Staff could be cut at Calcasieu Lock

The staff at the Calcasieu Lock could be cut by half within the next 18 months because less federal money may be allocated to its operation and maintenance, the Army Corps of Engineers says.

Lockmaster Kevin Galley told a Propeller Club-Ports of Southwest Louisiana last week that traffic will experience slowdowns in going through the lock.

In a talk to the club, Galley also said the heavy rainfall the area has experienced in recent weeks could lead to delays in traversing the lock for up to two months because of high water.

The lock’s main function is keeping saltwater out of the Mermentau Basin.

The lock, which has been around for nearly 70 years, is being operated past its expected lifespan of 50 years, Galley said.

“We have to live with what we’ve got,” he said.

Galley said commercial traffic passing through the lock increased from 13,834 vessels in 2011 to 14,270 vessels in 2012.

He said cargo estimates have risen as well from 36.7 million tons 2011 to 38.1 million tons in 2012.

Galley said recreational traffic is relatively low with just over 200 vessels in 2011 and in 2012.

Corps officials said in December that work is continuing on a feasibility study to improve navigation at the lock, which they say has become unsafe after periods of heavy rainfall.