Things are ramping up in the world of coastal restoration in Louisiana. Some Deepwater Horizon oil spill money is in sight, restoration projects are underway, and the legislature is keeping all of that in mind. Following are some of the important bills making their way through the legislature that will impact coastal restoration
BP money that comes through the RESTORE Act as a result of Clean Water Act violations is intended for coastal restoration. How the money is actually used when it arrives to the state must remain under scrutiny. A couple of bills this year will pave the way for proper use of the RESTORE Act and other coastal restoration funds.
HB 148 (Champagne) is a Louisiana state constitutional amendment that would require RESTORE Act funds to be deposited into the Coastal Fund. The RESTORE Act specifically addresses Clean Water Act violations and harm done to the environment. Penalties are coming for other harms to the state as a result of the oil spill, such as economic damages. This constitutional amendment would ensure that the penalties that are the result of a coastal harm are put towards coastal restoration. This is the third year the Representative Champagne has brought this bill before the legislature, and the challenge has been getting it through the Senate. Take action and tell your Senator you support HB 148.
HB 490 (Geymann) is another Louisiana state constitutional amendment that would prohibit transfers of money out of the Coastal Fund. The Coastal Fund is set up to allow “one-time monies”, such as those resulting from an oil spill. Other state funds are not allowed to accept one-time monies, because the state needs to budget day to day operating costs with recurring monies. However, in recent years, one-time money has been deposited into and then moved out of the Coastal Fund, to pay for recurring operating costs. This bill would prohibit transferring money out of the Coastal Fund, ensuring that the money be used for Coastal Restoration. This bill has made it through the House and is awaiting consideration in the Senate. Take action and tell your Senator you support HB 490
These two bills would work together to ensure that RESTORE Act funds, and other money going into the Coastal Fund are dedicated to coastal restoration. In 2012, the legislature passed the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority’s Coastal Master Plan. This Master Plan is a comprehensive, $50 billion 50 year plan to restore and protect Louisiana’s coast. It involves an array of coastal restoration projects, from sediment diversions to marsh creation to barrier island restoration. Scientists are working hard to optimize plans for these projects using the latest data and the best models available. We need to be serious about dedicating funding towards the Master Plan. If we cannot at the least dedicate funds that come to the state as a result of a coastal disaster towards coastal restoration, how can we be serious about dedicating other reliable streams of funding towards the Coastal Master Plan? These two bills send the message to our state and national decision makers that we are serious and ready to take on coastal restoration.
Introducing the Louisiana Camouflage Coalition
With the 2014 Legislative Session underway, the Louisiana Wildlife Federation, in partnership with the Vanishing Paradise Campaign, has deployed our latest tool in advocacy: the Louisiana Camouflage Coalition. The Camo Coalition will keep hunters and anglers updated on the latest legislative issues, and prompts them to take action and send messages to elected officials.
Decision-makers needs to hear about what is important to their constituents. The Camo Coalition is an easy to use, free way for us to put you in touch with your representative. We even provide guidelines for writing messages, and draft prewritten, editable messages that can be sent directly to your representatives.
Some examples of legislation that we are following and asking hunters and anglers to take action on are coastal restoration, and an increase in recreational saltwater fishing license fees. HB 148 (Champagne) and HB 490 (Geymann) are important constitutional amendments to protect the Coastal Protection and Restoration Fund.
In addition, elected officials need to hear your support for HCR 10 (Connick), which is the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority’s (CPRA) Annual Plan. Each year the CPRA presents an Annual Plan to the legislature. The Annual Plan works towards the State Master Plan, which is updated every five years. The most recent 2012 State Master Plan, includes an array of coastal restoration projects, from sediment diversions to marsh creation to barrier island restoration. Each project is designed with the best available data and modeling. Decision makers need to hear public support for the Annual Plan, and the restoration projects therein.
HB 1082 by Representative Bishop, increases the saltwater fishing license and dedicates the extra revenue for study of Gulf species. Recreational fisheries in the Gulf are an important natural resource, and proper study and stewardship of these species works to ensure their sustainability.
You can go to lacamo.org to sign up for the Camo Coalition, and take action on any of these bills. Your representatives need to hear from you!