Legislative Session

Jun 3, 2013 7:49 PM by Allison Bourne-Vanneck

Protecting Funds: Rigs To Reef Program

With the final week of the legislative session now underway, it was a busy day at the Capital. On the House side...A bill to preserve funding for a program that converts old oil rigs into artificial reefs.

The goal of the legislation is to constitutionally protect funding for the "Rigs to Reef" program.

In tough financial times, lawmakers have dipped into this fund for other purposes, and now funding for Rigs to Reef is dwindling.

Those from the oil and gas industry say that over the last 5 years about 40 million dollars has been taken out of this fund. This year it was proposed that another 20.6 million would be taken out, which wouldn't leave enough money for the funds to sustain itself.

Those that support the legislation want the money in this fund to only be used for the Rigs to Reef program.

"If it's used for anything other than the Rigs to Reef fund, then it's almost a violation of the contract and that's why it needs to be protected. It's the same argument you hear with everybody with their funds, these are fees and money that we pay for a specific purpose," Gifford Briggs, VP of Louisiana Oil and Gas Association said.

The bill was written by Senator Brett Allain (R-Jeanerette) and sponsored by a number of Acadiana representatives. It passed the House and now heads to the Senate side for debate.

In response to the bill, the Governor's Office said, "We support the legislation and our commitment to Louisiana's recreational fisheries could not be stronger. Rigs to Reef Program funding has grown from roughly $660,000 in FY 08 to more than $3 million in FY 12. Additionally, the FY 14 budget proposal includes more than $8 million for Rigs to Reef - an increase of $7.8 million since 2008...Additionally, we recently announced a $22 million project for fish research and enhancement centers, so we can ensure our state remains the Sportsman's Paradise for years to come."

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