SPARTA COMMISSION PURPOSE
STATUTORY PURPOSE In 1999, the Louisiana legislature established the Sparta Groundwater Conservation District and its board of commissioners, ‘Sparta Commission.’
According to the creating statutes, the Sparta Commission’s purpose is to study ways to put Sparta water "to the highest beneficial use" in terms of public welfare. The statutes note that "the continued uncontrolled use of groundwater from Sparta and other aquifers may create critical problems;" and they charge the Sparta Commission with studying "how to provide for the efficient administration, conservation, and orderly development of groundwater resources" in the Sparta area.
MISSION STATEMENT (Adopted at Sparta Commission Meeting Aug. 13, 2009):
“The guiding purpose and primary objective of the Sparta Ground Water Conservation District Commission is to conserve, protect, restore, and maintain the Sparta Formation Aquifer as a continuing source of high quality, potable water for current and future consumers by promoting conservation measures and the development of alternate sources of fresh water, pursuant to the authority and responsibility granted by the State of Louisiana.”
(Wording similar to the mission statement of Union County Water Conservation Board, with whom the Sparta Commission has been in alliance since 1997)
GOALS AND OBJECTIVES (Approved at Sparta Commission Meeting January, 2007)
Goals -- In order of priority, 1) Stabilize water levels, 2) Restore the aquifer to its pre-withdrawals state, 3) Plan for aquifer sustainability in anticipation of population and economic growth.
Guiding Principle – To be effective, the Sparta Commission should be organized and working in unison
1) EDUCATE -- commission members, the media, civic groups, government decision makers, and the public
• Focus on areas of general agreement and priority interest;
• Personally invite legislators or their designees to meetings and invite their comments;
• Lend Sparta Commission’s endorsement to educational initiatives;
• Encourage media to present educational material.
(Update Sep. 2009: Until Aug., this objective was accomplished by 1) Sparta Commissioners, who spoke before government and civic groups and participated with Trailblazer in producing the Sparta video, and 2) through Cooperative Endeavor Agreement with La Tech Univ. a summer intern, Lindsay Gouedy, to develop/conduct public awareness programs; in August, Sparta Commission hired Dr. Branch, director, and Lindsay Gouedy, educator to lead public awareness/education efforts.)
• Ask Ben McGee to submit a proposal for funding of Sparta well water level and quality studies;
(Update Sep. 2009: At Sparta Commission’s request, LDNR picked up costs of USGS studies)
• Ask Dr. Carlson of LSU to submit a proposal for a Sparta Water Levels modeling program;
(Update Sep. 2009: Dr. Carlson presented at Sparta meeting a proposal and rationale for a modeling program, but there were no funds to pay for one)
• Ask Dr. Nipper to provide supporting information for a potential Sparta-dedicated LSU AgCenter salaried position;
(Update Sep. 2009: Dr. Nipper helped develop a jointly funded paid Sparta educator position, but the arrangement fell through, when Dr. Nipper’s was unable to secure funding for the LSU AgCenter’s half of the agreement.)
• Seek Funding for other Commission-approved study projects recommended by authorities;
(Update Sep. 2009: Sparta Commission successfully requested LDNR to pick up the cost of 3 Louisiana monitoring wells that are part of the Sparta Recovery Project (El Dorado industries converting from Sparta to Ouachita River use)
• Schedule Speakers from Successful Aquifer Protection/Water Management Programs, such as the Capital Area Ground Water Management District and Arkansas’s Sparta Conservation efforts;
(Update Sep. 2009: Sparta Commission has heard presentations by speakers from both successful programs and has repeatedly sought to follow their models but has been unsuccessful in securing the necessary legislation providing a funding mechanism and authority.)
• Keep abreast of matters related to Sparta water quality and the primary recharge area, e.g. water quality trends over time and applications for well and pipeline permits, when applications address water quality;
(Update Sep. 2009: Sparta Commission members have continually been active in this matter. It has not always been easy, because although Commission members have requested information be automatically sent to them about permits for taking of Sparta water, this has not happened. Gene Coleman, on behalf of the Sparta Commission has recently repeated the request for timely information on permitting of Sparta withdrawals.)
