The first win by the Louisiana Fishing Community Recovery Coalition to secure funding for a seafood industry destroyed by four hurricanes over two years is taking place in the Louisiana State Legislature.
The first win by the Louisiana Fishing Community Recovery Coalition to secure funding for a seafood industry destroyed by four hurricanes over two years is happening in the Louisiana State Legislature. House Bill-1 (HB-1), which provides for the ordinary operating expenses of state government for the upcoming fiscal year, currently includes $5 million designate for debris clean-up and removal of vessels clogging bayous and waterways.
‘This is the first important first step by the State in what will be a long recovery,’ said Harlon Pearce, who chairs the coalition of more than 15 seafood organisations. ‘This allocation will allow us to start the process of cleaning up some obstructions and sunken vessels.’
‘I have been in talks with the US Coast Guard about the debris,’ said coalition member Acy Cooper of the Louisiana Shrimp Association. ‘They said they will be able to assist in the passes and main navigational channels, but it is important to have the State step up and help us with this issue. The $5 million is a good first step.’
According Patrick Banks, Assistant Secretary of Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) Office of Fisheries whose office provides support for the coalition, these funds provide an important bargaining chip to approach the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), or any other government agency, for additional funding for the debris project.
‘The Magnuson-Stevens Act empowers FEMA to provide funding to assist in clearing our waterways,’ explained Louisiana Sea Grant at LSU extension agent Julie Falgout, a member of the coalition. ‘According to Section 312, 16 U.S.C. 1801, it allows the agency to implement all activities determined appropriate to reestablish fisheries and prevent failure in the future.’
‘This win is an important first step,’ Harlon Pearce added.
‘We are currently in the process of making calls to all of our Congressmen and presenting our ‘White Paper’ on what is needed for our industry to recovery. Being able to say the State has started the commitment of funds for helping our fishing communities recover will be very helpful with our conversations with Washington.’
He is asking, not only all members of the Coalition, but also everyone in the seafood industry to call their legislators in support of the provision in HB-1, but also to ask for additional funds for not only cleanup, but recovery.
According to sources close to Governor John Bel Edwards, he is in support of these measures since extra funds are available due to a budget surplus.
‘It is in our interest to convince legislators to invest in the recovery efforts by adding additional funding through Ways and Means and Appropriation Committee riders,’ said Harlon Pearce.
Through LDWF, the Coalition is working the law firm of former Senator Mary Landrieu, Van Ness Feldman, in Washington D.C., to identify potential sources of funding the seafood group can approach to assist in recovery efforts, especially infrastructure. A proposed plan has been submitted and is in the process of final review.
HB1 is still currently in committee. Final passage by both Houses has to occur by the first of June.
‘The fact that the bill has gotten this far makes me think that it will go through,’ he said.