Gulf Coast Report

By admin ~ October 4th, 2011. Filed under: Gulf Coast-West.

Texan vessel operators required to take boating education while waterways remain closed along the Mississippi Gulf.

By Capt. Mike Holmes

Texas expands mandatory boating education

Texas has legislated mandatory boating education classes be taken starting this September 1st. The law applies to anyone born on or after September 1st, 1993 who wishes to operate a vessel with more than 15 horsepower of propulsion or a wind-driven vessel that is over 14 feet in length. A legislative report by the state’s Advisory Panel on Boating Safety said that drowning is the primary cause of boating deaths nationwide. Out of 543 boating fatalities in 2009, 385 of the victims were not wearing lifejackets. Rough water or hazardous weather conditions were also cited as contributing factors.


Another Texas artificial reef

Yet another artificial reef has been built seven nautical miles offshore from Port Mansfield, Texas. This puts it within the nine nautical mile limit of Texas offshore waters, and therefore will fall under the more liberal Texas state limits for red snapper. (Most state’s territorial boundaries extend offshore three miles, to the “Cannon Ball Line.” For historical reasons, Texas and Florida’s claims in the Gulf of Mexico are three marine leagues, which is about nine miles.) This includes no closed season, plus more liberal bag and possession limits. Other recent “reefs” in that area were made from de-commissioned ships sunk in strategic locations, but this one will be constructed of more than 4,000 concrete culverts that will be added to 800 others, along with a sunken tugboat. In partnership with Coastal Conservation Association, the reef is expected to attract fish such as red snapper and offer a recreational fishing and diving destination relatively close to shore. Since the Port Mansfield area is known for its short run to deep water and has natural rock formations as close as five miles from the jetties, the new reefing efforts should attract fish activity in a fairly short amount of time.


Mississippi River Gulf Outlet Canal closed

The Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MR-GO) Canal was constructed by the U.S. Corps of Engineers in 1985 to provide large commercial vessels a shorter route to the Gulf from the inner harbor of New Orleans. It connects to the Industrial Canal from the Mississippi River to Lake Ponchartrain, and runs 76 miles to the Gulf through Breton Sound. In retrospect, the MR-GO was not as good an idea as it may have first appeared to be. Large ships still preferred traveling the Mississippi to the Gulf through Southwest Pass, and ecological damage to the fragile freshwater marshes and cypress swamps below New Orleans was severe. Hurricane Katrina sealed the death sentence for the MR-GO when the storm literally rode up the canal into New Orleans. It is now dammed up and closed completely, even to small boat traffic. Fishermen heading for the Chandeleur Islands or Venice as a jumping off point for offshore adventures preferred the straight shot down the canal because there was less of a chance of encountering large ships in a confined channel. But most now agree, the canal did more harm than good.

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