What's the Best Way to Fix the LSU Lakes?

  1. What's the Best Way to Fix the LSU Lakes?

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This story was produced for WRKF's Louisiana's Lab.

The current dam along Stanford Avenue, creating University Lake

The LSU lakes are sick. They’re slowly filling with harmful nutrients and sediment, without an effective way to drain.

“If we do nothing, they will become the swamps that they were,” says landscape architect Jeffery Carbo. With funding provided by the Baton Rouge Area Foundation (BRAF), his firm helped create the Lakes Master Plan.

Their solution is to dredge. But not everyone likes that plan.

“The problem with dredging is the cost is very high,” says LSU hydrology professor Dr. Jun Xu. “The other problem is dredging cannot be sustainable.”

Xu says dredging will help, but he doesn’t think it addresses the root of the problem. Which, he says, is the dam along Stanford Avenue. That’s what created the lakes in the first place, and that’s what’s trapping all the unwanted nutrients and sediment. Xu has a plan that he says would be both cheaper and more effective.

“I came to the idea that we need to create a sluice gate,” he says.

A sluice gate is like a dam that can be lifted up, which allows all that sediment to flush out the bottom. Xu says that rather than dredging the lakes every couple of decades, as has been the practice, a few flushes each year should be enough to improve the water quality and keep them from getting any shallower.

He estimates a sluice gate would cost about $1 million – less than the predicted $20 million for dredging.

Carbo doesn’t think a sluice gate will be enough to rectify the situation by itself.

Though “that would help improve the water quality to some degree,” he says, “it’s not gonna fix the shallow lakes.”

But Carbo says it’s not entirely off the table.

“There’s a possibility that that’s part of the equation,” he says. “The sluice gates could help maintain what we create with dredging.”

Carbo says whether or where a sluice gate might be built won’t be decided until the first engineering documents are drafted. And they don’t have a timeline for that just yet.