Boaters oppose shorter hours at Saltwater Barrier - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Boaters oppose shorter hours at Saltwater Barrier

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CALCASIEU PARISH, LA (KPLC) -

Many local boaters were outraged when budget cuts forced the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to cut back the hours when the locks at the Saltwater Barrier are open on the Calcasieu River.

Now, several months later, what's the impact of those cuts?

Some think the local waterways are what's best about Southwest Louisiana and now that summer is here, they are upset and frustrated that the locks at the Saltwater Barrier now close at 7 p.m.

It's a Saturday night on the Calcasieu River and people are gathering at Loggerheads, on the river at Mistretta's Resort.

Many here will soon embark upon a cruise on "The Lady of the Lake" though the voyage cannot go to Lake Charles.

Because of federal budget issues, locks at the Saltwater Barrier now close at 7 p.m.

As well, some must cut their evening short to get on the right side of the locks before they close.

"Unfortunately, on a beautiful day like today, we've having to cut our day short basically, to head back into Lake Charles to beat the Saltwater Barrier closing at seven," said  boater Michael Ward.

Michael Richard, another boater, said it's "inconvenient."

"At times, we think it's very unfair that they have to close so early because it does cut our boating day short," said Richard.

Boaters complain closing the locks early is unfair to the people. John Ney is using social networking to rally the people.

"If you're not back through the locks by 7 o'clock, you'll be locked either on the north side or the south side of the locks, unable, maybe to get to your launching destination. With the boating community we have, we need the locks open at least until sundown," he said.

And others say the bigger impact is the effect on business and tourism.

"I come in my truck instead of using my boat. I don't like that. I like to use my boat. That's what our waterways are for, it's beautiful here," said boater Doug Fontenot.

"It does affect business. I was in the boat business here for nine years and when you cut out that opportunity to explore these waterways, you take away a lot of those purchases of boats, motors, the services involved with that process. It hurts the marinas," said boater Boyd Miles.

Charles LeDoux gives tours and alligator hunts.

"The time of the evening, whenever the sun's going down, it's the perfect time to be out there on the water. It's hard to go and do that when they close the barrier. Casinos especially love when I go up that way. It's stops Lake Charles from getting some of the business that I do on that end," LeDoux said.

And some people who don't time it right get stuck on the wrong side of the barrier.

Spokesman Rachel Rodi, USACE New Orleans District, Public Affairs, released the following statement:

"We understand and are empathetic to boaters concerns, however, the Corps is not immune to the tough economic times our country faces. At this time, the New Orleans District is required to conform to a nationwide policy to reduce levels of service so Corps structures are consistent throughout the entire 12,000 miles of inland waterways in the system. Any cost savings realized are applied to dredging and maintenance of locks to reduce closures and improve system reliability."

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