For anyone who casts a line from a boat in our coastal waters, casting a vote for Amendment No. 8 should be a slam dunk come Nov. 4.
True, the election is two weeks away and this ballot has bigger fish to fry, but absentee voting begins Tuesday, and the more than a dozen amendments deserve attention now.
Amendment No. 8 protects the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries-managed Artificial Reef Fund. Since 1986, this Rigs-to-Reefs Program gets its money from oil and gas companies when platforms off our coast are used for artificial reefs.
The short explanation: A corporation declares its intention to donate the platform to the program, and the fund receives half of the money the company saves by not having to dismantle the platform and hauling it to a scrap yard. Most of the platform’s superstructure is removed, then the rig’s above-water structure is cleaned, and if not toppled in place then towed to a reef site, sunk and, voila, we have another fish-holding site.
Since 1986, more than 300 platform “jackets” have been used to establish 70 reef sites off our coast, and it has cost our state nothing. After some wrangling, the fund was used as the state’s match to establish some 30 inshore artificial reefs from Lake Pontchartain west into Calcasieu Lakes.
After so many years of watching the fund grow, then watching the money put to good use to provide fish habitat in our deteriorating marshes, the Jindal administration decided to raid the fund of $44.5 million rather than cut into the budgets of other programs.
The point to be made here is that neither our state’s executive nor the legislative branches shed one ounce of sweat in generating these funds, but were quick to find a quick-fix for their problems instead of sweating to fix funding problems in other areas. The money in the Artificial Reef Program was not their’s to take. Yeah, they believed it was, and there was almost no way to call their hand in court.
Amendment No. 8 will take care of that, and will solve the same problem we had after several administrations believed it was OK to raid the Conservation Fund, the mechanism that drives the LDWF.
The LDWF is only state agency that does not receive State General Fund money. Basically, our license fees, federal funds from taxes on hunting and fishing equipment that track our license sales, and some oil and gas revenues go into the Conservation Fund. We had to have a constitutional amendment to protect that fund from raids, too. The Artificial Reef Fund needs the same protection.
So long, Mr. Cyrille
Family and his many friends gathered Thursday in St. James to pay tribute to Cyrille Michel Waguespack Sr. He was a giant of a man in his church and community, and will be missed greatly. Our most sincere condolences to his family.