Outdoor Corner: Project River Clean Up

Lyle Johnson

Just about a month ago, we experienced some flood waters in the Amite River basin. There wasn’t much rain here, but there was quite a bit of precipitation north of Denham Springs up to Mississippi. Enough that the water almost reached flood stage at Bayou Manchac and Port Vincent.

I’ve seen lots of stuff in the river in my 67 years but I was unprepared for this sight.

The water got a little high and had very swift flood currents, just enough to shut the river down for a while. Like usual, the high water and current is good for catfishing so I spent a considerable amount down on the pier catching a few.

Another thing I’ve grown accustomed to, as well as many others who live along the river, is “flood junk watching.” It boggles my mind every time -- the trash that floats downstream. There is a 475-foot sea level drop in from its origin to Lake Maurepas that is the cause of this phenomenon.

Think there is a lot of debris in our waterways? Volunteers ready themselves to begin loading a dumpster with only a portion that was collected in 2019.

First there are the dead trees and associated logs and branches -- you know, the natural stuff. The water rises for miles and miles into wooded areas, floats the wood up and sends it on its way down the river. You can’t totally understand it unless you witness it with your own eyes. This makes up about 60 percent of the load.

The other 40 percent of this high-water extravaganza comes in the form of human-caused debris. Some of it is unintended, as someone might underestimate the level of flooding or might not have time to pick things. Most of it is just plain litter at the highest levels.

Sometimes there are big items, like refrigerators, freezers, ice chests, propane bottles, tires, basketballs, footballs, volleyballs and soccer balls. There is always an occasional boat or two. But this time was a first: a bass boat attached to the trailer made the round this time. The owner was contacted, and the boat was rescued.

My personal story for this past flood took place Feb. 22 about 5 p.m. I was sitting on the pier, probably keeping an eye on my catfish poles, when I saw what looked like a foot sticking partially out of the water floating my way.

As it got closer, I was praying “God, please don’t let that be what I think it is.” As it got a little closer, I could see a body attached. Fortunately it was only a mannequin. My heart slowed down from almost beating out of my chest. It was missing the head, both arms and part of one leg, but it was creepy.

“Project River Clean Up” will take place April 10 for the second time. Last year it was canceled due to “you know what.” This extravaganza is the brain child of Rachel Deaton. The river will be broken up into sections, and teams will be formed to focus on the areas that will be mapped out.

There will be sign-in locations at Fred’s on the River, St. James Boat Club and Black Lake Club. The group will provide as many garbage bags and supplies as possible, but volunteers are encouraged to bring their own if possible. There will be dumpsters at each location.

Both Livingston and Ascension parishes waterway commissions, along with the sheriff's offices of Ascension, Livingston, St. James and East Baton Rouge parishes will be out on the rivers as well, lending a hand. Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser is scheduled to be on hand at Fred’s to give a shout out to the volunteers at 8 a.m. when things get underway.

Here it is! We are looking for people with or without a boat to sign up. Yes, you can help out without a boat. There will be a volunteer meeting at 6:30 p.m. April 8 at Fred’s. Donations are needed and will be accepted through Venmo @projectrivercleanup. If you have any questions, call Deaton at (225) 503-6005.

It seems like Ole Man Winter’s grip has been broken. I don’t know about you but it seems like overnight we went from frozen to green. That means spring is around the corner. Birds are chirping a lot more as they are pairing up and building nests.

The lawnmowers are running again and life seems to be picking up as we head to a new season. The spring turkey season is approaching quickly as folks hit the stores in preparation for the opening morning in their section of the state.

The recreational boating has really picked up with all this warm weather. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Enforcement Division is once again reminding all boaters to practice safe boating as we approach the spring and summer boating season.

This reminder comes after two more boating fatalities took place within the past week, bringing the number of Louisiana boating fatalities in 2021 to seven. At this time in 2020, there were only two recreational boating fatalities.

“We haven’t even gotten into the prime boating season in Louisiana yet and we are seeing fatalities climb at an alarming pace,” said Col. Chad Hebert, the head of the LDWF Enforcement Division.  “We are urging boaters to please adhere to all safe boating laws and practices."

“A life jacket is the life- saving equipment on a boat. Please, please use it,” said LDWF Secretary Jack Montoucet. “We want more people enjoying the water, but there are safety rules that are important to follow.”

The LDWF Enforcement Division encourages everyone to wear PFDs (commonly called life jackets) and have a sober operator while on the water.  They also recommend that all boaters take LDWF’s boating education course.

It's a great time to be in the outdoors as there is excitement in the air! So until next time, remember to keep the slack out and set the hook hard. Have fun in the outdoors, be safe and may God truly bless you!