The Louisiana Trustee Implementation Group (LA TIG) invited public comment on the Draft Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment #2: Provide and Enhance Recreational Opportunities (Draft Recreational Use Plan), which presents a restoration plan to compensate for lost recreational use as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Included are four proposed projects totaling $22 million that emphasize the creation and enhancement of recreational fishing infrastructure, access to recreational fishing, and educational and outreach projects to promote use and stewardship of natural resources. The four proposed projects are:
- Elmer’s Island Access – $6 million
- Statewide Artificial Reefs – $6 million
- Lake Charles Science Center and Educational Complex – $7 million
- Pointe aux Chenes Island Road Fishing Piers – $3 million
Louisiana Wildlife Federation submitted comments to LA TIG on this draft plan. LWF is supportive of the increased recreational opportunities that proposed improvements to Elmer’s Island, artificial reefs, and Island Road would provide the public.
Proposed improvements for access to Elmer’s Island include additional parking areas, boat launches, an elevated boardwalk, walking paths, and an observation area. The $6 million project would also allocate funds for trash removal, which has long been an issue on Elmer’s Island Wildlife Refuge.
Some funds will also go toward adding signage along the refuge, though it did not specify any locations. LWF recommended that signage be located at the refuge entrance, along the boardwalk, near sensitive areas such as shorebird nesting areas, as well as other areas deemed appropriate.
Missing from the plan for Elmer’s Island access was permanent bathroom facilities. Included in our comments to LA TIG were our suggestion that this be seriously considered due to the expected increases in visitors to the refuge upon completion of these proposed improvements.
Also included in the Draft Recreational Use Plan are improvements to artificial reefs. LWF was an early promoter for establishing the Louisiana Artificial Reef Development Program. As an organization with members that enjoy saltwater fishing, we remain supportive of inshore and nearshore reefs for recreational users to enjoy, especially at sites that are easily accessible for relatively small boats. We support adding new reef material to increase habitat and provide increased recreational fishing opportunities to the public.
The Island Road fishing piers project proposes to spend $3 million to add roadside pullovers/parking areas and adjoining fishing piers. Island Road is a very popular spot for visitors to the Point-aux-Chenes Wildlife Management Area, the most heavily utilized WMA in the state. People often pull over on Island Road to go fishing and crabbing, however, it is not always safe to do so. The draft plan would increase public safety and offer greater access to fishing with the construction of fishing piers.
While the plans for Island Road state that operations and maintenance funds are included, only outreach materials and trash removal were specified. LWF strongly urged that a long-term commitment from Terrebonne Parish Government be established for road maintenance or that there be funding set aside for such activities. Island Road is susceptible to flooding by storms and wind-driven tides which make the road impassable. LWF supports the improvements proposed to Island Road and wants to ensure that the public will have access to these areas for years to come.
These projects would significantly increase the opportunities to sportsmen and women and other outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy Louisiana’s natural resources that were severely impacted by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.