Steamboat Museum Still In The Works

DARROW, LA (AP) — More than three years after the award of a $5.2 million federal scenic highways grant, a steamboat museum originally envisioned to perch on the Mississippi River batture near Darrow is still in the planning stages.

         While expected to move forward, perhaps by this summer, The Advocate’s David J. Mitchell reports the museum will relocate off the river and to a plantation home's property along River Road.

         Houmas House Plantation and Gardens owner Kevin Kelly, who is contributing $1.8 million to the museum project, blamed the delays and the shift in location on expensive protective requirements imposed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

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         "They make the rules. I just have to follow them, but I thought since I had a federal project going, I would be allowed to do it there, but I wasn't," Kelly said Friday.

         A spokesman for the Corps of Engineers disputed Kelly's claims, although paperwork provided by the Corps notes that revisions to plans had to be made at some point to comply with the agency's requirements.

         In April 2011, the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded a 2010 National Scenic Byways grant for the museum at Burnside Landing, officially given the label of "Louisiana River Road Steamboat Overlook Interpretative Center." The grant is going to the Houmas House Foundation, a nonprofit group tied to the future museum.

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         As initially proposed, the museum building, built up on piers, would have rested 22 feet above the batture — the land between the levee and river. That building, which would have required driving piles into the batture and putting in fill, would have featured large windows to provide expansive views of modern-day river commerce in contrast to museum exhibits about the paddle-wheel era, plans show.

         The museum building now will be built on the ground level between a park and a parking lot at Houmas House. A planned hotel for that spot will have to be moved elsewhere.

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