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Updated: THANK YOU TO THE VOTERS OF LOUISIANA! Constitutional 8 Passed! Big thanks to Senator Allain for introducing the bill in 2013 and thanks to these members of the House who co-sponsored the bill to bring it before the voters in 2014: Representatives Neil Abramson, Taylor F. Barras, Johnny Berthelot, Robert E. Billiot, Stuart J. Bishop, Chris Broadwater, Henry Burns, Tim Burns, Roy Burrell, Thomas Carmody, Simone Champagne, Kenny Cox, Gordon Dove, A.B. Franklin, Ray Garofalo, Jerry "Truck" Gisclair, John E. "Johnny" Guinn, Joe Harrison, Cameron Henry, Bob Hensgens, Dorothy Sue Hill, Sam Jones, Eddie Lambert, Nancy Landry, Joseph Lopinto, Jack Montoucet, Jim Morris, Gene Reynolds, Clay Schexnayder, Karen St. Germain, Major Thibaut, and Lenar Whitney. (photo taken by Chris Macaluso)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Rebecca Triche
LWF Supports Protection of Artificial Reef Development Fund through Constitutional Amendment 8
(Baton Rouge, October 8, 2014) In November, Louisiana’s voters will be presented with Constitutional Amendment 8 to establish the Artificial Reef Development Fund (Fund) in the state constitution. Louisiana Wildlife Federation (LWF) is in support of this amendment to strengthen protection of the funds donated for use in Louisiana’s Artificial Reef Program.
Currently, the Artificial Reef Development Fund is authorized by statute and was established in 1986 as part of the state’s Fishing Enhancement Act. Money for the Fund comes from grants and donations made by oil and gas companies to cover the costs and maintenance of decommissioned rigs placed in the State’s Artificial Reef Program. This proposed amendment contains the same language in the current statute and establishes it in the state constitution.
In recent years nearly $46 million has been swept from the Artificial Reef Development Fund to cover budget shortfalls.
“Money donated to the Artificial Reef Development Fund should be used for the Artificial Reef Program’s mandate to provide maintenance, monitoring, research and education,” said Rebecca Triche, Executive Director for LWF. “Constitutional Amendment 8 simply strengthens protection of an existing fund that was created to support a successful and nationally-recognized program for fisheries enhancement. Without stronger protection of the donated funds, LWF is concerned that participation in the program will suffer and money dedicated to fisheries enhancement will continue to be diverted for unrelated uses.”
Triche added, “Allowing money to accrue in the Fund to support program costs was the original intent as stated in the statute. Also, if a rig in the program should topple during a storm and needs unforeseen maintenance, money from the Fund should pay for that, not the taxpayers. ”
“LWF is asking voters to show their support for protecting the Artificial Reef Development Fund for the future,” Triche said. “The history of this fund being a target for balancing the budget is evidence that it must be sheltered from future ‘sweeps’ with the strongest protection possible.”
The Louisiana Wildlife Federation is a statewide conservation education and advocacy organization with more than 9,900 members and 24 affiliate groups. Established in 1940, it is affiliated with the National Wildlife Federation and represents a broad constituency of conservationists including hunters, anglers, campers, birders, boaters, and other outdoor enthusiasts.
BACKGROUND ON LOUISIANA ARTIFICIAL REEF PROGRAM
· Established 1986; administered by Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and overseen by the Artificial Reef Development Council
· Since inception 71 oil and gas companies have participated
· In addition to donating the material of the rig, the oil and gas company also donates half of realized savings of decommissioning the rig to the Artificial Reef Development Fund (ARDF)
· In 1999 Louisiana created the world’s largest artificial reef from the Freeport sulfur mine off Grand Isle
· Because of Coast Guard regulations, these artificial reefs must be between 30-70 miles offshore
· Funds generated by the program can be used to develop reefs closer to shore out of alternative materials
o Inshore and nearshore reefs can be used by more LA fishermen
· Money in the fund is also used for the operation of the program: permitting, establishing, monitoring and maintenance of artificial reefs
· Since program started: 74 artificial reef sites, using 336 obsolete platforms jackets and 8 drill rig legs; 17 oil and gas structures deployed in 2013
· 32 inshore reefs: shell, limestone, reef balls, bridge rubble
What Constitutional Amendment 8 Means:
· A vote “FOR” would establish the ARDF in the constitution thereby prohibiting the use of money in the fund for purposes other than those described in the amendment
· A vote “AGAINST” would leave the fund as it currently exists, only statutorily protected and vulnerable to “sweeps” for other uses in the state’s budget.