The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) has received approval of its application for approximately $58 million in federal disaster assistance funding stemming from the historic Mississippi and Atchafalaya flood in 2019.
On Tuesday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) officially approved LDWF’s funding request. The funding will be used according to a spending plan developed by LDWF after consultation with the fishing industry and adjustments required by NOAA.
The plan includes a variety of resiliency projects, such as vessel access and dock improvements, oyster cultch plants, research into more resilient oysters and equipment reimbursement grants. More specific uses and how to apply for project and grant funding will be explained in upcoming public meetings.
“We are grateful to NOAA for approving this $58 million disaster assistance that will provide much-needed support for the necessary restoration efforts,” said Gov. John Bel Edwards. “Not only were communities impacted by the historic flooding but also by the COVID-19 pandemic, which delayed but did not stop progress. The local governments and fishing communities understand what is needed to help mitigate the many problems they have experienced. Their insight and recommendations will be important to moving forward in both the short and long terms.”
LDWF Secretary Rob Shadoin said, “We hope that by implementing projects identified by our fishing communities and affected municipalities, we can meet the long-range needs of those communities.”
Following the historic flooding in 2019, which included two separate Bonnet Carre’ Spillway openings, Gov. Edwards officially requested that the federal government declare a fisheries disaster. The U.S. Department of Commerce granted that request and directed NOAA to work with LDWF to develop a spending plan based on available federal funding.
In late May of 2020, NOAA informed LDWF that $58 million would be available to Louisiana following the approval of an appropriate spending plan, which described how the state would utilize the funding to assist the fishing industry in becoming more resilient to similar disasters in the future.
Numerous meetings were held in 2021 with task forces, the Louisiana Shrimpers Association and several parish governments. At those meetings, a draft spending plan was presented to the public for comment. The plan was also disseminated electronically and posted on the LDWF website.
Public comment was taken at in-person meetings and via email. Those comments resulted in several changes to the original draft which was officially submitted to NOAA for approval. The development and submittal of the spending plan were delayed substantially by the COVID-19 pandemic as LDWF staff focused on providing federal CARES Act funding assistance to the fishing community during 2020 and 2021. However, the finalized spending plan was officially submitted to NOAA in December 2021.The plan was then reviewed by NOAA staff and peer reviewers. Following adjustments by NOAA since the official submittal, that is the plan that received the $58 million.
It is anticipated that informational public meetings will be held in September to announce programs and projects to be funded with this federal aid. Additional details will be announced in the coming weeks.