Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries Secretary Robert Barham issued a declaration of emergency for pond improvements at the Huey P. Long Fish Hatchery facility in Lacombe on April 22.

According to Jason Duet, LDWF Biologist Director Fisheries Extension, there is no real emergency, per se, but the issuance of the emergency order allows for work to begin as quickly as possible on the five existing hatchery ponds at the facility. The improvements also will include installation of new drains and a new drainage system.

The Lacombe fish hatchery is the second oldest in the state operated by the LDWF, Duet said. It has been in operation since 1931. Research is performed on both bass and bream at the hatchery, which is located just north of U.S. 190 in the heart of Lacombe.

"It's an old hatchery, and some repairs are pretty-badly needed," Duet said. "The ponds aren't holding water like they should, and that needs to be repaired. The state of emergency is just something to get the process started."

Duet said the project will be put out to be bid, but that he couldn't estimate how much funding it will take to complete the work. He did say, however, that the LDWF hopes to begin construction in late May or early June and to have the work completed by August.

"There will be some reshaping of the bottom of the ponds," he said. "We'll put in some new drains and a new drainage system. We'll keep the focus on bass and bream with the new ponds we can fix out there.

"Hopefully, we can increase the capacity of the work we do."

Duet said the upcoming work is not the result of any damage caused by flooding or erosion during Hurricane Isaac last year, which swamped much of coastal St. Tammany Parish. Instead, he said, the ponds have been in a state of disrepair for a while and that the improvements are necessary to maintain the quality of research performed at the Lacombe hatchery.