Residents who have been tying their canoes, kayaks and other boats to the banks of Bayou St. John for more than a day at a time may soon want to move their property, for the city is preparing to start issuing citations for the newly banned practice.
In early September, the New Orleans City Council voted to prohibit docking boats in the bayou for longer than 24 hours. Owners can face impoundment of their boats, fines and even eventual sale of the boats for breaking the rules. The ordinance, however, has yet to be enforced, according to city officials and observant Mid-City residents.
That will soon change, said Mark Jernigan, director of the city’s Department of Public Works.
“The city will install signage along Bayou St. John notifying boaters of the 24-hour restriction in the coming weeks and will begin enforcement thereafter,” Jernigan wrote in an Oct. 28 email.
Councilwoman Susan Guidry, who authored the ordinance, said the law is designed to protect residents against a gamut of public health threats posed by unattended canoes and boats, including disease-bearing mosquitoes, snakes and the possibility that the boats could become dangerous missiles during high winds or storms.
The September ordinance said the Mosquito Control Board would place stickers on apparently unattended boats warning that if they aren’t removed within two calendar days, they may then be hauled away by the New Orleans Police Department.
The initial fine for offenders is $150, plus an additional $10 for every day the boat sits in the impoundment lot. The maximum fine is $250, but the boats can be disposed of if they are left in the lot for more than five months.
Orleans Levee District officials used to take responsibility for boats left in the water by notifying owners with stickers.
In 2009, they said they would lock the boats in place if no action was taken.
City officials determined, however, that the boats weren’t really the Orleans Levee District’s responsibility, and no enforcement action has been taken until now.
While the issue has been an important one for Guidry, views in Mid-City and along Bayou St. John are not unanimous.
After the law passed, some residents celebrated Guidry’s initiative — including Parkview resident Susan Danielson.
“I think it’s a great law,” said Danielson, 66. “I think it’s fabulous to use the bayou, but I want all people to have access … not for some people to claim bits and parts of it.”
Others, like Austin Conn, a 27-year-old student who lives in Mid-City, see the restriction as an infringement on residents’ rights.
“That’s kind of lame to me,” Conn said. “I’m not a fan of excessive rulebooking.”