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Wildlife Federation Pitches State Seashore Idea
Prompted by the increasing loss of public access to prime beachfront fishing and birding areas along the coast, and the opportunity to incorporate additional public benefits into the planned restoration of the Caminada Headlands (between Caminada and Belle Passes in Lower Jefferson and Lafourche Parishes), the Louisiana Wildlife Federation has proposed the establishment of a "State Seashore" to include the approximately 14 miles of beach between Caminada and Belle Passes. According to Randy Lanctot, federation executive director, the idea is a logical outgrowth of LWF's 7-year campaign to restore public access to Elmer"s Island, now partially attained with the recent opening of the road to the Elmer?s Island beach on weekends by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries.
"When we were developing our ideas for the acquisition of Elmer's Island and the restoration of traditional public uses there, it was logical to consider a larger vision which would include the beach down at the Fourchon where public use was also being curtailed," said Lanctot. "Creating a public state seashore seemed like a good idea to achieve that vision."
The delegates to the federation's March convention adopted a resolution in support of the idea, which by then was already well conceived and getting traction. Lanctot said that meetings have been scheduled for August with state officials and the federation was delaying any official public announcement of the initiative until after it could present the idea to the state's Coastal Protection & Restoration Authority. But he said that a July 30 story published in the Thibodaux Daily Comet and Houma Courier on the heels of a Lafourche Parish Council meeting where the state seashore idea was discussed requires the federation to be forthcoming with its proposal so that the public will know the details without having to rely on second-hand information.
Last August Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal announced state spending on coastal restoration and protection that included $71 million for a project to restore the Caminada Headlands. At the time he also announced that the state would acquire Elmer's Island. The following December in Grand Isle, the Governor proclaimed the state's ownership of a portion of Elmer's Island and the establishment of a state wildlife refuge there with free public access for day use. The access was from the water only because, at that time, the state had not acquired the rights for road access to the beach and the road needed repair to support vehicular traffic. On July 3 the road was opened for public use on weekends.
The state plans to use the $71 million in Coastal (energy) Impact Assistance Program (CIAP) funds to match more than 200 million in federal dollars yet to be appropriated by Congress to the Corps of Engineers for major restoration work on the headlands. The project is not likely to get underway, even with expeditious appropriation of the funds, until 2011.
"Surely somewhere in that $300 million US and Louisiana taxpayer dollars there's room to accommodate a state seashore for the people of the state, nation, and even the world," Lanctot said. "For that matter, all we want is for the project to be designed and implemented with the state seashore in mind, not to pay whatever small amount of money it will take to establish it. A state seashore will be one very welcomed and appreciated illustration of a public benefit from the billions of dollars being spent on coastal protection and restoration," he concluded.