Proof of open floodgate benefit to eco conditions of Spanish Lake

Tryve Brackin
Spanish Lake after ...

Iberville Parish Environmental and Permits Engineer John Clark gave the POST SOUTH two photographs of identical areas of Spanish Lake.

One photo was taken by Clark three years ago of the lake’s Alligator Bayou Flats area, while the other snapshot was taken recently of the same exact area three years later and recently.

Three years ago, and before the first photo was taken, Iberville and Ascension Parish officials decided to open the floodgate near Alligator Bayou, creating controversy and lawsuits. Some claimed the move to open the floodgate, which was deemed many years ago to be opened every year, but had been remained shut since the 1950s, would be a detriment to the ecology of Alligator Bayou and Spanish Lake. Not so said the Iberville and Ascension Parish officials and from day one of the controversy, John Clark said it would save Spanish Lake and its surrounding wetlands and swamp.

These two photos, showing the change in environment over the last three years is proof the Spanish Lake and wetlands are improving and surviving. The original intent was to prevent flooding of residential areas in Iberville and Ascension, but an additional intent was to help nurture the wetlands.

Discussing the “after” photo, Clark noted: “The buzzards (and trash) are gone, but the habitat has bounced back with the more natural rise and fall of water levels restored.”

An easy comparison shows trees and vegetation far more plentiful and green versus thinning out and brown before the gate was opened.

According to Clark, Alligator Bayou Flats is an area within the Spanish Lake Basin that was historically a Cypress-Tupelo Forest with towering cypress trees, which devolved into an open body of shallow water area littered by dead cypress trees and noxious vegetation.  For optimum growth, Cypress and Tupelo trees require both wet and dry seasons during a year for optimum growth.  Opening the Alligator Bayou Floodgate in 2009 by Iberville Parish relieved the standing water and nature has been rebounding in a big way.  The greenery is definitely increasing.  “The first year after the floodgate was opened, we watched a “pioneer” type habitat become established that has since set the stage for a more climax type of habitat, which includes cypress and tupelo trees.   We are now seeing baby cypress trees popping up everywhere out there, which is contrary to what some folks said would happen.  This has to be one of the biggest ecosystem restorations I have ever witnessed.  For those who were responsible, they should be very proud,” explained Clark.

Spanish Lake before ...