Service hours to be cut on Calcasieu River barrier

Cutting daily service at the Calcasieu River Saltwater Barrier from 16 hours to 12 hours would significantly affect thousands of boats that use the waterway, residents told Army Corps of Engineers at a public meeting earlier this week.

The Army Corps’ Chris Accardo said the corps’ proposal would reduce the hours from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. He said the 12-hour shift was chosen because more commercial and recreational boats use the lock during that period.

The changes would be effective Dec. 31.

Accardo said service hours are being cut because of funding reductions in the Inland Marine Transportation System. He said inland navigation funding for fiscal year 2013 is $780 million, down from $1.05 billion in the 2008 fiscal year.

“This is not something the New Orleans District wants to do,” Accardo said. “These funding concerns are not isolated to just us. It is a crisis going on across this country.”

He said the reduced service hours at the Calcasieu River Saltwater Barrier would save anywhere from $200,000 to $300,000 annually.

Service hours at Catfish Point Control Structure, Schooner Bayou Lock and Berwick Lock, located in Morgan City, would also be reduced, Accardo said.

Ben Garber, district commander for the U.S. Power Squadron, said the 7 p.m. closing time “really impacts the recreational boating community.” He said he would prefer later service hours during weekends and the summer.

Resident Jon Ingle said cutting service hours would impact commercial development along the lakefront. He asked Accardo about using remote controls to operate the structure. Accardo said the technology is available, but the Army Corps is reluctant to use it because of safety concerns.

“It’s unreliable,” Accardo said. “There (are) chances of accidents.”