Money for Sparta grant may exist

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The Sparta Ground Water Commission may be a step closer toward getting the $100,000 match it needs to apply for an Environmental Protection Agency grant for a project that would include updating the aquifer model.

The Union Lincoln Regional Water Supply Initiative on Thursday said it’s willing contribute the $100,000, if it can legally do so. Though the ULRWSI has the money, the funds came from donations by the four ULRSWI-member entities for purchase of property that would have been part of a now-defunct pipeline project from Lake D’Arbonne to Ruston.

ULRWSI commissioners had asked their attorney for an opinion on whether they could divert the funds from the original intended use.

The Sparta commission wants to apply

for a $500,000 EPA grant, but it can’t until it can offer 20 percent match money. The EPA grant is an 80-20 grant, meaning the group seeking the money has to put up 20 percent of the funds. In this case, 20 percent is $100,000. The Sparta commission doesn’t have the money on hand, Commission Chairman Nick Cox told the ULRWSI.

“Our chances go way up of getting $400,000 if we had $100,000 in our coffers,” Cox, who represents Webster Parish on the groundwater group, said. “We can’t even get out of the gate unless we have the $100,000.”

Sparta Commission Executive Director Linsday Gouedy said her group needs the money by mid-February. The ULRWSI is expected to call a special meeting once it hears from its lawyer, Farmerville attoreny Joe Cusimano.

“I think we need the study,” ULRSWI member Keith Jeselink, of Ruston, said. “What (data) we’re going on now is out of date.”

The last broad-based Sparta studies were done in the early 2000s. Though the U.S. Geological Survey generally updates its numbers every five years, the data is often outdated by the time it’s made public, Sparta advocates say.

“If we’re always looking into the rearview mirror we’ll never be able to plan for the future,” Gouedy said.

The commission, which represents the 16 North Louisiana Sparta Parishes, including Union, also wants to reinstate roughly 30 discontinued aquifer monitoring wells and develop a water-budgeting database.

The database will provide a video-game type tool to run real-time scenarios and project how a proposed infrastructure project could impact the aquifer.