor Sam Jones in attendance.

 Some reports suggest the dam was built primarily as a flood control project, but for whatever reason, it caused a stabilization of water levels that seemed at the time to please all parties. But, (Drum Roll please) lurking in the lake’s waters was a problem that would soon emerge to threaten the lake as well as the longevity of the Lake Commission.

 Now that the lake level was stabilized with the dam maintaining a water surface elevation of 137 feet (as referenced to mean sea level) the vegetation that previously would be exposed to drying during seasonal emptying of the lake remained submerged for long periods and protected from effect of seasonal drying.

 Now uncontrolled, this vegetation soon began to create problems to boaters, fishermen, and concern of Fisheries biologist.  This “nuisance aquatic vegetation” more often referred to by local fishermen as “water lilies or hyacinths, coon tail moss, alligator moss, as well as many expletives I won’t mention here soon forced the Lake Commission members to take action.

 Recalling that records do not reflect problems with water vegetation during pre-dam periods when the lake was naturally emptied during dry seasons and reasoning that this drying served to control the weeds growth, I can only presume this was the basis for what came next, an unnatural emptying of the lake. A “Drawdown”.

Record of Past Drawdowns

 1945 – The first drawdown of Lake Bistineau occurred on July 26, 1945. This would be the first of many subsequent attempts by those in authority to control the nuisance weed.  A drawdown exposed the weed to drying similar to before the Dam was built but at the same time it brought back the complaints from lake users who were denied access to their fishing holes.

For a perspective view, let’s step through the key events and look for the irony.

  1. Before Dam was built, Nature emptied lake during dry seasons…
  2. Lake users want lake level maintained full…
  3. Lake authorities heed users wants and build dam…
  4. Dam creates stable water levels promoting out-of-control weeds…
  5. Lake users complain of out-of-control weeds….
  6. Lake authorities attempt to replicate nature’s control in Step 1…that leads to Step 2…which leads to Step 1.. Do I see a “Catch 22” developing here or what?

 1951 – In 1951 a major remodeling of the Dam was undertaken.   This remodeling of the Dam that raised the Lake Level to 141 ft. msl from the 137 ft established by the original 1938 construction.

  Emptying the lake to accommodate the 1951 remodeling served also to once again expose the aquatic weeds to drying, thus the Lake Commission was, in a way, given a reprieve from the certain criticism of another “drawdown”. But they would not be able to relax for very long.

 1955-1956 – I have uncovered one record that reflects that a Lake Commission announcement to drawdown the lake in 1955 drew an angry response from businessmen located on the lake. Reportedly, someone vandalized the spillway delaying the drawdown one year.  This would, however, not be the last attempt to sabotage a drawdown but it apparently made a mark on the Lake Commissioners. It was 10 years and lots and lots of water hyacinths later before they were again forced to take action.

  1966 - The gates were opened following Labor Day.   This was
the first of five consecutive drawdowns planned by the Lake
Commission. The drawdowns were intended to control the ever-growing problem
with aquatic growth that made the lake almost impassable. The gates remained
open until early Jan '67.

1967 - Again the gates were opened following Labor Day thru early Jan '68.
1968 - Gates were opened Labor Day thru Jan '69.
1969 - Gates were once again opened following Labor Day thru Jan '69 but
unrest was growing among the commercial camp owners.

1970 - Commercial camp owners filed suit to stop the drawdown stating that
it was harming the lake as well as their businesses. An injunction was
issued by the court but later lifted and the gates were again opened
following Labor Day thru Jan '71.

1971 - Even though the original plans of the now abolished Lake Commission
was for a 5 year drawdown, the LDWF were given responsibility for the
aquatic weed control and for the 6 th consecutive year the gates were opened
following Labor Day thru Jan '72.

1975 - After 4 years without a drawdown the LDWF  once again made plans
to lower the lake but were met with sabotage. Someone attempting to block
the drawdown took a cutting torch to the gate screws, but damage was
repaired and the gates were opened on schedule.

