Ordinance 18-41 requires parish residents to pay $50 annually, while non-residents will pay $250; councilman says regulation should be in place for duck season in November
An ordinance passed unanimously with little fanfare last April by the Plaquemines Parish Council will require duck and deer hunters who go on parish-owned land outside the levees to sign a hold harmless agreement — and pay an annual fee that will cost $50 for parish residents and $250 for non-residents.
Ordinance 18-41,which was sponsored by Councilman Jeff Edgecombe and passed unanimously on April 26, currently stipulates that fishermen would also have to sign the agreement and pay the fee to fish on parish property.
But in a telephone interview with Louisiana Sportsman on Thursday, Edgecombe said he plans on meeting with attorneys and Plaquemines Parish Sheriff Gerald Turlich Jr. next week and amending the ordinance later this month so that if focuses strictly on deer and duck hunters.
“I’m going to try to get everything together and introduce something on the fishing part of this ordinance for the next meeting, and it will lay over two weeks,” he said. “But it should be in place for duck season in November, and by then the fishing part in the body of the ordinance should be revised.”
That means teal hunters heading to Plaquemines Parish next Saturday for opening day won’t have to sign an agreement or pay a fee, Edgecombe said. And once the fishing portion is revised, recreational anglers and fishing guides won’t have to pay or sign either, he said.
Edgecombe said there were many reasons he introduced the ordinance last spring, including possible parish liability in the event of a hunting accident, to potentially raise a little revenue and also restrict the use of mud motors in the area.
“It’s getting out of hand. People are all over the place, and we need to start restricting it somewhat because our grandkids are not going to have anything to hunt off of with the mud boats chewing up the marsh — it’s just going to wash away,” he said.
When asked if the intent behind the ordinance was solely to restrict mud boat use, Edgecombe said he was currently working on a separate ordinance to accomplish that.
“That’s going to be my next one. I’ve been working on that one for almost two years now, and I’m trying to tweak that one,” he said. “We have to start restricting mud boats on all the land in Plaquemines Parish, because you take those normal mud engines — Go-Devil, Pro-Drive, whichever it might be — it’s just like a high-performance blender chewing up the marsh.”
The mechanics of where hunters will have to go to sign the agreement and pay the fee are currently still being worked out, but discussions are underway with the parish’s Homeland Security Office to distribute an ID card including the applicant’s home address, whether they are a resident or non-resident, the expiration date and their picture, he said.
“This is not a permit. It’s an agreement,” Edgecombe said. “It will be done annually, that’s why we’re trying to get it done in a professional manner. Even going further, maybe we can do it online possibly.”
The ordinance, which can be viewed online here starting on page 11, will be enforced by the Plaquemines Parish Sheriff’s Office and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, he said. Violators will be fined up to $500 for the first offense, and up to $950 for the second offense, with the possibility of five days in jail.
In addition, the ordinance stipulates that guided hunting trips on public wetlands will be prohibited, with violators facing similar $500 and $950 fines for first and second offenses. However, licensed hunters targeting feral hogs and those having permits to harvest alligator eggs and hunt nutria won’t have to pay or sign the agreement.
In the long run, Edgecombe said he believed it would be a good deal for the parish.
“Meaning preserving our wetlands, and the parish making a little bit of money off of people utilizing the parish property,” he said.
But Capt. Ryan Lambert, who owns Cajun Fishing Adventures in Buras, disagreed. Lambert said he thought the ordinance could wind up costing the parish big dollars in tax revenue generated by hunters who flock to the area every fall to duck hunt.
“If they enforce it, I think it will be millions. You’re talking about every weekend they have at least 500 duck boats down here — at least.You do the math: If they spend a hundred dollars a day on gas and food alone, that’s just per boat. If there’s a thousand actual hunters, and they spend $100 each, that’s $100,000 a day on the weekend, plus during the week,” Lambert said. “It’s going to cost them millions of dollars if people don’t come down here and hunt, all on somebody that had a whim and went to Mr. Edgecomb and said, ‘We have to do this, we’re tired of the outsiders.’
“Well how much are they going to pay in taxes to offset that, because this parish is poor … The oil money dried up. They got the one good hit — $42 million from BP —but when that’s gone there’s no more revenue coming in.”
Lambert has a private lease where he takes clients duck hunting on the east side of the Mississippi River. But according to the ordinance, guides without leases won’t be as fortunate.
“Let’s say you’ve been guiding down here; if you don’t have a lease, now you can’t hunt on public land, you can’t hunt on the game reserve, you can’t hunt on the national reserve — you’re out of business,” Lambert said. “So if you’re a guide and you don’t have a private lease, you’re done.”
Darryl Carpenter, a board member for the Louisiana Sportsmen’s Coalition — the group who fought for public access to tidal waters in the Legislature last spring — said the whole scenario down in Plaquemines Parish underscores why duck hunters and fishermen need to unify and work together on the water access issue.
“Last year the opposition in this tried to pit duck hunters against fishermen. And what we were trying to say is it’s not an ‘us against them’ game,” Carpenter said. “Sooner or later it’s going to come to them, too. And it looks like it took less than a year for that prediction to come true. It’s coming to them now.
“We’re not trying to take anything away from duck hunters. We’re trying to make sure duck hunters’ ability to go hunting is preserved without having to pay these ridiculous fees.”
According to a copy of the ordinance provided by the council secretary, council member Nicole Williams seconded the motion to adopt. Members who voted in favor of the ordinance, in addition to Edgecombe and Williams, were John L. Barthelemy Jr., W. Beau Black, Kirk M. Lepine, Irvin Juneau, Benedict Rousselle, Charlie Burt and Audrey Trufant-Salvant.
The next meeting of the Plaquemines Parish Council will be Thursday, Sept. 13 at 1 p.m. in the Belle Chasse Council Building, Council Chambers, located at 333 F. Edward Hebert Blvd., Building 203 in Belle Chasse.