Last Modified: Wednesday, July 03, 2013 10:25 AM
Officials with the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury and city of Lake Charles are working with the Army Corps of Engineers to change the daily service hours at the Calcasieu River Saltwater Barrier to keep it open later for recreational boaters.
The shift hours were reduced in December from 16 to 12 hours because of a drop in federal funding to the Inland Marine Transportation System. The Calcasieu River Saltwater Barrier’s current service hours are 7 a.m.-7 p.m.
The change upset local boaters, who wanted the area to stay open later during weekends and the summer months.
“Closing early is a frustration factor because it hurts the quality of life when we can’t use the river,” District 14 Police Juror Hal McMillin said Tuesday. McMillin represents the district where the saltwater barrier is located.
Chris Accardo, chief of operations for the corps’ New Orleans District, said last December that locks and dams are given one of six levels of service based on the amount of commercial traffic they see. The Calcasieu River Saltwater Barrier had 389 commercial locks in 2011, putting it under Level 3 service, or 8-12 daily service hours.
However, the barrier had nearly 14,000 recreational lockages in 2011. McMillin said that cutting those
vice hours hurts economic development and could made it difficult to respond to boating accidents after hours.
“It’s a tourniquet on economic development when you close off the river in Calcasieu Parish,” he said. “We have people from the north part of the river who travel south to visit the Lakefront Promenade, and people who go from the south end to the north. Now, they have to make plans to return early and not end up getting stuck and paying a docking fee.”
Lake Charles Mayor Randy Roach said the barrier’s limited hours “directly impact” downtown development efforts within the city.
“It’s not just a recreational boating issue,” he said. “We recently invested in a marina, and that is part of a plan to make the lakefront an attraction in the downtown area. It is important to be able to access the marina and enjoy the waterways.”
The Calcasieu River Saltwater Barrier will be open later on Thursday for July Fourth and through the holiday weekend, McMillin said. The barrier will be open 7 a.m.-midnight on Independence Day.
The schedule for the rest of the weekend:
Friday: 7 a.m.-10 p.m.
Saturday: 7 a.m.-10 p.m.
Sunday: 7 a.m.-9 p.m.