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Lincoln Parish lake interests growing more desperate

Slowly but surely, the media seems to be catching up to the lake-building frenzy story. Perhaps that’s what’s prompting either second thoughts or covering activity by state Rep. Hollis Downs in his request for public opinion surveys about spending tens of millions of dollars to build a lake in Lincoln Parish. (This isn’t the only thing he’s doing to shore up lake support – he’s introduced HB 123 to create a government body with powers to start building the thing, joining state Sen. Robert Barham’s SB 47 that inflicts a similar fate onto Morehouse Parish.)

But it all seems very (please pardon the expression) fishy. While Downs and others, most notably freelance hit consultant Michael Thompson keep (again, my apologies) afloat this story that the lakes are needed for “economic development,” the main concern in this case would seem to be the lake providing a water supply for the dwindling Sparta Aquifer. In fact, there seems to be little evidence that much potable water could come from such a development, and now these policy-makers are accused of trying to promote the lake’s building using this faulty rationale.

Thus, the need for a public opinion survey to back up the policy-makers in light of growing criticism from the local and statewide (new) media. Their case would be stronger if they could produce objective, unbiased evidence that the public supported them on the basis of economic development.

But apparently their pollster isn’t on the same page as they. Louisiana Tech Associate Professor of Sociology Gary Stokley let slip that its purpose was to poll the public as well as “educate” them of the facts, those being that “[n]inety percent of this is for economic development, and not saving the Sparta. If we get that clear, that's really important," he said. Further,

Although he admitted there can sometimes be a fine line between "education and propaganda," he denied that the motivation for the survey is to promote the reservoir. He said some people will assume it is propaganda, but it is not the case when conducted by professionals.

Having been a research associate in a university polling operation and having conducted them myself, I can tell you one thing, that a “professional” never would have described the purpose of his polling as educating. Especially on this issue when he’s already been quoting saying “[w]e are using too much water, and if we don't do something we are going to be in trouble,” in reference to the Sparta Aquifer. And particularly because the survey is being paid for by proponents of the lake plan.

In short, there’s very little surface credibility to this survey from the start, even if performed in an unbiased way, given the politics surrounding this exercise. What Downs needs to do to have any hope of having anybody accept any results showing support of building a lake for economic development purposes is to release the question wordings of the instrument used and the raw data collected for independent analysis. Otherwise, we cannot be sure that it won’t be “propaganda” and yet another tool to serve special interests trying to rake off resources from the state's taxpayers.


Anonymous said...

The desire to construct lakes is economic development generally for the promoters of such. Determine who has done the engineering and the plans should reveal the future shorelines of the lake. Expose the promoters and landowners or those with options and you have a list of those who stand to gain the most. This is economic development.

Do enjoy reading your thoughts.

Jimmy Couvillion

Anonymous said...

The planners of any taking of land by eminent domain should receive no compensation whatsoever except for a minimum wage salary. They should be required to stand before the people on a certain day 8am to 8pm and answer any and all questions the taxpayers have to ask. I was in a position where there was a plan to take my father's land by eminent domain and it had been kept top secret for over two years, yet the news finally slipped out and we began our fight.