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One year after LSU lakes project started, there is still work to be done

Posted on July 10, 2024

BATON ROUGE – Heavy machinery has been digging out dirt and sediment from the University Lake System for months. Now a year into the project, two lakes are nearing completion and it’s time to move the barges into University Lake.

It’s a project that’s drawn some criticism and continues to as the project takes shape. LSU Foundation President Rob Stuart says he gets a lot of feedback about what’s been going on and what hasn’t.

“One of the comments we constantly hear from people is ‘I love what you’re doing but why do you have to build the islands? Why do you have to make the bird sanctuary so big?'” Stuart said.

Long story short, they need a place to put the dirt. The cost to move it out of the lakes would be nearly three times as much. Repurposing what’s dug up is a cheaper option. It’s why onlookers will notice several islands taking shape, a change in shoreline, and a much larger bird sanctuary.

One island near Stanford Avenue is drawing some questions. The island is built at 20.5 feet above sea level. Recently, a dirt berm has been placed around the island along with a pump to pump water out after it flooded. Two trees died and have since been replaced, under warranty.

Project Manager Mark Goodson says the lake water level is several inches higher than normal right now.

At the corner of Stanford Avenue and West Lakeshore Drive is a new weir. Three gates help control the water level. If there’s a big rain event, the city can drop the gates and bring the lake level down. A notch, currently stopped with sandbags, will keep the water flowing into Bayou Duplantier.

When timed right, the weir can hold three to four feet of stormwater runoff. The entire system is designed at 20 feet above sea level.

There’s much more work to be done – dredging in the University Lake is next. There is already a lot going on there including the expansion of the bird sanctuary, outer bank building and islands. The bird sanctuary and islands are built up with large geo tubes filled with sediment. Over time those tubes will disintegrate. The tubes will be capped and covered with low-lying plants.

Walkers, riders, bikers, and people who live around the lakes have noticed vegetation explode after last year’s drought exposed the lake bottom. The vegetation will be removed and landscaping will be happening later this year and early 2025.

“They’ll be landscaped with native material that’s low-growing for the most part, and it’s meant to help filter runoff before it enters the lakes,” Goodson said.

At the deepest point, the lakes will be nine feet, and four and a half feet deep near the edges. University Lake near Stanford at East Lakeshore Drive is the deepest to allow for drainage and stormwater runoff.

“To help with the sediment, we’re creating four bays which are dug to deeper levels than the rest of the lake,” Stuart said.

Those bays will be cleaned every so often.

The trees and branches pulled from the lakes that haven’t been used in other areas will be made into mulch. The rest is piled on May Street near Dalrymple Drive and will be sold at auction. Goodson says they are looking to hold a public auction in August.

May Street will be replaced with a bridge to connect the two lakes for people to boat through. Assuming FEMA money is allocated, everything to dredge and landscape the lakes is funded. Bike paths and other designs are next.

“We will probably have to look at more local funding and people who are interested,” Stuart said.

Logs that have been left behind, specifically in Lake Erie, will be removed.

More can be found on the project’s website.


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