FORMATION OF THE ATCHAFALAYA BASIN PROGRAM
In 1996, the New Orleans District of the US Army Corps of Engineers requested that Louisiana's Governor designate a lead agency to coordinate State participation in the Federal Atchafalaya Basin Floodway System, Louisiana Project. Louisiana Governor Mike Foster directed the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources to be the lead agency on September 27, 1996. In 1997, the Atchafalaya Basin Advisory Committee formed to develop a comprehensive long-range plan for the role of the non-Federal sponsor in in meeting project authorization requirements. The committee was chaired by Sandra Thompson and included 75 members from various state and federal agencies as well as legislators, businesspeople, and other interested parties.
In 1998, the Atchafalaya Basin Advisory Committee completed the Atchafalaya Basin State Master Plan which provided a mission statement, goals, and objectives. The Atchafalaya Basin Program was established within the Department of Natural Resources by the Louisiana legislature in the first extraordinary session of 1998 to coordinate, oversee, and provide a funding vehicle for these activities.
The Atchafalaya Basin Program has worked steadily since inception to accomplish the goals and objetives laid out by the State Master Plan. Projects are selected through the Annual Plan Process in a series of board and committee meetings that culminate in the Atchaflaya Basin Program Annual plan, which must be approved by the Louisiana Legislature.
Goals of the State Master Plan
1. Public Access
Public access provides for "fish and wildlife oriented recreation in a manner which protects the environment and does not unduly encroach on landowner rights."
This goal is to be accomplished by "purchase in fee title, less minerals, from willing sellers, 50,000 acres of land in the Basin" by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Environmental Protection: The goal is "preservation of fish and wildlife habitat and maintaining the ‘wet and wild' environmental appeal of the lower floodway by prohibiting the destruction of habitat through the conversion of land to other uses (e.g. clearing of forests for agricultural development) and providing control over the method of cutting timber by controlling clearcutting and promoting sustained yield forestry practices."
Developmental Control: The goal is "to prevent development within the floodway that would interfere with the continued unrestricted use of the floodway for flood control purposes and help preserve the environmental values of the Basin by preventing destruction of fish and wildlife habitat (e.g. clearing of forests for industrial development and permanently habitable structures)."
3. Water Management
The goal is to "restore, where possible, and to preserve, where feasible, the natural habitat [of] the Atchafalaya Basin" and to accomplish this by "prolong[ing] the expected life of some habitats that may become scarce through time (primarily aquatic and cypress/tupelo habitats) by managing sediments, while at the same time achieving a healthy water circulation pattern that will maintain or restore water quality.
The goal is to "assist the Corps of Engineers in providing increased emphasis on, and opportunities for recreation at water resources projects... operated by the Corps of Engineers."
Recreational opportunities include: bicycling, birdwatching, tent and trailer camping, hiking, horseback riding, nature walks, picnicking, multi-use fields and courts, sightseeing, playgrounds, boating (power and non-power), fishing (bank and boat), crabbing, crawfishing, lake swimming, and waterskiing.
The Atchafalaya Basin Program was created under Louisiana Revised Statute §2000.1-12.
HB 114 / ACT 3 First Extraordinary Session 1998: Created the Atchafalaya Basin Program (ABP) in the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (LDNR) to implement the 1998 State Master Plan; also created the Research and Promotion Board (RPB).
HB 1262 / ACT 920 Regular Session 1999: Authorized Capital Outlay of $55 million over 15 years as 25% match of Operation and Maintenance of federal projects and $30 million over 15 years for local partnered projects.
SB 1117 / ACT 1215 Regular Session 2003: Added the Secretary of DNR to the RPB and made the DNR Secretary responsible for employing staff necessary instead of the RPB employing a Director and Assistant Director.
HB 1135 / ACT 606 Regular Session 2008: Instituted the Annual Plan Process and required 75% of funds be spent on water management projects; created the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) and the Atchafalaya Basin Conservation Fund.
HB 765 / ACT 541 Regular Session 2009: Constitutional amendment that would allow parishes and the ABP to receive additional funds if trigger (approximately $900 million) is hit for severance tax collections starting in FY2014.
HB 1226 / ACT 743 Regular Session 2010: Discontinued the Atchafalaya Basin Advisory Committee.
HB 219 / ACT 348 Regular Session 2011: Set aside 5% of the Atchafalaya Basin Conservation Fund until it reaches $10 million to purchase property, rights or servitudes from willing sellers.
HB 571 / ACT 92 Regular Session 2012: Added a parish voting member to the RPB; provided that appointments to the TAG are confirmed if the Atchafalaya Basin Program Oversight Committee takes no action within 30 days.