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Local Fishers to Get Aid
The Louisiana Recovery Authority approved two new action plans for public comment last week, including one proposal that would allocate $9.75 million to commercial fishermen. The money represents the second round of activity for the state's Fisheries Infrastructure Program and will be directed to projects that went unfunded during the first round. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the federal agency that regulates marine fisheries and provides disaster assistance to fishing communities, estimates Louisiana's total economic loss from Hurricane Katrina exceeds $1.2 billion. However, less than $100 million of federal aid from NOAA has been allocated to address the commercial fishing crisis in Louisiana. In an effort to fill the void, the LRA created a series of assistance programs. In Orleans Parish, there is only one group eligible for funding under the new action plan: the Vietnamese-American Commercial Fisherman's Union. Earlier this year, the state committed $19 million to 15 infrastructure improvement projects to help the fisheries industry recover. After this second round, which is ongoing, a total of $28.5 million will have been allocated for fisheries' infrastructure projects across south Louisiana. — Alford


Oil Spill Gets Noisy
Although state officials contend surrounding wildlife will be impacted only minimally by the massive oil spill that stilled traffic on the Mississippi River at New Orleans, the federal government is taking an interesting approach to ensure that forecast holds true. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has hatched a plan that involves installing 100 propane cannons along the contaminated sections of the river to scare away birds. Propane cannons are machines that ignite propane gas to produce loud explosions at timed or random intervals. They will be located in areas of high use by waterfowl and moved around every few days. "The noise is extremely loud," says Buddy Goatcher, FWS contaminants specialist. "We are placing the cannons mostly in the battures, the swamps inside the levees, to keep feeding birds from oiled areas." And while the loud devices might be good for scaring winged creatures, they're definitely bad for human eardrums. "They could pose a threat to anyone getting within 500 feet of one," Goatcher says. As if the noise won't be enough, the cannons also will be augmented with modified flare guns and starter pistols that fire special cracker shells. The noise-making operation is expected to continue until the swamp areas are cleaned of oil from the spill. — Alford


Hunting, Fishing Post Big Economic Impact Numbers
Did you know that migratory bird hunting in Louisiana supports 1.5 times as many jobs as there are New Orleans Police Department officers? According to a new economic impact study released by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, that's nearly 2,000 jobs supported by migratory bird hunting in 2006 alone. Hunting, however, is only a small part of the overall economic picture. The report reveals that hunting, in concert with fishing, boating, wildlife watching and other outdoor activities, generated $4.61 billion during 2006, the most recent year for which data is available. When economic impact multipliers are applied to the figure, it jumps to $6.75 billion, which goes into the pockets of Louisiana private interests. The various sectors combined supported 76,700 jobs in 2006 and generated an estimated $446.2 million in state and local government tax revenues. That year, commercial fisheries produced retail sales of $1.8 billion while providing nearly 27,000 jobs. Wildlife-based commercial activities, such as alligator trapping, fur harvesting and reptile and amphibian collecting, generated $62 million in retail sales and supported nearly 800 jobs. Recreational activity also had a considerable economic impact on Louisiana's economy. Hunting, recreational fishing, wildlife watching, feeding and photography combined to generate approximately $2 billion in retail sales, supporting more than 37,000 jobs. Retail sales for recreational boating, accounting for more than $980 million in 2006, supported nearly 15,000 jobs. The study was completed by Southwick and Associates, a Florida-based firm with experience in the economic analysis of wildlife and fisheries activities around the country. This is the third year in a row that Southwick and Associates has prepared Louisiana's annual report. Copies of the new report may be obtained by calling (225) 765-2864 or visiting — Alford


Nods to Cravins
Citing a "strong campaign" that is beginning to energize traditional voting blocs, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has upgraded the bid of state Sen. Don Cravins Jr. of Opelousas to the "Emerging Races" column. Cravins, who will oppose incumbent Congressman Charles Boustany, a Lafayette Republican, on this fall's ballot, is the 21st Democratic candidate selected for the program. "In the short time that Don Cravins has been in the race, he's put together a solid campaign and shown that he is committed to making things easier for middle-class families in Southwest Louisiana," says DCCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen. But what does it mean for Cravins? Right now, not much, unless he can surpass fundraising goals and inch closer to Boustany in the polls. If that happens, then his campaign will be upgraded to the DCCC's "Red to Blue" program. That status brings along with it "financial, communications and strategic support." The "Emerging Races" nod, however, is a start.

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