• Seek public input at every meeting. (Update Sep. 2009: Public comments period at end of every meeting)
• For funding of Commission-endorsed water conservation projects, such as the West Monroe - Graphic
Packaging project; e.g., send letters of support and contact legislators upon request of project directors;
(Update Sep. 2009: Commission has endorsed, by resolution, the West Monroe - Graphic Packaging project and Winn Parish Port de Luce reservoir project, and, by endorsement of LA Groundwater Resources Commission’s resolution, Lincoln Parish-Union Parish and West Monroe water supply projects)
• For Commission-endorsed measures to protect water quality, esp. in the primary recharge area.
(Update Sep. 2009: Sparta Commission members have disseminated Sparta water quality information, but focus has been primarily on water quantity, consistent with goals (see above). Ben McGee has kept Commission posted on declining water quality (especially salt) in wells near the eastern border of freshwater Sparta.)
4) REPRESENT SPARTA INTERESTS
• Consider seeking designation of the Sparta Commission as one of the state’s regional water resources
advisory boards [advisory to the Commissioner of Conservation];
(Update Sep. 2009: Landmark groundwater legislation was passed in 2001 and 2003. It leaves for the Groundwater Resources Commission (LGWRC) to direct the Commissioner of Conservation to establish five regions, each with a water resources advisory board. Research for the legislation (Fenstermaker et al-‘Assistance in Developing a Statewide Water Management Plan) recommended a large Northwest Louisiana region, within which all Sparta region parishes would fall.
If there are to be regional boards, Sparta Commission members, in 2007, expressed an interest in an independent Sparta Region, fearing that Sparta concerns would become diluted by concerns about other water bodies in a larger region. At a meeting in 2008, when the issue was revisited, members weighed the Sparta-only against the option of a larger region which might have a stronger voice in common water and water management concerns.
There has been mention that regional boards might be a topic on the November LGWRC meeting agenda.)
• Involve legislators in working toward Sparta Aquifer conservation objectives, including strengthening the
Sparta Commission’s ability to accomplish objectives;
(Update Sep. 2009: New staff will strengthen the Sparta Commission's outreach).
• Attend and Participate actively in Louisiana Groundwater Resources Commission and Task Force meetings
(The Sparta Commission’s appointed representatives have been present and actively participating at every meeting, and have communicated with members in intervals between meetings.)
• Form associations to collaborate on common interests
[Update Sep. 2009: The Sparta Commission has invited presentations by Ouachita River Valley Association (is now a member and participates at bi-state meetings) and Corps of Engineers. The Commission and the Union Co. Water Conservation Board in Arkansas, close partners in bi-state alliance since 1997, have recently each sought support for a joint Ouachita River Basin Study by the Corps of Engineers. New director, Dr. Branch, has been actively meeting with professionals engaged in water supply and water quality matters, with an aim to develop funding and collaborative education and conservation projects.]
I. Effective Aug. 15, 2005, Louisiana’s Commissioner of Conservation issued Order No. AGC-1-05, designation of three areas of groundwater concern – Ruston-Simsboro-Grambling area, Jonesboro-Hodge-southeast Bienville parish area, and Monroe area. His order stated two remedial actions:
1- “Users of Sparta ground water shall vigorously seek alternate sources of potable water to alleviate excess usage of the Sparta Aquifer.”
(The Sparta Commission has been addressing this action as possible within its means – considering information of authorities on different alternatives and recommending local initiatives that are consistent with this information.)
2- An aggressive water conservation education program should be begun as soon as possible in Louisiana.
(See ‘Education’ under ‘Objectives’ above. Since August, 2009, the Sparta Commission now has paid staff who plan to begin an aggressive public awareness/conservation education campaign.)