University Lakes restoration could accelerate with additional $5M

While much of the attention during the recent legislative session was focused on issues like tax reform, sports betting and whether transgender athletes can play high school sports, it largely went unnoticed that the Capital Region delegation managed to secure state funds totaling $10 million for the University Lakes restoration and enhancement project.

Led by Sen. Franklin Foil, R-Baton Rouge, the delegation not only secured $5 million for the project in the Priority 1 category of the state construction budget for FY 2022, but moved an additional $5 million that had been in P5 up to P1.

As a practical matter, that means the project should get $10 million this fiscal year, which could enable work on the project to be done more quickly.

“The contractor can speed up the completion of the project with the additional $5 million in funding this year,” Foil says. “This project is a top priority for my district.”

In the capital outlay budgeting process, projects in P5 are on the books but do not typically receive funding for that year. Projects in P1 typically do.

A spokesperson for the LSU Foundation, which is partnering with stakeholders on the project, says it’s too soon to say exactly how the additional funds will impact the project timeline.

The current schedule calls for dredging and reshaping to begin by the end of this year on four lakes—City Park, Campus, College and Erie—in the six-lake system. The additional $5 million could enable dredging to begin on University and Crest Lakes as well.

“Having the availability of that funding accelerated could allow us to address all six lakes more quickly,” LSU Foundation Vice president for communications Sara Whittaker says.

To date, $50 million has been committed towards the project, launched in 2016 by the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, from multiple sources.