Louisiana Wildlife Federation supports Constitutional Amendment 8, which seeks to establish the Artificial Reef Development Fund in the constitution to protect the funds from being used for other budget purposes.

In recent years, nearly $46 million has been swept from the fund to cover budget shortfalls. These funds are not tax dollars, but cash donations made by an oil and gas company to accompany the donation of a nonproductive rig into Louisiana’s Artificial Reef Program. The company donates half of whatever savings is realized from “recycling” the rig in the program.

This arrangement, successful since 1986, has helped make Louisiana’s “rigs-to-reef” a nationally recognized program, supporting the largest artificial reef in the world.

Participation in the program could suffer if it becomes habitual to take in this donation and then move the funds to another part of the state’s budget. Why would a company continue to participate?

Also, a real consequence of these “sweeps” is that money dedicated to fisheries enhancement is not being spent on a valuable natural resource benefiting the citizens of Louisiana. Accruing money in the fund to use the interest to support the program costs was the original intent of the statute and prudent to do so. If a rig in the program should topple during a storm and needs unforeseen maintenance, money from the fund should pay for that, not taxpayers.

Simply put, let’s protect the integrity and purpose of the Artificial Reef Development Fund with a vote in support.

Rebecca Triche

executive director, Louisiana Wildlife Federation