1980 - Aquatic weed growth was causing significant problems to fisherman
and camp owners thus prompting the LDWF to again open the gates following
Labor Day thru Jan '81.

1983 - Aquatic weeds were so bad that the LDWF were once again forced to
lower the lake and the gates were once again opened following Labor Day thru
Jan '84.   Due to the record cold winter of '83, this drawdown quickly
evolved into one of the most significant attempts yet by the LDWF to control
the aquatic weed problem, as large areas of the exposed weeds were subjected
to record breaking sub-freezing temperatures.

1996 - Following the successful drawdown of '83 the lake was in fairly good
shape as regards to floating weeds. But, in 1995, colonies and matted
fringes of the dreaded hydrilla plant were discovered throughout the lower seven 
miles of the lake and a drawdown began on Labor Day. However, due to
excessive rains the lake level failed to drop significantly. Even with the
gates open, the water level was near flood stage in Feb '97, when the gates
were being closed. The fast flowing current created by the excessive rains
is believed to have flushed out most of the hydrilla plants.

- The gates were opened in September 2000 and the lake bottom and the pesky weeds were expected to be exposed to the winter elements, but unfortunately January's record cold temperatures and significant accumulations of ice and snow were preceded by record rainfalls in Nov and Dec. Even though the gates remained wide open, the lake was at or near flood stage during the entire month of January 2001. This marked the second consecutive and unsuccessful attempt to expose the lake bottom to freezing temperatures. the other being in "96/'97.

 2004 – Failures to lower water levels in the last two attempts have allowed the hyacinths and moss to once again clog up the lake. January 2004, the LDWF announced plans to open the gates mid-July in attempt to expose the muck that has accumulated on the lakebed from years of decaying weeds. The plan calls for a series of three consecutive drawdowns with the first beginning in July and ending in January. The subsequent two drawdowns will follow the same schedule. Periodic drawdowns have become common events to lake residents but this one planned for 3 consecutive years is sure to draw new complaints from some, especially since it drains the lake during peak summer recreation. 


 Effects of a drawdown to Lake Bistineau and Bayou Dorcheat


The original dam forming Lake Bistineau was built in 1938, impounding Bayou Dorcheat and several smaller streams to create a lake water level of 138 feet (referenced to Mean Sea Level [msl] ).

A remodeling of the dam in 1951 raised the lake level to 141 feet. The dam consists of an earthen embankment with the top at 153 feet and a 1200-foot long spillway. The spillway consists of a gated and uncontrolled section. The gated section consist of twelve 6’ x 6’ gates with an invert elevation of 134 feet. The uncontrolled section is a broad crested weir at elevation 0f 141 feet. This means, when closed, the gates block the discharge of lake water up to a level of 141 ft. and when open, allow discharge of the lake water down to 134 ft. This also explains that number used by the LDWF when they announce plans to lower the lake by “7 feet”.

When the gates are closed the lake covers a surface area of about 17,500 acres. The pool stage at 141 ft. extends into Bayou Dorcheat to a point just north of LAAP.


Effects of a Drawdown

 When the gates are open and lake level drops to 134 ft, the impact on Bayou Dorcheat is limited to the channel banks. For example, measurements taken at 5 points along the channel near Hwy 167 yielded an average channel width of about 189 feet at 141 ft. lake level and 138 feet at 134 ft. lake level. Thus a 7-foot drawdown of Lake Bistineau will reduce the channel of Bayou Dorcheat by about 51 feet, exposing about 25 feet of bank on each side.

 The effects on the main body of Lake Bistineau are much greater than for Bayou Dorcheat. By contrast, when lowered to 134 ft., extensive exposed ground occurs and usage of the lake is restricted due to low water and accessibility. As comparison, when full (141’) the lake covers 17,500 acres and when lowered to 134’ the water surface area is reduced to 7,500 acres. This means that about 10,000 acres or more than one half of lake bottom is exposed.

