Boaters could see longer hours at Saltwater Barrier - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Boaters could see longer hours at Saltwater Barrier

Boaters could get more time to pass through the saltwater barrier on the Calcasieu River.

Right now, the barrier operates on reduced hours of 12 hours a day. But that could change to 16 hours a day and 18 hours a day on Fridays and Saturdays.

Federal rules require the lock gate to open 500 times a year for commercial vessels in order for the barrier to be open 16 hours a day.

The Calcasieu Parish Saltwater Barrier only opens about 380 times a year, which reduces the amount of hours open.

But the Calcasieu parish Police Jury approved a funding agreement between the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff's Office, the Port of Lake Charles, and the City of Lake Charles to extend the hours.

It's a $150,000 agreement for a two-year period.

With the current reduced hours, parish officials said it's mostly a quality of life issue.

"We all love to river, we all love to fish, and we have over 14,000 recreational boaters that go through the lockage and we don't get any kind of dues for those guys going through," said District 14 Calcasieu Parish Police Juror, Hal McMillin.

While it was a unanimous vote, it still brought up discussion.

"This is not our responsibility," said District 7 Calcasieu Parish Police Juror, Chris Landry. "All of the parties that you have here that have agreed to do this, it's none of these peoples responsibility."

But with what parish officials said is the 4th busiest lock in the United States with commercial and recreational boaters combined, police jurors said it's the best option at this time.

"Once we get the hours up, then we can get the commercial locks up and hopefully the federal government will take it back over," said McMillin. "Hopefully they'll be paying it on their ticket in the next couple years," said McMillin.  

Parish officials also said it's a safety issue.

"Say you had an emergency after 7 p.m. on the North side of the river and all the Wildlife and Fisheries and Coast Guards on the South side can't come up the river to help them" said McMillin.

And with 14,000 recreation boaters, Parish officials said it's an economic development boost for Southwest Louisiana.

"There's a lot of money spent on recreational boating, they average about $70 per day when someone goes out and goes fishing on recreational boating," said McMillin.

The City of Lake Charles and the Port of Lake Charles still have to vote on the agreement.

Copyright 2014 KPLC. All rights reserved.

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