$15 million complex features public fuel dock, ice house, restaurant, slips
Slip space is now available at the all-new Port Eads Marina Facility on South Pass at the southernmost tip of Louisiana, about 21 miles south of Venice.
In addition to a 60-slip full-service marina equipped with hookups for water and electricity, the state-of-the-art $15 million dollar facility funded by FEMA features two camps capable of sleeping 48 people, a fuel dock, ice house, two wastewater treatment plants, a 60,000-gallon potable water system, a restaurant and a 900-foot boardwalk through the marsh from the marina to the camps.
Jacque Kuchta is president of the Port Eads Fishing Refuge, a non-profit corporation that has entered into a public/private cooperative endeavor with Plaquemines Parish to manage the facility.
“It’s an asset that they put out for bid to the private sector, but if it’s a private deal it can’t be insured,” Kuchta said. “Because we’re non-profit, what we’ll do is manage it in a way that it will be revenue positive and won’t be a loss to the parish.
“But we have a mandate to give back contributions to the parish to a specified education fund for children from a grade school, high school and vo-tech point of view.”
The facility is located on South Pass and will be open to the general public, and Kuchta said about 30 slips remain available for lease in the marina.
“We’re encouraging yearly commitments, and we’re about halfway there in leasing slips on an annual basis,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll get that done by May 1.
“Transients will be welcomed, as well, but we have lessees from Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida so far.”
For information on leasing slip space, contact Kelli Schilling with the Plaquemines Parish Government Office of Economic Development and Tourism at 504-394-0088 or by email here.
Kuchta said the facility is already completed, but the fuel dock is not expected to open until April 1, and the operating company that will handle the day-to-day work at Port Eads, including reserving lodging, operating the restaurant, coordinating restaurant service to the boats and booking charter fishing trips, was still to be announced in mid-February.
A final decision on room rates will be made by the operating company, but Kuchta said he thought they would be in the $100- to $125-per-night range.
“It’s brand new in one sense, but in another it’s been there for over 60 years as a fishing destination,” Kuchta said. “It’s really going to be something now because we’re going to have an operator in there that’s top-notch.”
Port Eads is named after James Buchanan Eads, who opened the Port of New Orleans to world commerce in 1879 when he created the jetty system that narrowed South Pass so the force of the Mississippi River would dredge a deeper navigation channel.
Over the years, the facility has served different functions, but Kuchta said the landmark lighthouse, which was built in 1881, remains in good shape.
Port Eads became a Coast Guard station and military outpost in World War II to monitor German U-boat activity in the Gulf of Mexico, and later Plaquemines Parish took over a portion of it and built a camp, he said.
The New Orleans Big Game Fishing Club used the site from 1962 until its destruction at the hands of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
After the storm, Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser tried to gain federal support to rebuild the facility, which almost didn’t happen.
“On the third try, he and his consulting engineers went to Washington and said, ‘Look, you tell us how to build it,’” Kuchta said. “So now it has handicap access ramps to the fuel dock, concrete pilings, the highest wind rating and an award-winning sewerage treatment plant.
“It’s state of the art.”
In addition to being a world-class fishing destination, Kuchta said the facility has received interest from corporations and universities like LSU, Auburn, Texas A&M and the University of Miami who hope to use it as a research outpost.
“Our non-profit status will be ideal for that,” Kuchta said. “The main thrust of our non-profit agenda is education of the children in Plaquemines Parish. And for us to contribute not just to a general fund but to a specific targeted group or effort in the education domain.”