With assurances the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will open both the Bonnet Carre Spillway and Morganza Floodway gates sometime in the next four days, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission voted to close deer hunting in those two areas.
The order will become effective one-half hour after sunset on the days the Corps pulls the first pin on those floodway-control structures. While not certain, the Corps has indicated workers will begin to relieve pressures on the high and still-rising Mississippi River as soon as Saturday at Bonnet Carre and Monday at Morganza.
The Atchafalaya closure will take in all lands within the floodway from the Morganza structure at La. 1 south to Interstate 10 and from I-10 south within in the protection levees including the Sherburne Wildlife Management Area, the Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge and the Bayou Des Ourses and Indian Bayou areas.
There was more after significant discussion among the commission members to establish a buffer zone to allow deer escaping the Atchafalaya floodwaters to have an escape area outside the floodway’s East Guide levee. After conferring with Enforcement Division personnel, a no-hunt buffer was established east of the floodway to include lands west of La. 77 south to La. 81 near Livonia, then south on La. 77 to Maringouin, then La. 76 south to I-10.
The commission’s next move was to allow hunters and landowners in East Carroll, Madison, Tensas and Concordia parishes to continue deer hunting despite deer escaping Mississippi River flooding. A plan was to ban deer hunting on lands within the boundaries beginning south of the Louisiana-Arkansas line and east along U.S. 65 and to Vidalia and west of the Louisiana-Mississippi line, but farmers and landowners asked the commission to allow hunting on those lands. The commission did not act on this emergency declaration, but kept in place a ban on hunting within the Mississippi River’s batture.
Other major action items included:
The LWFC approving the 6 a.m. Friday opening of the state’s recreational red snapper season out to nine miles into the Gulf of Mexico;
Accepting the Notice of Intent for the 2016-2017 resident-game and migratory birds and waterfowl seasons and bag limits. The most significant change calls for an Atchafalaya Basin-only deer-hunting area;
Learning about a Marine Fisheries Section plan to further study the effects of decades-long management targets and effects on the harvest of black drum, sheepshead and southern flounder;
Approving notices to require turtle excluder devices for all shrimpers in state waters; adding the razor-backed musk turtle to the state’s restricted-harvest list of turtles; and, to update regulations for alligator farms in the state;
Learning of a joint venture between Wildlife and Fisheries and Delta Waterfowl to develop weevil propagation ponds in the southwestern parishes to allow for control of salvinia;
Learning that Enforcement Division agents issued 668 citations and 165 written warnings in December, including 18 citations for night hunting;
Electing Dan Davis from Houma to chain the commission, and Bart Yakupzack vice-chair for the current year;
And, voting its May meeting for May 5 in Baton Rouge.