Residents concerned about increasing dangers along the Tangipahoa River

Ashley Rodrigue talks to residents about abandoned houseboats littering the river.

PONCHATOULA, La. -- The Tangipahoa River is often times as busy as a parish highway, whether for recreation or getting to a residence. 

But Carl Bennett says travel on the waterway is becoming increasingly concerning.

On a ride down the river Tuesday, WWL-TV spotted a variation of abandoned houseboats, vessels and debris that boaters like Bennett have had to tie off to the side of the river temporarily to ensure safety.

"Through a series of storms and floods over the last decade, a lot of abandoned properties have nobody tending to them," Bennett said. "They get loose, float down the river, they cause a navigation hazard, a safety hazard, but they ultimately end up littering the river."

Additionally, some of the debris becomes submerged unbeknown to the others passing through.

"A lot of it becomes submerged," Bennett said. "You don't know it's there and you come ripping through in a boat, you're gonna hit it. They tear up lower units on their motors, they tear up the hulls on their boats and there's been cases where people have hit stuff and been thrown out of their boats."

The state's Wildlife and Fisheries Department manages designated scenic rivers like the Tangipahoa.

Program directors say they're looking into these complaints, but the hardest part of the investigation is figuring out the owners. If that can be determined, the situation can be taken as far as a courtroom to get the hazards cleared. 

Without an ID, there's no easy solution to accomplish a clean-up. However, in a navigational emergency, the Corps of Engineers says it has the authority to get involved regarding sunken structures since it has a 'cleaning and snagging' navigation project approved on the river. 

The issue is that project has not been funded since 2000, aside from a small FEMA allotment in 2011-2013. If the navigation emergency involved a floating structure, the Coast Guard could get involved and charge any removal costs to the owner.

Bennett says it shouldn't be that difficult.

"It's just a matter of somebody finally saying, 'hey, this is getting to be too much and we're going to have to do something about it,' and we're going to have to find a way to do something about it," he said.

Bennett says it's going to take a community effort to make it happen.

If you're aware of a safety issue on the Tangipahoa River, or any of the state's scenic rivers, visit www.wlf.louisiana.gov/webform/scenic-river to file a complaint with Wildlife and Fisheries.

(© 2017 WWL)


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