The following chart shows an approximation of the bottom surface exposed at given lake levels:

 Lake Level                                 Bottom surface exposed      
141 ft. (full)                                0 acres                            
140 ft.                                         1,000 acres                         
139 ft.                                         2,000 acres                       
138 ft.                                         3,000 acres                      
137 ft.                                         5,000 acres                      
136 ft.                                         6,500 acres                      
135 ft.                                         8,000 acres                      
134 ft. (target)                           10,000 acres                     

Although lowering of the lake for purposes of weed control and fisheries improvement has become a common occurrence in Lake Bistineau, few camp owners have been successful in providing boat ramps accessible to the remaining water. Many attempts have been thwarted by bank erosion and costs required to expand the exposed lakebed.  Where the exposure of banks on Bayou Dorcheat present minimal problems to boaters and fishers, access to the lake’s remaining pockets of water and channel is extremely limited.

 There are Pros and Cons associated with lowering the lake and provide the basis for debate and controversy each time this event is planned. The following mentioned issues are not inclusive by any stretch but touch on some of the key issues as presented by concerned parties:

   Control the out-of-control weeds to drying. Failing to control the rapid growing weeds will threaten fish habitat and restrict boat navigation. This condition, unchecked, could eventually lead to the end of Lake Bistineau as the fishing and recreation paradise it has provided to this area.

An alternative to dewatering has been suggested by some to be the use of herbicides to kill the weed. This has been used by the LDWF to some extent. It seems to provide some relief by eliminating some of the excess weeds but does not address the problem with submerged plant residue build-up on the lake bottom. High costs associated with herbicides use is also big factor that must be taken into consideration. Herbicides also raise environmental safety issues that can complicate their use. The high costs, potential environmental issues that will surely spark debate and delay actions, and failure to correct the major problem of plant decay build-up on the lake bottom gives little support to herbicides as a viable alternative to a drawdown.

For many lake property owners the drawdown will provide them with opportunities to make needed repairs to boat houses and other lake front structures. These repairs and clean-up activities will enhance the lake’s appearance and quality. Many of these activities are difficult to impossible when the lake is full.

 Many lake users are more than willing to give up access to the lake during periodic drawdowns in return for the expected improvements in fishing, hunting, and boating. The extent of this willingness varies with the length of drawdowns.  The 6-year drawdown of the 60’s resulted in the demise of the Lake Commission and shifted responsibility to the LDWF.  Only single year drawdowns separated by 3-4 year intervals have been attempted since. The 2004 announcement to conduct a three-year drawdown will surely tests the willingness of many.

 Even though there is a strong argument in favor of the drawdown, the effects of a drawdown on the lake do adversely impact many. Businesses suffer from lack of customers, sportsmen are denied access to the water, fish are sometimes trapped and concentrated in small areas vulnerable to overzealous fishing, houseboat owners are faced with dry docking expenses, and property values are jeopardized.

 The latest proposal to drawdown the lake will undoubtedly, once again, stir debate over these same issues.  One other area of renewed interests involves responsibility and authority for oversight of Lake Bistineau. Lake Bistineau is located within three   parishes governed by 3 separate Police Juries, each of which has significant interests in the Lake. The Louisiana Dept of Wildlife & Fisheries responsibilities includes the protection of the fish and game habitat within the lake. The maintenance and control of the Dam falls within La Dept of Transportation and Development. All of these agencies share in responsibility and authority, which often leads to frustration by those looking for “Who’s in charge”. Past requests from Lake property owners to re-establish a Lake Commission to oversee the lake have not been effective to date.  The most recent imitative seems to be from the Bossier Parish Police Jury to take the lead in establishing an oversight committee as a single governing body with jurisdiction over Lake Bistineau. Further developments in this Police Jury proposal should prove interesting as it draws feedback from the three parish governments on the current LDWF drawdown announcement.

                                         -end of article- 

Bossier Jury discusses Bistineau problems

The following article was published in the 17 Feb 2004 issue of Minden Press Herald  by Josh Beavers, Editor and Publisher and

Seth Fox, Specht Newspaper Group:

 Following the example set by the Webster Parish Police Jury two weeks ago, the Bossier counterpart is looking into how to preserve Lake Bistineau.

