Riverfront parking, casual levee use not affected by Mississippi River emergency order, state official says

    An emergency order issued Monday by the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority restricting traffic on the Mississippi River levee and parking within 300 feet of the levee centerline is apparently not as restrictive as it may sound.

    Though the widely reported order—issued in response to the Mississippi River’s flood-stage level—restricts foot and vehicular traffic on the levee’s bike trails and walking paths, the executive director of the Pontchartrain Levee District says the levee isn’t closed to anyone at this point.

    “We can’t possibly restrict people from going up on the levee and looking at the river or taking pictures,” says Monica Salins, who heads the levee district. “Using the paved bike path is fine, too.”

    Salins, who says she spoke today with CPRA Executive Director Chip Kline about the clarification, says his agency’s intent in issuing the order was to have a tool in place to restrict access to the levee in the event that the flood stage becomes dangerously high.

    According to Kline’s executive order, the purpose of restricting access was also to allow inspection teams “to not be hindered by casual observers or recreational activities.”

    But Salins says for now, as long as levee users follow common sense, she doesn’t have a problem with them accessing the levee.

    As for the provision restricting parking within 300 feet of the levee centerline, Joanne Moreau, executive director of the Mayor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, says parking garages and surface lots are exempt from that provision.

    “It’s nobody’s intention to restrict parking downtown or close any parking lots,” Moreau says. “Those structures and surface lots are exempt.”

    That comes as a welcome relief to Downtown Development District Executive Director Davis Rhorer, who notes parking for the Belle of Baton Rouge, U.S.S. Kidd employees, Louisiana Art and Science Museum employees, the surface parking lot for the Hilton Capitol Center and the State Welcome Center Garage are all within 300 feet of the levee centerline.

    —Stephanie Riegel

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