LDWF secures court agreement to reopen Lake Martin boat launch

The public received a win on Monday when LDWF and the Chauffe-Hebert family reached an agreement to provide full access to Lake Martin through a boat launch that had been at the heart of a months-long dispute, said the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

LDWF had been in negotiations with the family for months to have barriers removed from the boat launch that had been blocking access to the launch and traditional parking area since March 1. The publicly constructed launch is the only public entry point for boaters into the lake, which is legislatively designated as a game and fish preserve.

On Monday, the LDWF and the family agreed to an interim consent judgment that allows the launch and adjacent parking area to remain open until the merits of the lawsuit are resolved or LDWF and the family reach a permanent agreement.

“The launch is a gateway to a pristine, natural environment that people have enjoyed for decades,” said LDWF Secretary Jack Montoucet. “We are happy that the family and all concerned could reach this decision. This is a decision many people can cheer about.”

This interim agreement was established through the efforts of LDWF legal staff along with the Louisiana Attorney General’s office and those representing the Chauffe-Hebert family landowners.

According to the LDWF, the reopening comes at a time when hunters need easy access to Lake Martin for duck hunting, fishing, boating and birding in the area.

“We commend the family for agreeing to get this done at this critical time. So many folks are rediscovering the outdoors and have found a way to have fun and still meet Governor Edwards’ COVID-19 distancing guidelines,” Montoucet said.

The closure

The public boat launch was blocked for nearly nine months after the family that owned property adjacent to the launch said they were concerned that they would be held liable should any accidents happen while people were on their property as they headed to the launch.

After months of congenial and earnest discussions about the possibility of reopening the launch were unsuccessful, LDWF eventually asked the courts to intervene.

LDWF lawyers, assisted by the Attorney General’s office, filed a lawsuit in November against the property owners seeking to have the launch re-opened. On Nov. 19, 16th Judicial District Court judge signed a temporary restraining order to re-establish public access to Lake Martin through the boat launch and to prevent any obstruction impeding use of the launch.

Following the court’s ruling, the parties continued their cooperative efforts to resolve issues surrounding the boat launch and agreed to an interim consent judgment on Nov. 30. The consent judgment clarifies that the launch and adjacent parking area will remain open to the public until a permanent agreement is reached or the court rules on the merits of the lawsuit. The agreement also addresses the liability concerns raised by the family.

The interim agreement represents a continued cooperative approach by LDWF and the family. It provides an opportunity for the expenditure of public funds to make necessary repairs and improvements to the launch area and sets the stage for securing public access well into the future. The LDWF looks forward to working in concert with the family to reach a long-term agreement regarding the launch area.

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