Residents react to the request for guideline changes for Toledo - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

Residents react to the request for guideline changes for Toledo Bend Reservoir

(Source: Calcasieu Parish Sheriff's Office) (Source: Calcasieu Parish Sheriff's Office)
MERRYVILLE, LA (KPLC) -

Harvey brought devastation for residents along the Sabine River here in Louisiana and across the border in Texas.

Unfortunately, a lot of those residents just got their lives back together after last year's historic flooding along the river.

As Harvey was forecast to make its second U-S landfall bringing heavy rain to southwest Louisiana - all eyes were on the flood gates at Toledo Bend - operated by the Sabine River Authority under federal guidelines.

Those guidelines have been a topic of debate for decades and the police jury has decided something needs to be done. The Sabine River Authority or SRA, opened five spillway gates on August 30, at 1 foot each, according to its Facebook page.

This is what it looked like a day later, all eleven gates were opened at 6 feet each.

During the historic flooding in March of 2016, all operating gates were open at 22 feet.

“The river authority needs to get their heads out their butts and do something about all this,” said one Merryville resident, Richard Thedford. “When they open all the gates up, this area is prone to flooding bad, I mean super bad.”

Many residents like Thedford believe waiting to open the spillway gates has caused the devastation he's seen time and time again.

This time around, Thedford didn't feel the wrath of Harvey but helped rescue those who did. He had to get his elderly parents out as well. His father is 74 years-old and dependent on an oxygen tank.

“If they open the gates, they need to open them very gradually, two feet at a time,” said Thedford. “We don't flood as bad. We flood, but we don't flood as bad. Open them up six feet, eight feet, even open all them up at once, we have no warning, we have nothing,” said Thedford.

Deputy Director of the River Authority, Warren Founds, says the federal guidelines it follows have not been majorly updated since the reservoir was built over 50 years ago. An effort was made in 2015 to revisit them, but a group of several federal agencies was unsuccessful in coming up with a solution to satisfy both those above and below the dam.

“So, we had this flood, and I said guys we have to do something to help the people,” said Rusty Williamson, President of the Beauregard Parish Police Jury.

He says the vote was unanimous Tuesday night for a resolution to be drafted asking Louisiana's congressional delegation for help changing the flood gate guidelines.

“Especially if you know a storm coming, get the gates down, get the lake down, so you have more control instead of opening all the gates and flooding everyone and endangering lives and property,” said Williamson.

Williamson, the jury, and residents are looking for a more gradual release of water in anticipation of heavy rains instead of waiting for the reservoir to reach a certain level.

“They won’t do anything about it till it’s too late and they flood everyone out,” said Williamson.

Williamson says they are drafting the resolution now and it will be sent to Vernon and Calcasieu Parishes as well to get everyone on board, before sending it off to the Louisiana and Texas delegations.

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