The Bossier Police Jury is researching the feasibility of forming a Bistineau oversight committee.

The lake is suffering from decreased fishing quality and water hyacith problems. Attempts to lower the water level and kill the hyaciths have failed the last few years because the target level was never reached due to rain.

Bossier, Webster and Bienville parishes – along with the Department of Transportation and Development and the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries – all hold some jurisdiction over the lake.

Bossier Police Jury President Rick Avery says the first step to improving Lake Bistineau is to put it under the jurisdiction of a single governing body. Parish Attorney Patrick Jackson is working on behalf of the Parish to see if the Jury has the power to form an oversight committee.

"That's just to see who's actually in charge so we don't overstep our boundaries," Avery said.

By forming a committee, problems such as the one being faced right now could be solved more quickly.

"The biologists, I understand, want to do a draw down but they can't find who's in charge to approve the letting down of the lake," Avery said. "Someone's got to be in charge, and right now everybody does their own little bitty part."

Although no decision has been set on how a possible committee would be assembled, Avery says the Bossier Police Jury would be more than happy to take the lead in getting it formed.

"It's not going to be a real controversial thing," Avery said. "We just need some representation from each entity that's involved. We just need to get something done because that lake is in dire need of assistance."

James Seales, District 1 fisheries supervisor with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, has proposed a plan that calls for a three-year drawdown of the lake.

Seales said the plants over the years have built up a large amount of organic matter on the lakebed. This problem is especially noticeable in the upper end of the lake, and in cove areas and the back arms in other parts of the lake.

“This deterioration has resulted in the loss of spawning habitat for desirable sport fish such as largemouth and spotted bass, crappie and bream. A decline in fishing has been noticed especially in the north end of the lake,” he said.

Over the last year, the upper end of the lake has become almost totally blanketed with underwater weeds such as alligator, water hyacith and primrose.

 Many shallow areas also have extensive coverage, and many areas have become nearly impassable to boat traffic due the build up.

“We’ve basically got a swamp in an unnatural setting,” he said.

The accumulation of organic matter could be reduced by drying the bed through exposure to air, which would allow for the material to decompose.

“This should benefit fisheries from the improvement in spawning and habitat,” he said.

The LDWF plan calls for a series of three consecutive drawdowns with the first beginning July 15 and running through the end of Jan. 2005. At that time the gates will be closed and the lake allowed to refill. The second and third year’s drawdowns will follow the same time schedule as the first.

The lake should be dewatered at a rate of four to six inches per day, and will drop seven feet total.

At the end of the first series, the plan would be reevaluated so any changes could be implemented.

                                        -end of article-


The following article was published 23 Feb 04 in the Bossier Press-Tribune

  by Seth Fox

 Bistineau draw down moves ahead

 The Department of Wildlife and Fisheries came before the Bossier Parish Police Jury on Wednesday to get a resolution of support before they began a draw down of Lake Bistineau -- sort of. And after 45 minutes of discussion, they got it -- kind of.

James Seales, District 1 biologist supervisor for Wildlife and Fisheries, came before the Jury to explain plans for a three-year drawn down of Lake Bistineau. He asked for the Jury's blessing, but also explained that the project would go forward -- with or without a resolution.

District 9 Juror and Parish Administrator Bill Altimus moved that the Jury schedule a public hearing to hear from constituents before passing the resolution. Seales explained that the draw down schedule did not give the Jury time to hold a hearing.

Jury Vice President Jeff Rogers gave his personal support of the project saying the lake would die off without help, but refused to do so in his role as an elected official.

"I'm concerned with voting as a public body after only hearing one side," Rogers said. "I can't in good conscience say I'm in support of it having heard one side. I'd like to say I support the effort."

District 10 Juror Jerome Darby agreed.

"I believe the public should have input," Darby said, "especially when we make decisions that will affect their lives."

The first of three draw downs is scheduled to start July 15. The lake will be lowered four to six inches a day until it is seven feet below pool level. If things go according to plan, the lake bottom will dry out and crack, allowing a 50-year build up of organic material to decompose and slough off.

