On Monday, April 25th, state and parish officials discussed the first steps in the long-awaited restoration project at the LSU Lakes. During the news conference, Governor John Bel Edwards and Mayor Sharon Weston Broome announced phase one of the University Lake Project was fully funded. Work is expected to begin in just a matter of months.
“Today’s announcement marks an important milestone for the greater Baton Rouge community and the many people throughout our state who visit and enjoy the University Lakes regularly,” Governor Edwards said.
The project will increase the stormwater retention capacity of the lakes and reduce flood levels in surrounding areas during rain events. Read the full announcement below:
Gov. John Bel Edwards and Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome, joined by fellow University Lakes Project partners, announced today that Phase 1 of the University Lakes Project is now fully funded. Construction will begin this summer, led by Sevenson Environmental Services. The governor and mayor-president shared public comments alongside LSU President William F. Tate IV, Baton Rouge Area Foundation CEO Chris Meyer, and BREC Superintendent Corey Wilson.
“Today’s announcement marks an important milestone for the greater Baton Rouge community and the many people throughout our state who visit and enjoy the University Lakes regularly,” said Gov. Edwards. “The start of construction to restore the lakes is now just a few months away. This important and exciting initiative is the outcome of the early vision of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation and the more recent collaboration and funding of several community partners. As we revitalize and enhance this much-beloved area of Baton Rouge, we will also reduce flood risk for surrounding areas and increase recreational amenities for the broad community.”
The Louisiana Watershed Initiative is contributing $10 million to Phase 1 of the project through CDBG-MIT funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The project will increase the stormwater retention capacity of the lakes and reduce flood levels in surrounding areas during rain events. The project is proposed to accomplish expanding floodplain, creating marshland, improving water quality, and restoring wetlands and fish and wildlife habitats at the LSU and City Park Lakes. It will address flood storage through an improved detention basin and drainage, reducing flood levels for the low- to moderate-income areas north of the LSU campus, including the McKinley High School campus and areas downstream of the lakes. The CDBG-MIT funding represents nearly one-third of the funding committed for Phase 1.
The coalition that was formed to restore the lakes includes the State of Louisiana, the City of Baton Rouge and Parish of East Baton Rouge, BREC, LSU and the Baton Rouge Area Foundation. The University Lakes Project is being implemented by University Lakes, LLC, which was established by the LSU Real Estate and Facilities Foundation, an affiliate of the LSU Foundation. Mayor-President Broome noted the collaborative nature of the project partnership and echoed the project’s importance to the City of Baton Rouge and Parish of East Baton Rouge.
Mayor Broome said, “The University Lakes have long been a spot where Baton Rouge residents and our visitors have gathered, fished, exercised and enjoyed nature. These improvements will make that a possibility for many more people in the future and will heighten the experience for all who spend time in this area.”
The first phase of the University Lakes Project includes water quality, flood risk reduction (dredging) efforts and mobility improvements addressing the key areas identified as critical by participants in the public engagement process. The dredging will allow City Park, Erie, College, Crest and Campus Lakes to be deepened, as well as a portion of University Lake. Major elements of Phase 1 are:
Dredge material will be used to create the foundation for living shorelines to help manage and clean stormwater before it enters the lakes.
Weirs and control structures will be improved to increase the flood storage capacity that the lakes can provide.
City Park and University Lakes will become hydraulically connected and a new May Street bridge constructed, which will allow paddlers and wildlife to move between the two largest lakes more freely.
Key mobility improvements will include crucial safety adjustments to intersections and providing dedicated paths for pedestrians and cyclists in the areas where they are needed most.
Phase 1 completion is expected by December 2023 at a total cost of $32 million. Phase 2, dependent upon future funding, will deepen and reshape the remainder of University Lake.