SCENIC RIVERS, LDWF LICENSE RESTRUCTURE, PROTECTION FOR SABINE OYSTER REEF, CPRA ANNUAL PLAN
The regular session of the Legislature is in full swing. Several items are being debated this week that may be of particular interest to members. Louisiana Wildlife Federation has taken these positions and you can help by reaching out to your legislators.
Suspending the Comite River from the Scenic Rivers Program for three years. LWF OPPOSES SB 490
The bill as currently written says, “No provision … shall prohibit the channelization, clearing and snagging, channel realignment, reservoir construction, or dredging operations for drainage purposes in the Comite River.” Nor would a permit be required to do those activities during the time period of August 1, 2018 to August 1, 2021. Any of these practices require at least one federal permit. Louisiana should keep in place the State’s permitting policy because the Scenic Rivers Program provides scrutiny and a process that protects those communities that would not benefit from dredging, snagging and channelization. Dredging is a tool used carefully. Upstream dredging can cause downstream flooding. If river-altering activities occur while the Comite River is “suspended” from the Scenic Rivers Program, would that change the scenic and natural values that make it a Scenic River? It’s not clear why “suspending” the Comite River from the Scenic Rivers Program is needed at this time. There is an Amite River Watershed Study expected to be completed by Department of Transportation and a statewide flood management initiative has begun. It would be prudent to wait to review the Amite River Watershed Study regarding past flooding and river capacity. Scenic rivers do not cause flooding. In fact, naturally functioning rivers provide improved water quality, flood storage, and aesthetics people enjoy while maintaining valuable habitat for wildlife. Currently, permit applications for dredging, clearing and snagging can be submitted for approval for Comite River. LWF supports maintaining a process that allows all communities along a river to have a voice and not arbitrarily removing rivers from a program that provides benefits to Louisiana’s citizens.
LDWF license and fee restructure: LWF SUPPORTS HB 687
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) provides management and conservation of our natural resources that has an impact on many ways people enjoy Sportsman’s Paradise – from hunting and fishing to management of WMAs and endangered species to enforcement on poaching. LDWF receives no money from the State’s general fund but is supported by self-generated funds, dedicated funds, interagency transfers, and federal funds. House Bill 687 seeks to: 1) Reduce the number of LDWF recreational use licenses from 117 to 30 and streamline the purchase process. 2) Keep fee increases to basic fishing and hunting licenses below inflation rate. 3) Get more in-line with other southeastern states license and fee charges because Louisiana is charging less than many other states. 5) Adjust Louisiana license fees to the minimum to be eligible for federal matching dollars that would bring in more dollars. With this streamlining, some users would pay more and in some cases users would pay less. The bottom line is these are modest increases that can keep the LDWF funding stream stable for the future. LDWF stated it has been reducing expenses while being affected by inflation. Recreational licenses haven’t changed much in 18 years. LDWF says it will work on evaluating adjustments to commercial licenses next year to bring those fee structures up-to-date, too. Get more details about “The Price of Paradise” at LDWF’s website: http://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/PriceofParadise
Placing a Moratorium on oyster harvest in Sabine Lake Reef: LWF SUPPORTS SB 451
Currently the Sabine Lake oyster reef’s size and natural vertical structure provides no-cost shoreline protection, erosion prevention and flood protection. It functions as a filter to improve water quality in Sabine Lake and improves habitat for fisheries and other marine organisms. As one of the best examples of a natural living oyster reef complex in the world, LWF supports protection of the reef for the benefits it provides. This bill passed the Senate with no opposition. Please send a message to your representative in the House.
CPRA’s Annual Plan for 2019: LWF SUPPORTS HR1 and SR18
The Louisiana Legislature will soon vote on the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority’s Fiscal Year 2019 Annual Plan, which details spending $566 million to fund coastal restoration and hurricane protection projects, over half of which is directed to construction activities. Please urge your legislators to pass HR1 and SR18.