The gates of the dam will be closed in January, allowing the lake to fill up. How soon the lake will refill depends on the amount of rainfall Bistineau receives.

"It should be full in plenty of time for spring spawning and fishing and boating activities," Seales said.

Past draw downs had some success, but the build up is still bad enough to be detrimental to fish spawning. Seales said that a three-year draw down should have a much better effect, but he has not ruled out further draw downs.

"At the end of three (years), if we need more we'll come back right then," Seales said. "We're not going to let material build back up again."

After a motion and amendments, the Jury decided not to pass a resolution supporting the draw down because of lack of public participation. It did, however, pass a resolution supporting the intent to improve the lake.

"I feel (the draw down) needs to be done -- no question," Altimus said. "But as an elected official representing 8,400 people, I owe them the chance to come in."

The Jury invited Seales to come back for what Darby called a public information hearing to inform the general public on the draw down procedure and listen to any concerns that may potentially change the Wildlife Department's plans.

                                              end of article




Other articles related to Drawdowns

           The following article was prepared by GREGG TRUSTY of the Bossier Press-Tribune on 7 August 2000

LAKE BISTINEAU ­ The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is
planning to draw down Lake Bistineau for the 11th time since 1966.
James Seales, district one fisheries supervisor, said Friday afternoon the
department will draw down the lake seven feet ³right after Labor Day, and
running through the end of January.²
The fisheries biologist said the drawdown is necessary for  aquatic
vegetation control and fisheries habitat improvement.
³There¹s an awful lot of organic matter built up on the bottom of the lake,²
Seales said.  ³Drawing it down and drying it out will allow aerobic
decomposition to occur, which should help solidify the lake bottom.²
Seales said he was talking about ³all that muck² on the bottom of the lake.
³I welcome a drawdown,² Lake Bistineau resident Joe D. Hinton said. ³Not
only from the  biologist's concerns for improving fish habitat, but it will
provide lake residents the opportunity for much needed clean-up and repairs
around boathouses and piers.²
Hinton said there has been speculation of work being done on the Bistineau
dam when the lake was drawn down.  Work on the dam would be done by the
Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development.
³The last I heard out of DOTD,² Seales said, ³was they were not going to
need a drawdown to work on the dam.  Whether they¹re doing any work or not,
I don¹t know.²
According to published accounts, the drawdown in 1966 was the first after
the lake¹s level was standardized in 1951.  Since 1966, Bistineau drawdowns
have been the subject of controversy, court actions and criminal activity.
The 1966 drawdown was slated as the first of five planned by the then-Lake
Commission.  The annual drawdowns were intended then, also, to control
vegetation that was making the lake almost impassable.
The gates at the lake¹s dam would be opened following Labor Day annually
through 1971, one year longer than the original plan.
The Lake Commission had been abolished, and the Department of Wildlife and
Fisheries was given responsibility for aquatic weed control before Labor Day
of 1971.
Commercial camp owners filed suit to stop the 1970 drawdown, but a
court-ordered injunction was lifted prior to Labor Day.
The next drawdown announcement, in 1975, was met with sabotage.  Someone
tried to block the drawdown by taking a cutting torch to the gate screws.
The damage, however, was repaired, and the gates were opened after Labor Day
as scheduled.
The lake was drawn down in 1980 and again in 1983, when record cold
temperatures accounted for the most significant vegetation control in the
series of drawdowns.
Another drawdown wasn¹t needed until 1996.
 ³Water Hyacinth and Alligator Weed are two of the emergent types that are
most obvious to the people who use the lake,² Seales said of the troublesome
vegetation.  ³There are also quite a few submerged weeds in the lake that
are causing problems.²
Seales said the drawdown is intended to control vegetation through drying,
³and hopefully get a hard freeze on it in January.²
He said the department is also hoping to improve  ³the bottom substrate
through drying, and decomposition of the organic material on the bottom.
This will also release nutrients back into the lake.²
Hinton applauds the drawdown. ³Lake Bistineau is one of the most beautiful
lakes in Northwest Louisiana,² he said, ³and any improvements in fishing,
boating and housekeeping will benefit everyone.²
But, there is still a faint scent of controversy in the air.
³Furthermore,² Hinton said, ³I am a strong advocate of the (Wildlife and
Fisheries) biologists determining the lake's maintenance without outside
political influence.²


