Terrebonne considering no-wake zones in bayous

Lillie Martin is used to figuring out how to get her message across.

Martin helps her husband, Darren, retail shrimp at Martin’s Fresh Shrimp in Chauvin. When he’s out on the water or across the street at their home, Martin is running the market and making sales. As customers come by looking for seafood, she goes out of her way to make them comfortable and satisfied. If she is short on supply, she hops on the phone and see if other local shrimpers have what they need. If patrons prefer speaking in Spanish, Martin is ready to work with them, her accent be damned.

“Quieres camarones para pescado o comer?” Martin asked, seeing if some customers wanted shrimp for fishing or for dinner.

However, there has been one group of people Martin has not been able to reach. While most boats travel up and down Bayou Little Caillou with no problem, there are still too many passing through and sending a massive wake to each side of the bayou, according to Martin. Each large wave sends Darren’s skiff, “No Respect,” rocking, turning the old boat into a floating metaphor.

Martin, concerned about the waves’ effects on the vessel’s engine, has taken every measure possible to tame the waters. She has called authorities to beef enforcement, but they cannot patrol her area all hours of the day. She has a sign that reads “SLOW DOWN” facing the bayou. And if the boaters miss the sign, Martin said she will use her voice to alert passerby.

“It gets frustrating. I could stand out here all day and scream ‘til I’m hoarse, and they still wouldn’t get it,” Martin said.

Terrebonne Parish Councilman Dirk Guidry, who represents Chauvin, has fielded calls from Martin and others along Little Caillou about the wakes people make. During parish council committee meetings on June 6, he proposed making the entirety of Bayou Little Caillou a no-wake zone.

“I get a lot of calls all the way from Upper Little Caillou all the way to Cocodrie about people speeding. Nowadays, they got a lot of nice camps down the bayou, and people come, and they’re going pretty fast and they’re doing damage to these boats and doing damage to these wharves and bulkheads,” Guidry said at the meeting.

Guidry originally included Bayou Terrebonne in the proposed ordinance as well, but deferred to Steve Trosclair, the councilman who represents the majority of the bayou. Trosclair said he did not want Bayou Terrebonne to be entirely no-wake, as it includes many wide-open areas without residents on the shore. Trosclair said he has not heard complaints from constituents about incessant speeding yet.

“Bayou Terrebonne is a different geographic layout, pretty much, than Bayou Little Caillou, cause there’s a lot of areas in Bayou Terrebonne that are uninhabited, open bayou areas. Where Bayou Little Caillou, pretty much from the airbase all the way down is totally occupied. There’s very few, if any spots without any residents on either side of the bayou,” Trosclair said.

During the meeting, the council agreed to pull any measures related to the no-wake zone for a month. Guidry said he had plans to introduce an ordinance for his district’s main bayou again.

According to Trosclair, increasing the amount of no-wake zones in the area would not alleviate the problem. He said the best way to improve the situation would be through increased enforcement.

“The people that obey speed limit signs on the highway that ride boats pretty much obey them, the ones that don’t obey them on the highway probably wont obey those. Without enforcement, it’s not going to be much of a deterrent,” Trosclair said.

Lt. Dudley Authement Jr. works for the Terrebonne Parish Sheriff’s Office water patrol. According to Authement, the patrol has three boats scattered around the parish during each shift. He singled out Bayou Little Caillou as the one with the most residents calling about speeding boats. Many out-of-towners are heading down Little Caillou to the popular camps in Cocodrie, and they are not familiar with every no-wake zone along the way. Authement said replacing and improving fallen signs along the bayous would help boaters help themselves and improve the patrol’s ability to enforce the rules.

“If we could just get the parish to put them back at the major intersections and the known no-wake zones with the parish, if we can get them well-marked again, it would help us out a lot. And it would help out the people from out of town that don’t actually know where it’s at,” Authement said.

Aside from areas designated by the parish, all public boat launches and anywhere with a fuel dock are automatic no-wake zones, according to Authement. The lieutenant said knowing what one’s boat does at different speeds is the key to being mindful of waterborne property.

“Some people think they’re going slow, but their boat’s squatting, and it’s throwing a bigger wave than if they’d actually be on top,” Authement said. “It’s not actually a certain miles per hour on the water; it just comes out to your judgment, you know, what kind of wake is going to cause damage.”

Terrebonne no-wake zonesKARL GOMMEL | THE TIMES