Sidelined by Mother Nature

Port Eads Marina closes due to filling in of South Pass

Port Eads Marina, located at the southernmost point of Louisiana and the last stop before hitting the Gulf of Mexico, has closed indefinitely. Described by Sporting Classics Magazine as “the number one marina and fishing destination in the Gulf of Mexico” in recent years, the marina has been shut down mainly because of sedimentation buildup that has filled in the South Pass of the Mississippi River.

That buildup of silt has made the South Pass unnavigable for bigger sport fishing boats whose offshore and billfishing crews once enjoyed the convenience of Port Eads Marina, which is only accessible by boat.

According to Rene Cross, owner of Cypress Cove Marina and a board member with the Port Eads Fishing Refuge, a non-profit that was formed to vie for the best interests of the marina, said it’s a big loss to the region and to anglers.

“Port Eads Marina is an institution to us. It’s the closest place to the best fishing in the world, and it has everything anglers could want. Gas, a restaurant, a store, sleeping quarters — all in the most convenient location to the Gulf,” he said.

“And it didn’t close down because of politics, poor management, or disinterest. It just became unsustainable to operate because the silt has filled in so badly that the bigger fishing boats simply cannot get to it safely. Mother Nature is the reason it’s been closed,” said Cross.

Cross explained that when the federal government pitched in $12 million to help rebuild the marina after the previous structure was leveled by Hurricane Katrina, it was not economically feasible for anyone to purchase or own the building.

“Nobody could purchase it because you wouldn’t be able to insure it. Flood insurance — if you could even find a company to sell it to you — would be so costly that you couldn’t afford it. So it was placed in the non-profit, with Plaquemines Parish retaining ownership. We (Port Eads Fishing Refuge, the non-profit) hired High Adventure Company to manage it on a five-year contract.

“That contract is now up. High Adventure did everything we hired them to do. They even went above and beyond what was asked of them, but with the contract now expired, it just wasn’t feasible for them to continue,” said Cross.

Channel markers still stand above the surface, marking what used to offer safe passage. But Cross said the markers just aren’t accurate any longer.

“In recent weeks, boats have tried to go through there, and even though they stayed within the markers, they still ran aground. And dredging is simply not an option. The cost is astronomical. It would cost 40 to 50 million dollars to dredge all of South Pass, and over two million to dredge just from the mouth of the Gulf to Port Eads Marina,” he said.

And while many people look to the feds for dredging, Cross said they have no help to offer.

“The federal government is committed to dredging Southwest Pass, which is where all the commerce flows. That pass has got to stay open and must be a priority over all others, because there’s just too much money and too much commercial shipping taking place there. And if Southwest Pass silts in, it will all come to a halt. They dredge daily there, with numerous dredging machines, and it’s all they can do to maintain just enough depth to make it navigable by ships that draw up to 45 feet. The only way they could help South Pass is if Southwest Pass didn’t need dredging any longer, and that’s simply not going to happen. It’s unfortunate, but Southwest Pass benefits the most people, so that is where the federal government has to concentrate their dredging,” he said.

So what happens to the Port Eads Marina now? Cross said it’s in the hands of the parish, and that as far as he can tell; even they aren’t sure what comes next.

“At the very least, they will provide security to the marina so that it isn’t robbed or vandalized. And who knows? Maybe they will figure out a way to reopen it. I’m not sure if they know right now what they’re going to do with it. But they, and the Port Eads Fishing Refuge have been looking for ways to keep it open for years, and we’ll continue doing everything we can to hopefully see it open again someday,” said Cross.