May 18, 2011
The Honorable Ken Salazar
US Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, N. W.
Washington, DC 20240
Dear Secretary Salazar:
In recent days, the US Army Corps of Engineers began diverting high waters from the rising Mississippi River. As water from the Morganza Spillway is released into the Atchafalaya Basin, the impact to our rural communities and the industries upon which they rely will be dramatic and long-lasting. I am requesting your immediate consideration of available assistance and recovery programs for our recreational and commercial fishing, hunting, and eco-tourism industries.
The Atchafalaya Basin is a North American treasure with hunting, fishing, camping and other nature-based opportunities that simply are unparalleled. The basin, in surveys conducted by Louisiana State University, was named the number one recreational fishing destination in Louisiana. Countless industries rely on the Basin's fertile farmland, lakes, and wildlife management areas.
Approximately 1,400 commercial fishermen are dependent upon species harvested from the Basin, including the Louisiana crawfish. On average, more than 10 million pounds of crawfish are harvested commercially from the Basin each year representing approximately 95 percent of all crawfish harvested in Louisiana that makes it to market. Access to this essential Louisiana commercial industry will be hampered by damage to roadways, docks and access points that support the industry.
The same is true of other commercial and recreational fisheries in the Atchafalaya Basin. The basin is home to a large commercial catfish industry, frogging, crabbing, recreational crawfishing, waterfowl and large game hunting, trapping and nature-based tourism activities, such as birding and camping. All of these activities require access points for residents and tourists. The total economic impact of this region on Louisiana and the Gulf Coast is substantial. As a small snapshot, commercial fisheries’ landings in the Basin were valued at more than $28 million before even taking into account sales to consumers and supporting businesses. Confirmation of support from the Interior now is crucial to reassuring our residents, industries and communities that a recovery is possible.
Our state has worked diligently over the last six years and through four major hurricanes to restore commercial and recreational nature-based activities. Much of that progress, including the millions of fish stocked in the basin, may be lost after the flood waters recede. We will be aggressive in our efforts to rebuild these resources, even as we see fish kills, large-scale habitat loss, and restructuring of the Basin's ecosystem. We implore you to identify clear methods for helping to restore these resources that will provide our rural communities with the tools they need to rebuild.