Several public boat launches and marinas in Terrebonne Parish got a little tender loving care thanks to $1.3 million in disaster recovery Community Development Block Grant funds from the state’s Fisheries Infrastructure Program.
“These projects will make commercial and recreational fishing more resilient in the future, contributing to the long-term sustainability of this industry and way of life in Terrebonne Parish,” said Louisiana Office of Community Development-Disaster Recovery executive director Pat Forbes. “That’s critical as we continue the recovery from the hurricanes.”
The state’s fisheries infrastructure program was created to help refurbish or replace fishing infrastructure damaged during hurricanes Katrina and Rita and, in 2008, the federal department of Housing and Urban Development permitted the state to use $19 million in CDBG dollars to fund the program.
Almost $940,000 was spent on maintenance at the South Houma, Ashland and Texas Gulf Road boat launches. More than $165,315 was used to increase the Bourg Company Canal’s capacity to provide boats with a safe inland harbor by adding two miles of 111 mooring piles for boats to during emergencies like hurricanes.
Another $220,000 was used to dredge and install 14 mooring piles at the Houma Marina as well as construct an Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible fishing pier for the non-boating public.
“We received more than 100 project proposals from areas along coastal Louisiana,” Forbes said. “We brought in fisheries experts from around the country to score and rank each project on their potential positive impacts to the state’s fisheries infrastructure. We awarded money to 20 projects, and Terrebonne received funding for three, which is a high number. The parish was successful in its proposals. Jefferson Parish was the only other parish to have three projects.”
Of the projects in Terrebonne, Forbes viewed the safe harbor projects as the most important.
“So many boats were destroyed during the storms,” Forbes said. “The safe harbor projects will give the public a place to tie up before or during a storm if lock systems are closed or if they can’t get any further north.”
“The fishing industry, both recreational and commercial, was hard hit, even before storms,” Forbes said. “We wanted to find ways to make the industry more resilient and robust. Fishing is critical to our economy and our culture, especially in Terrebonne Parish.”
According to Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries statistics, there are more than 18,000 licensed saltwater anglers – who must purchase a freshwater license to obtain a saltwater license – in Terrebonne Parish, and more than 13,000 licensed saltwater anglers in Lafourche Parish.
“We (these parishes) have some of the highest number of licensed anglers in the state,” said Marty Bourgeois, LDWF marine fisheries biologist and administer of the shrimp and crab management program. “These are all great projects worthy of this funding. Boat access is critical. That’s where it all begins. Boat launches are key.”
The South Houma Fire Station Boat Launch, the Ashland Boat Launch and the Texas Gulf Road Boat Launch all received bulkhead installations, parking area upgrades and refurbished launch sites.
“The Texas Gulf Road Boat Launch was in pretty poor shape,” Bourgeois said. “The boat launch was a back-down ramp slab with a drop off. Many people have lost boat trailers and axles at that dock, and parking at the launch was limited. Now there is more dock space, you can launch larger boats and there is more parking space.”
According to Bourgeois, these same problems have also been remedied at the South Houma Boat Launch, which Bourgeois has used many times, and Ashland Boat Launch.
“The South Houma Boat Launch is probably the busiest because it’s in the middle of town,” he said. “Ashland is also very important because it provides access to areas north of Lake Boudreaux, adjacent to Chauvin. There is great fishing in those areas.”
Terrebonne Parish President Michel Claudet hopes the improvements will keep locals and out of town visitors in the waters of Terrebonne Parish.
“Residents and visitors to Terrebonne Parish certainly know that we take pride in being the Saltwater Fishing Capital of the World,” Claudet said in a printed statement. “Here in Louisiana’s Bayou Country, these additional boat launches will give residents and visitors further access to our great fishing and the natural beauty of our waterways.”