LWF Commission still considering suit to stop Artificial Reef Fund raid

Gov. Bobby Jindal, who has hit the fund for $45 million already, plans to take another $20.6 million.

A possible lawsuit against Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration involving the state’s Artificial Reef Development Fund is still in the works, the head of the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission confirmed yesterday.

The fund, which the oil and gas industry pays into with fees, helps create underwater habitats using out-of-use drilling rigs.

It has been targeted for a $20.6 million transfer to help balance Jindal’s budget next fiscal year. Jindal already has taken $45 million from the fund since the 2009-10 fiscal year.

Members of the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission, a regulatory board appointed entirely by Jindal, argue that the funds can only be used for habitat creation, as dictated by law, not to prop up education and health care.

“The administration told us they are working on ways to repay that money, and if they do, a lawsuit won’t happen,” Commission Chairman Ronnie Graham told Louisiana Sportsman on Tuesday. “But we’ll have to (sue) if they raid that fund again this year.”

Commissioner Stephen Sagrera, who is heading up a subcommittee on the matter, said the administration has promised to make good on its vow of replacing the money within the next two months.

He added he only “vaguely” knows how the administration will accomplish that.

“I don’t know if it’s going to be a chess game and they move around the money from other places or what,” Sagrera said. “But personally, I don’t think they’re going to be able to do it.”

When the two-month time frame passes, and if the administration does not come through, he said the lawsuit will be filed.

“I’m not optimistic”, Sagrera said of the fix being floated by Jindal’s administration.

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