Annual drawdown at Catahoula Lake underway one month early, LDWF says

Water level currently near 32 feet, with goal of 27.5 feet by June 30

The annual drawdown of Catahoula Lake has begun about one month early this year in an attempt by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to address the encroachment of woody vegetation on the lakebed, according to a news release.

Despite plentiful rainfall in April, the water level has been steadily falling and is at about 32 feet now, with a goal of 31 feet by May 31 and 27.5 feet by June 30, the release states.

“We hope to complete this second early drawdown, following two years of later drawdowns in 2011 and 2012, as part of our experimental manipulations,” said Larry Reynolds, LDWF’s waterfowl study leader. “This schedule also gives us a better chance of conducting physical and chemical treatment of encroaching woody vegetation.”

The lake in LaSalle Parish provides important wetland habitat for migrating waterfowl and shorebirds, especially during late-summer and early-fall when shallow-flooded habitat is limited across the state.

Lowering the water levels in summer exposes mudflats, which are used extensively by migrating shorebirds, and stimulates germination and growth of annual plants that produce seed and tubers that provide food for migrating and wintering waterfowl, according to the release.

The department is varying the drawdown dates to explore methods of combatting encroaching woody vegetation, while maintaining or enhancing the production of high-quality food plants for waterfowl.

Static water-level management is known to reduce productivity in wetlands systems, and could be providing conditions favoring the spread of swamp privet and water elm trees, which displace plants favored by waterfowl.