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Wednesday, July 17, 2019

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Sportsmen Coalition picks up support for public access to waterways

Sportsmen Coalition picks up support for public access to waterways

The Louisiana Sportsmens Coalition (LaSC) picked up more support in Gheens this week when Public Access Water Rights Association (PAWRA) donated all of its cash to help LaSC in its fight for public access to waters in Louisiana.

LASC, formed in late 2015, has been gathering members and momentum in its efforts to change state law regarding waterways used by the public for decades but are now deemed “private”.

Members of LaSC lament the increasing harassment and canal blockings by landowners who say they own the waterways (some natural) within and adjacent to their properties.

LaSC says the state of Louisiana is one of very few states in the US to recognize this “right to block”. Conversely, they say, in other states, “if you can float it, you can boat it”.

In an August 2014 article about the increase in canal blockings in coastal Louisiana,’s Todd Masson explored the reasons why Louisiana is different than other states. The result, says Masson: “Fish some of the marshes around Lafitte, Leeville or Golden Meadow, and you're as likely to catch a trespassing ticket as you are a redfish.”

PAWRA, similarly, is a group that was formed over the blocking of the Company Canal and boat launch in Gheens in October 2000, preventing dozens of commercial fishermen, recreational fishermen and camp owners from accessing Bayou Des Allemands and Lake Salvador

The canal, launch and adjacent parking lot were blocked by the owner of Golden Ranch Plantation, Arlen Cenac, Jr.

PARWA was unsuccessful in the courts in arguing that the Company Canal was originally constructed to provide for public use and commerce by connecting Bayou Lafourche and Bayou Des Allemands and that the launch, though private but used by the public for 60 years, should not be closed because there existed an “implied dedication” of the launch and canal to the public.

On Wednesday, at the Vacherie Gheens Community Center, members of PAWRA donated a check for $2054.76 to LaSC -- all the remaining money it had raised over the years to fight the Gheens launch’s closure.

Members of PAWRA were on hand in Gheens as Vice President Andy Leboeuf presented the check to LaSC Director Anthony Buquoi in the hopes that the money would help LaSC succeed in its goal of public access to all waterways.

“They are more organized than us, and have lobbyists and legislators on their side,” said PAWRA treasurer Oray Savoie. “It’s the best thing we could do.”

In return for the generous donation, LaSC granted membership to all PAWRA members who wanted to join. They number over 100, said Savoie.

LaSC boasts 450 paid members and over 6700 others who have “joined” through Facebook.

“It’s spreading like a virus,” said Buquoi of the growth of LaSC.

He noted that fishing is a $3 billion industry in Louisiana and 50% of the tourist industry in the southern part of the state.

Now through his larger organization fishermen will have one voice to fight the problem, says Buquoi.

LaSC is proposing to push a bill in the March 2017 legislative session that will give voters a chance to weigh in on the matter. They would not elaborate on the bill or who its author might be, only that it will impact future access to all state waters as well as opening up all now closed canals and waterways.

For now they are focused on educating the public by contacting as many individuals and groups as possible.

“Get your wives and children to join. Get Grandma to talk about it at bingo. You never know who she might be sitting next to,” said members at the meeting and on Facebook.

LaSC will host future meetings in Lafayette in December, Plaquemines Parish in January, and Calcasieu Parish in February.

More information can be gotten from their Facebook page.