Part VII: Woody to Water – The Chronology of Caney lake

NOTE: Today most people only know that Caney Creek Reservoir and Caney Lake State Park is considered one of the jewels of Sportsman’s Paradise, as the state is called. Few remember the countless trials, tribulations, pitfalls and roadblocks that had to be overcome or the role that Woody McDonald played in changing the woods into water. This week – Shots are fired!

During the years of 1861 – 1865 a war broke out that nearly tore the United States of America apart. A little over 100 years later another north/south war broke out in the state of Louisiana. It was a battle for political superiority between two men, Speaker of the House, E.L. “Bubba” Henry from the north and Governor Edwin Edwards from the south. The weapons used weren’t bullets but barbs and the battle was far from “civil”. The battleground – Caney Lake!

Up until the end of Edwards first administration (1972-76), the pair were pals. Both held their position during Edwards second term (1976-80), with Henry earning the distinction of being the only speaker to succeed himself in modern history. It was in 1976 that a rift began between the two.

The consensus opinion was that it was due to Edwards thinking that Henry was trying to usurp his power by forming a coalition of younger members of the house who earned the nickname the “Young Turks.” Led by Henry, the group urged for spending cuts, reducing the number of state employees and reducing the amount of bonded indebtedness, all which went against the Edwards platform.

What started as political jousts on floor of the House of Representatives soon turned into personal attacks all relating to Caney Lake. On September 2nd of the bicentennial year, an article was published by the Shreveport Times Ruston Bureau that questioned Henry’s connection with the Timox Development Corporation out of Dallas, TX. Labeled as a “conflict of interest” the article pointed out that two of Henry’s law partners and his brother-in-law owned stock in the company that was developing approximately 2,000 acres of residential property adjacent to Caney Lake.

Henry quickly denied any copiability. “Bubba” stated that the only connection he had with the property was as a promoter of the lake and that he did not keep up with his partner’s or brother-in-law’s business ventures, but the seed had been planted which Henry tried to downplay.

“It is not worthy of comment concerning any possible question of using my influence as a political figure for personal gain,” Henry was quoted as saying.

Regardless, a shot had been fired prompting Henry to fire a salvo of his own one month later. In an October 8th article in the Shreveport Times, Henry accused Edwards of coercion by deliberately blocking work on Caney Lake by withholding funds for the project.

The basis of his claim was a September meeting Edwards had with Woody McDonald. The Chairman of the Jackson Parish Watershed Commission had flown to Baton Rouge to ask Edwards to allow the State Department of Public Works to let a $1,000,000.00 (one million) dollar contract that would clear much of the lake bottom.

“He (McDonald) was told that until I got in line, they weren’t going to do anything on the lake or anything else,” Henry was quoted as saying.

Henry further stated that the Governor said he would tell all local officials in Jackson Parish the project was being stonewalled because of the “politics in Baton Rouge.” He also confirmed that the Governor told Henry that he hoped he enjoyed the company of his “new found friends”, referring to the Henry led coalition of “Young Turks.”

Edwards denied that their political battle had anything to do with the funds for Caney Lake suddenly drying up after over $2,000,000.00 (two million) being given for the project over the last decade. His claim was that the state just didn’t have the additional 8-9 million dollars it would take to complete the project.

The battle raged on throughout the remaining years of the Edwards administration. Despite multiple attempts by Henry to get the money needed re-appropriated, each time the effort was stonewalled.

Like the “Civil War” brought the progression of the United States to a standstill for four years, the “un-civil” war between these two did the same for the progression of Caney Lake.

Next week – Treen and a hill of beans!


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