By James Minton
July 23, 2012
ST. FRANCISVILLE — Some West Feliciana Parish police jurors want to take advantage of the Mississippi River’s low level to turn the old ferry landing into a year-round launching site for commercial fishermen and other boaters.
The jury recently acquired the ferry landing road, formerly part of La. 10, after the John James Audubon Bridge opened in May 2011 and negated the need for a ferry between St. Francisville and New Roads.
Only a few places to launch boats on the river’s east bank in West Feliciana Parish are available, principally because of a lack of road access.
River cruise boats also are tying up at the ferry landing to allow passengers to visit tourist attractions in the parish.
The jury leases a launch site from private landowners downstream from the ferry landing, but some jurors said earlier this week it is difficult to launch a boat from it, given the low river stage.
Juror Lea Williams tried without success Monday to persuade the jury to take the necessary steps to cancel the $900 per month lease with the Vinci family and “bankroll” the money for ferry landing improvements.
Instead, jurors started looking at plans for extending a reinforced concrete launching lane from the ferry landing pavement down the exposed bank and into the water.
On Thursday, the water line was 197 feet down a slope from the pavement’s end, said Juror Mel Percy, who chaired an Executive Committee meeting at the river.
Several observers attending the meeting said the jury may have until Aug. 8 to get the work done because the river is expected to begin rising again.
Because the water line is so far from the top of the bank, some trucks have gotten stuck in mud while launching boats, including a Sheriff’s Office vehicle.
The Sheriff’s Office needs an all-weather launch site because it is often called to rescue boaters, assist the Louisiana State Penitentiary in looking for escapees and contribute to maritime security with the Coast Guard and other agencies.
The committee discussed forming a reinforced concrete slab on the bank and using a bulldozer to push it into the water. Additional concrete then could be poured up the bank to the pavement.
Percy said ownership of the bank between the pavement and the river is in dispute, with the Lambert family claiming ownership.
Paul Lambert Jr., whose family owns the land bordering the ferry road right of way the jury acquired from the state, said a servitude or some other agreement could be reached to allow the public to use the boat launch.
“Nothing could be resolved about the ownership right away, but we need to take advantage of the low water for the public good.
The way around it is using a servitude agreement,” Lambert said.
Committee members said they hope to keep the costs under $30,000 to avoid having to delay the project while advertising for construction bids. Parish Manager John Hashagen and jury Secretary Sherrel Johnson said jurors should obtain valid quotes for each phase of the project.
Johnson also said the jury’s building and grounds budget for the year anticipates a $170,000 surplus this year. Jurors could adopt a budget amendment to use some of the surplus for the ramp.