2000 DRAWDOWN 5 September - 29 January

5 Sept 2000- Gates were opened today by DOTD workers to begin a scheduled five month drawdown.  Unofficial reports from the DOTD and LaWildlife&Fisheries persons on hand at the spillway were that after the lake level had dropped to the planned 7 foot drop, efforts would be made by DOTD to remove the abundance of debris that has accumulated in the gate openings. Several large logs are lodged in and around the gates obstructing flow and operation of the gates.

            gates.JPG (32282 bytes)           gate.JPG (29397 bytes)  
                  click on picture to enlarge

 The following projection for 2000 levels was based on actual data from the 1983 drawdown with all (12) gates open and "close to normal" rainfall. As noted below the graph, adjustments were made to the gates during the 2000 drawdown,  altering the drop rates. These adjustments were made by DOTD in efforts to achieve the 3 to 4 inch per day drop rate recommended by LW&F Officials, concerned that too rapid a drop could possibly strand some fish.

Notes  :
Preceding the 2000 Drawdown, the lake's watershed recorded the driest August ever.
5 Sept 2000, 11 gates were opened (one was stuck closed).
6 Sept, Some gates were closed and Only 6 gates remained open.
7 Sept,   8 gates were open.
8 Sept,   10 gates were open.
20 Sept, all gates were closed temporarly to assist the search efforts for a fisherman feared drowned when his boat capsized on Loggy Bayou.
21 Sept, 10 gates were  reopened.
24 Sept, 1"to2" rainfall
6 Oct, 3"+ rainfall
18 Oct, In accordance to data  provided by the U.S. Geological Survey,   the Lake level reached the precise target of 134 ft at 9:00 PM this date. 
The following chart reports lake levels during entire drawdown period of 9/5/00 thru 1/29/01.
Time   -   Date      -   Stage 
 With the Drawdown period(5Sept-5 Feb) over, I will begin posting the daily lake elevation on another page. Click here on Lake Level 2001. 

                                                                        Latest posting : 31 Jan 01


2-3 Nov-Widespread rain fell over the entire 1443 sq. mile drainage area.
8 Nov - More heavy rains fell over area..
23-24 Nov - Heavy rains over entire area.
30 Nov-Recent rumors of closing the gates because of excessive rains are unfounded as per the La Wildlife & Fisheries Office. It rained for 19 days in November.
 Following the heavy rains in Nov.,  the gates were subsequently raised to "fully open", however, additional heavy rains in Dec. brought the lake levels up even more. Note that on 28 Dec. the level was higher  than on 5 Sept., the day the gates were opened, (and climbing!).


One of the main reasons for the drawdown was to expose  bottom surface area to freezing temperatures in hopes of killing off unwanted vegetation. However, with the excessive rainfall during November and   December, the exposed bottom surface area is much less than desired. Because of several inquiries, asking just how much bottom area is exposed to the recent freezing temps,  I am providing the  following  close approximation of the bottom surface exposed at given lake levels:

Lake Level               Bottom surface exposed       % targeted exposure
141 ft. (full)                          0 acres                             0 %
140 ft.                                 1,000 acres                       10 %    
139 ft.                                 2,000 acres                       20 %  
138 ft.                                 3,000 acres                       30 %
137 ft.                                 5,000 acres                       50 %
136 ft.                                 6,500 acres                       65 %
135 ft.                                 8,000 acres                       80 %
134 ft. (target)                   10,000 acres                     100 %
133 ft.                               12,000 acres                       
132 ft.                               14,000 acres                       
131 ft.                               16,000 acres                       
130 ft. (empty)                  17,500 acres                       



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