Spend reef fund on reefs
“Fool me once, shame on … shame on you. Fool me … you can’t get fooled again.” — President George W. Bush
A decade from now, when coastal anglers are fishing over artificial reefs loaded with speckled trout and redfish, they may have Mike Voisin to thank.
The Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission member, who hails from Houma and owns Motivatit Seafoods Inc., refused to be a rubber stamp at the commission’s November meeting, and our fisheries should benefit because of it.
At the meeting, the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries presented a proposed budget for fiscal year 2013 of $185.5 million, which included $7.5 million from the state’s Artificial Reef Program Fund.
Those of you who follow the news know that this is the same fund that was obliterated this spring by the Legislature with full support of the governor. With a simple vote and swipe of the pen, our state’s leaders took $26.6 million from an account funded by oil companies to aid in construction of inshore and offshore reefs.
If this isn’t eventually ruled to have been illegal, then we’re wasting our time even having laws. The program was established in 1986, and is one of the few actual win-wins that truly exists when government is involved. As part of the program, companies donate the jackets and other material from defunct offshore oil and gas rigs, and also fund the program with half of the realized savings over traditional onshore removals.
The oil companies save money, and anglers retain access to fish-attracting structure. Even better, the money in the account is dedicated to fund other inshore and offshore reefs.
Except, unfortunately, all that cash sitting in an account that’s accessible to politicians is like trusting an avowed socialist to be leader of the free world. (Wait a minute … )
So the department would be wise to spend it on precisely what it’s there for — building artificial reefs — before the Legislature can get its grubby hands on more of it.
But the department’s proposed budget included only $500,000 being spent on inshore artificial reefs. Nearly double that amount — $938,000 — was proposed to administer and operate the fund.
Even worse, the proposal included $2.7 million being spent to staff and operate the proposed saltwater fish hatcheries. The opportunity costs for that boondoggle, a complete waste of nearly 10 percent of the state’s BP windfall, will impact coastal anglers for decades to come.
With the department’s proposed budget, the Artificial Reef Program Fund is expected to total $13 million to $14 million by the end of fiscal 2013, according to Assistant Secretary Randy Pausina.
Raise your hand if you think the Legislature won’t help itself to your money yet again.
So Voisin pushed hard at the commission meeting to get the department to actually spend the money on, you know, artificial reefs.
The commission voted to request additional budget details before approving the budget. Stay tuned.
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