Contractual construction time begins Aug. 15 on the Russell Sage WMA Pump Replacement Project, which also includes repairs to the Pump Trail Road levee that was breached earlier this year, according to a project engineer.

Weather-permitting, both projects will be completed by Nov. 15 to allow flooding of the 1,900-acre greentree reservoir on the WMA, which provides prime timber waterfowl hunting in Ouachita Parish.

The state, working in conjunction with Ducks Unlimited, is completing the project with a federal grant through the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, according to Quin Durbin, DU’s regional engineer for the project.

“We have a contract that we opened bids on to install the pump, and when we were out for bids on it, the state asked us to incorporate the repair of that levee into the pump installation project,” Durbin said. “So we issued an addendum and made that part of the contract for the work that we had. We just issued a notice to proceed last week on that contract, and they’re supposed to get started.”

Keith Foster, 39, of Monroe, questions why the state waited so long to address the levee breach, which he said occurred in January of this year.

“Everybody that hunts at Russell Sage on that road has to get across that point to get to where they want to go,” said Foster, who has hunted on the WMA for more than 20 years. “Why did we wait from January to August to decide we’re going to let somebody else do the work?”

Durbin said the estimated Nov. 15 completion date will still allow for flooding of the timber at the normal time, which is usually around Dec. 1.

“They usually wait until the leaves start falling off the trees,” Durbin said. “That’s when the trees signal they’re going into dormancy, and then it’s OK to start flooding them. If you flood them too soon, the trees start dying off.”

When installed, the new pump will be a major upgrade that will more effectively flood the 1,900 acres of the reservoir, Durbin said. It was donated to DU by a pump company in Nebraska.

“It’s 46,000 gallons a minute with a 400-horsepower unit that’s required to drive it,” he said. “It will be a massive operation.”

The old system only pumped about 2,500 gallons per minute, he said.

“That’s almost a drop in the bucket for what’s really needed,” Durbin said.

McInnins Brothers Construction from Minden was awarded the project, and Durbin said the first phase will be to repair the 20-foot levee breach adjacent to one of the concrete spillway structures on Pump Trail Road.

“They’ll have to fix that breach to access and install the pump, so that’s got to be the first thing they’re going to do,” Durbin said.

The new pump site is located on the eastern end of Pump Trail Road near Bayou Lafourche, he said. 

Foster said even if it’s taken longer than he would have liked for the levee repair project to get underway, he’s happy that progress is about to be made. He remains hopeful that the timber will be adequately flooded in time for some great hunts during the second split.

 “We’re not at zero anymore. We’ve got the ball at least rolling out of the state’s hands and into DU’s hands," Foster said. "And DU has at least dribbled it a little bit and attempted to make some shots.”