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Sunday, July 21, 2019

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$60M in oil spill money to pay for recreational projects and upgrades

$60M in oil spill money to pay for recreational projects and upgrades

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana will spend $60 million in oil spill recovery money on recreational projects to bolster boating, fishing and outdoor leisure opportunities across coastal parishes, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Tuesday.

The dollars come from billions in settlement money tied to damages caused by the massive 2010 BP PLC oil spill. Edwards said the 23-item list released Tuesday, approved by state and federal officials, will use the full amount required for spending on coastal recreational projects.

"The oil spill impacted Louisiana's environment and natural resources, but it also took a toll on our way of life and the recreational opportunities that make Louisiana a true Sportsman's Paradise," Edwards said in a statement.

Construction on some projects will begin this summer, while Edwards administration officials said others require more engineering and design time before building can start.

State parks and wildlife management areas along the coast will see renovations to cabins, playgrounds and bathrooms, new fishing piers and docks and other upgrades. The state also will enhance its artificial reef sites.

Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser said the improvements to state park facilities will help attract more tourists to the state, and Wildlife and Fisheries Secretary Jack Montoucet said the projects will boost fishing and boating opportunities for local residents as well.

“This is about recreation, enhancing the opportunities to enjoy the natural bounty of our coast and all it offers,” said Montoucet in a news release. “We’re going to build or improve boat ramps and mooring docks, and construct new fishing piers in many areas, and we’re going to make Elmer’s Island even more accessible for users to access the recently restored beach.”

All nine of Louisiana's coastal parishes will receive a share of the money, with specific projects earmarked in each one.

Jefferson Parish is receiving the largest portion, with projects there receiving more than $18 million for kayak launches, fishing piers, trails, floating docks, wetlands exhibits and more improvements at parks and other facilities.

Edwards' chief coastal adviser, Johnny Bradberry, said the process for selecting and approving the project list took two years, with more than $1 billion in proposals submitted for consideration.

Below is a rundown of area projects on the list, along with the money each will receive. Combined, the local projects will cost about $20 million:

- Upgrade the existing fishing pier, rock jetties, boardwalk and trails at Grand Isle State Park, $6.1 million.

- Add several recreational-use projects on Elmer’s Island, including operation of a shuttle service along Caminada Beach, culverts aimed at improving water flow and aiding fish movement, construction of kayak launches, additional road maintenance and trash collection, $6 million.

The 1,145-acre barrier island, just west of Grand Isle near the Lafourche Parish boundary, is popular for bank and surf fishing and bird watching.

- Construct fishing piers, boat pullovers, a parking lot, a bridge, pirogue and boat launches, boat docks and bulkheads at the Pointe-aux-Chenes Wildlife Management Area, $5 million. The area, managed by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, is open to limited hunting and fishing.

Another $6 million will be used to enhance 11 existing artificial reefs that attract anglers off the state’s coast.

All of the projects, in nine coastal parishes, have undergone public hearings.