Behind the Red River levee near Gillam, workers have begun laying pipes for the Red Bayou irrigation project to divert water into this dry bayou. Stephen Logan, a Caddo Parish farmer who has been involved with NRCS for the last 15 years said that while Louisiana has gotten more water than some areas of the U.S. this year, the northern part of the state in particular is subject to frequent droughts at critical times.
“These, in particular, are subject to drought, and each year, we have at least a three-to-four week period when we need water,” Logan said. “Oftentimes, we‘ll have a six-week window when we need to put water on them.”
Logan said the project will enhance farmers’ ability to save their crops from disaster.
“It’s going to greatly expand the amount of land that we’re capable of watering and it’s going to be a reliable water source,” he said. “It’s going to be abundant, so we can have enough to run pivots or furrow or however we want to do it.”
NRCS District Conservationist Brian Baiamonte says once complete, the Red Bayou irrigation project will double the irrigated acres in the watershed from about 6,000 to 12,000 acres.
“What we’re trying to demonstrate is that the Red Bayou project can be recreated, duplicated along the Red River,” Baiamonte said. "At the peak time of irrigation season is when the aquifer’s at its lowest and least available to the farmers. So, that’s when we’ll have water available in the Red Bayou for the farmers to use.”
Logan says even farmers who do not have land adjacent to the Red Bayou will have free access to the water, but must provide are their own pumps.
“We’re asking our land and our crops to do more,” he said. “We’re asking them to make more and we have to provide them with the water.”
NRCS officials have given the contractors 400 days to complete the Red River project, but the contractor is optimistic it will be done inside six months. The initial project has $4 million in funding, but officials hope it is just the beginning of many such projects in the state.