Jefferson Parish is expected to have a boat launch in Gretna for emergency-response vessels by this time next year, thanks to a $1 million federal grant obtained through the U.S. Coast Guard.
As it stands today, such vessels must be launched from private property along the Harvey Canal in the case of accidents and other emergencies on the Mississippi River.
The parish had applied for the federal port-security grant twice before and succeeded on its third attempt this year.
“We looked on both sides of the river, and there really was no access to the river without going on private property,” said Charles Hudson, the parish’s director of emergency management.
The Jefferson Parish Council is expected to approve the grant at its monthly meeting Wednesday and to provide a 25 percent match.
Hudson said that whether it’s a spill caused by a tanker collision or someone falling overboard, “this gives us an additional resource to get to them quicker.”
He noted that intakes from the river feed the local water supply and that time is of the essence in case of a spill.
The launch will be used not only by fire, police and rescue vessels from Jefferson Parish and its municipalities but also by Orleans, St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes.
Hudson said the Coast Guard, whose vessels now come down the Industrial Canal from Lake Pontchartrain to the river, will also be part of the cooperative endeavor agreement allowing other entities to use the launch.
“This will be an asset that all four parishes could use if they need to get a boat in the water,” he said.
The launch will be on the downriver side of the Gretna ferry landing.
Hudson estimated planning, the bid process and construction should wrap up within 12 months.
Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.