After moving into a one-hour executive session, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission emerged with a plan to continue to move to a confrontation with Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration over the state’s Artificial Reef Fund Program.
The call for executive session came at the end of the LWFC’s regular monthly meeting Thursday and, according to the agenda, was made “to discuss prospective litigation relative to return of Artificial Reef Fund monies.”
The commission and the Louisiana Wildlife Federation have been at odds with the state Legislature and the Jindal administration for more than 18 months after the legislature passed bills that Jindal signed to strip more than $42 million from the Artificial Reef Fund.
The fund receives money from the savings oil exploration companies realize when turning offshore oil rigs into artificial reefs off the Louisiana coast.
During the past four months, the LWFC has discussed ways to further protect the fund from moves made during the past two legislative sessions that labeled the fund’s monies as “recurring revenue” and bypassed what the LWFC and the LWF believe is the fund’s statutory protection against such raids.
“We discussed the Artificial Reef Fund and will continue to explore all options on this vital issue,” commission chairman Stephen Segrera said Thursday.
The LWFC also heard a report from Department of Wildlife and Fisheries assistant secretary Randy Pausina that proposed spending from the fund is $8-$9 million for fiscal year 2012-2013. Pausina said there is $8 million in the fund.
“That $8 million will be eaten up in next year’s budget and we will need acquire $8 to $9 million more for the following year,” Pausina said. “That’s not guaranteed.”
Pausina said money rolled into the fund in the years following Hurricane Katrina when oil exploration companies were forced to scrap oil and gas platforms toppled or damaged by the storm.
“The anticipated (post-Katrina) windfall will slow down and we may be looking at $4 million or so (in 2012) depending on how projects move forward,” Pausina said.
Other commission actions included:
•?Passing two notices of intent to establish a Recreational Offshore Landing Permit to go hand in hand with a requirement to report all recreationally caught yellowfin tuna;
•?Learned that LDWF Enforcement Division agents issued 1,688 citations and 390 written warnings during November, including 49 citations for illegal-hours hunting;
•?Learned there were two more fatal boating accidents during November, a number that moved the state’s boating fatalities to 36 for the first 11 months of the year;
e_SBlt?Took steps for a Dec. 20 close for shrimping in the state’s outside waters from the Coast Guard navigational light at Caillou Boca west to the western shoreline of Freshwater Bayou Canal;
e_SBlt?Heard a plea from disabled Garyville hunter Brett Acosta to establish a handicapped hunting area in the newly acquired acreage added to the Maurepas Swamp Wildlife Management Area earlier this year;
e_SBlt?Heard a complaint from Avoyelles Parish outdoorsman Ron Coco about the change in the state’s validation process for reporting the use of tags on deer. Coco said hunters were not receiving validation code numbers, only to learn that the state had continued to require reporting, but has abandoned the validation process;
e_SBlt?At his final commission meeting, honored commission member Patrick Morrow for his seven years of service on the LWFC;
e_SBlt?And, set its April 2012 meeting for April 5 in Baton Rouge.