Vessel operator says saltwater barrier changes could hinder busi - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Vessel operator says saltwater barrier changes could hinder business

CALCASIEU PARISH, LA (KPLC) -

Developer James Mistretta already operates a passenger vessel, Lady of the Lake, that is a charter yacht used for parties and weddings.

But he has a resort under construction on the Calcasieu River north of the saltwater barrier off Highway 3059.

Mistretta says if the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers cuts back on operational hours at the barrier, it will kill his business.

He hopes local officials and citizens will convince the federal government denying access to the river is not the right way to trim budgets.

He already has a sizable investment in his property of 3059. He points out where various improvements are to be located.

"The building we were planning on building would be a bar and grill with a big room upstairs. A five thousand foot room," said Mistretta.

He has already built a large concrete mooring space.

"Boats can come and stay for a weekend ... This is our little tiki bar that will be open during the summer time," explained Mistretta.

He says what is there now is just the beginning of Riverside Resort, which he's been working on for 10 years. It's on the Calcasieu River near the Old Watermelon bay boat launch. 

His bar, Loggerheads, is to open after the first of the year. And down the road he has much more planned on the 40-acre site  including restaurants, cabins, an RV park, lounges  a convenience store and more.

But Mistretta questions how he can make it happen if boats can not come and go through the saltwater barrier.

"If they can't man it to open it and allow people to come through, they shouldn't have it there or they should leave it open so people can pass through there when they're not there. One or the other. It's just real simple. But for the government to say, 'no. We're going to shut the Calcasieu River down,' is just wrong," said Mistretta.

Corps officials propose to operate the saltwater barrier from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., which is a reduction of four hours a day.

"I appreciate the opportunity of coming out here and talking to the folks. I'm hoping we can get to a level of service where we can all live with and minimize the impact to the folks," said Chris Accardo, who is chief of operations for the Corps District based in New Orleans. Accardo spoke after a public meeting Wednesday night.

Starting Dec. 30, the Corps plans to reduce operating hours from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., to 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

An official with the Army Corps of Engineers said increasing the hours of daily operation back to 16 is not an option because of budget constraints, but adjusting the new 12-hour shift to accommodate boaters is possible.

Calcasieu Parish Police Juror Hal McMillin told 7 News that the cuts will impact local recreational and commercial boaters.

McMillin said because federal dollars are involved, he hopes local officials will get help from the Louisiana congressional delegation. McMillin wants to see police jurors pass a resolution asking for federal funding to provide access to the river 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Copyright 2012 KPLC. All rights reserved.

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