LAFOURCHE PARISH GAME AND FISH COMMISSION
The Lake Fields/Bayou Folse watershed is among the most heavily modified freshwater systems along the Louisiana coast. In the early 1800s, Lake Fields and Lake Long were semi-isolated freshwater lakes with a small and undeveloped watershed and surrounded by continuous fresh marsh with only a connected small natural bayou, Bayou Leau Bleu, on the south. From the 1800s to the early 1900s numerous drainage and transportation canals were dug and massive marsh reclamation projects (now known as the Raceland Prairie) were completed within the watershed and numerous oil exploration and production canals were dug in the 1950ís through the 1970ís. A major upper Bayou Folse watershed project by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Soil Conservation Service (SCS) during the late 1960s and early 1970s resulted in increased Bayou Folse watershed size and flow capacity in upper Bayou Folse, and numerous forced drainage pump stations.
Lake Fields was characterized as having clear water, profuse submergent aquatic vegetation (SAV), and excellent sport fish and waterfowl populations in the early1960ís; however, after the major SCS watershed project, the increased inflow of nutrient-laden, highly turbid water from the upper watershed resulted in immediate and long term adverse impacts on water quality and physical habitats in Lake Fields and adjacent marshes. Periodic algal blooms and a dramatic decline in ecologically important SAV occurred as water became more turbid and nutrient enriched. Subsequently, sport fish and waterfowl populations in Lake Fields declined dramatically. since then sport fish and waterfowl populations have declined dramatically in the lake in association with declining water quality, ecologically important SAV, and physical habitat. In addition, portions of the Lake Fields shoreline have disappeared or are in danger of disappearing because of wave-induced shoreline erosion and subsidence; consequently, the fragile interior marshes are exposed to wave erosion and tidal processes.
In 2008, the Lafourche Parish Game and Fish Commission (Commission) approved a comprehensive management plan to restore the Lake Fields ecosystem after receiving input from several conservation organizations and governmental institutions including Ducks Unlimited (DU), Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program (BTNEP), Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF), U.S. National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and the North Lafourche Levee District (NLLD). The BTNEP Management Conference formally endorsed the original management plan at their December, 2008 meeting.
Portions of the comprehensive Lake Fields restoration plan were completed through a 2013 NLLD and Commission cooperative project and a later updated combination Lake Fields/Lake Long Restoration Plan was developed and was endorsed by the Commission in late 2016 and early 2017.
There are several positive attributes in regard to a Lake Fields or Lake Long restoration grant application. First, the Commission already has a reviewed and endorsed restoration plan. Second, the Commission is able to provide a significant match for any grant. Third, proposed projects are on state owned and parish managed properties, and there will be no private landowner issues. Fourth, water access for needed heavy equipment is available across public water bottoms via the Intracoastal Waterway, Bayou Lafourche, and Company Canal. Finally, the Commission has partnered with other conservation organizations and governmental institutions in several grant applications or restoration projects. Prior partners would be potentially available for future restoration projects; these include DU, BTNEP, Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ), NLLD, Lafourche Parish Government. All project partners can offer varying degrees of services such as technical expertise, in-kind volunteer hours, etc.
The Commission has also been active in applying for federal or state grants to fund restoration projects, partnering with other organizations to fund restoration projects, or funding restoration or debris removal projects: