City Council: Boats may no longer be stored along Bayou St. John _lowres

Advocate file photo by ELIOT KAMENITZ-- A man paddles up Bayou St. John towards Orleans Avenue in the fall of 2013.

Boat owners will have to find another place to store their kayaks and canoes at the end of a day spent paddling along Bayou St. John.

The City Council has voted to ban the common practice of leaving boats moored along the banks of the bayou or at the bridges crossing the waterway for longer than 24 hours.

Boats left unattended for longer than a day can be impounded and their owners fined up to $400 under the ordinance, which received the council’s unanimous support Thursday.

“These unattended boats cause a danger to public health and safety,” said Councilwoman Susan Guidry, whose district includes the Mid-City and Bayou St. John areas. “We’re going to continue to do our best to preserve (Bayou St. John) and make it as enjoyable as possible for people to use.”

The bayou has become an increasingly popular destination for kayakers and other boaters over the past several years. But some residents have complained that the proliferation of unattended vessels along the bayou’s banks is creating a health and safety hazard.

Beginning after Hurricane Katrina, it became common practice for boat owners to store their boats along the bayou, creating a queue of vessels along its banks.

The current ordinance, which applies to the entire stretch of Bayou St. John south of Desaix Boulevard, has been pending for several months while Guidry’s office determined who had jurisdiction over the bayou and its banks. The state owns the waterway, but the city and the Orleans Levee District — which in the past sometimes has stamped boats with stickers warning they would be locked in place if not removed — share jurisdiction in places.

“Under its police powers, the city has the right to remove the boats from the bayou,” Guidry said. “Also, the city is the riparian owner of the banks and can use its police powers to take the boats off the banks.”

Under the ordinance, inspectors from the Mosquito, Termite and Rodent Control Board will affix a printed notice on boats left for longer than 24 hours, informing the owner that the vessel will be impounded if not removed within 48 hours. The city can sell boats not claimed after five months, according to the ordinance.

Owners who claim boats within the five months will have to pay a $150 impoundment fee, plus $10 a day for each day the boat has been impounded, up to $250, excluding the impoundment fee. The money generated from the fines will be earmarked for continued enforcement, Guidry said.

Boats moored along the bayou for long periods can collect rainwater and become breeding grounds for mosquitoes. They may also harbor snakes or vermin, the ordinance says. It also says unsupervised boats can attract and endanger children, become projectiles during severe weather and interfere with the Levee Board’s ability to maintain the grass along the bayou.

Beyond those issues, council President Stacy Head said, allowing boats to remained tethered to the bayou’s banks effectively reserves the space for some residents while interfering with its use by others.

She made essentially the same argument later in the meeting in voting for a measure to prohibit the placement of tents and furniture in public spaces, including on sidewalks and neutral grounds.

“I think this is part of a continued effort by this council and by this administration to preserve and improve our public spaces for all,” Head said. “It is a shame when a few people co-opt public spaces so that they can’t be used by the rest of people visiting, living in and contributing to New Orleans.”