There has been a plan to restore navigation on the River Lez from the sea up to Montpellier and provide the city with an inland marina for something like 30 years –when master architect Ricardo Bofill published designs destined to transform the city. During the time between then and now there have been repeated statements that action would take place soon, but also repeated voices highlighting the cost and practical problems of realising the dream.

In fact, the marina basin has already been dug, as part of constructing the adjoining commercial-residential scheme ‘Port Marianne’ but it is destined to remain a pleasant natural amenity, and not become a bustling port.

In 2011 regional leader Robert Navarro pledged his support for the project and announced that it would be completed by 2015. However, by 2012, expert opinion concurred that it was almost wholly unviable – and then M. Navarro became embroiled in a separate financial controversy. And a decision this week by Languedoc-Roussilon has finally and definitively sunk the project, on the basis that the French State will not contribute the necessary funds.

Key factors in the abandonment decision are –

  • Potential consequences and costs associated with dredging the river bed for upstream navigation beyond the existing port de plaisance, Port Ariane at Lattes.
  • The apparent necessity of constructing two ecluses and a boat lift.
  • A complicated Local-Regional-State ownership situation for the river itself, plus the requirement to purchase privately owned parcels of riverside land.
  • Water conservation, flood, pollution and environmental considerations.
  • Benefits to a relatively few boaters far outweighed by scale and cost.
  • Lack of support and enthusiasm amongst relevant decision-makers.

River Lez / Lattes / Montpellier – Cruising in Detail