Voters in Louisiana on Nov. 4, 2014, approved Amendment 8, the Louisiana Artificial Reef Development Fund Protection, by a vote of 758,142 to 567,483.
The legislatively referred constitutional amendment establishes constitutional protection for the Artificial Reef Development Fund (ARDF). According to the Louisiana Legislative Fiscal Office (LFO), the original fund was statutorily dedicated and not constitutionally protected, so funds could be “swept” to cover budget shortfalls in other state agencies. Approximately $46 million was swept to cover state budget shortfalls over the past few fiscal years, leaving a $12.5 million balance in the fund, the LFO said.
The ARDF relies on donations and grants from oil and gas companies. Once an oil platform is no longer productive, it can be donated to the state and converted to an artificial reef instead of being disassembled and removed. The company donates half of the realized savings from not disassembling the platform to the state in order to maintain the fund. In addition to the artificial reef creation, up to 10% of donations can be used to support the wild-caught fish certification program and another 10% can be applied toward enhancement projects for fishery habitats.
The amendment creates constitutional protection ensuring funding can only be used for ARDF purposes, making the fund inaccessible to use for addressing budget shortfalls for other agencies and programs.
The bill was sponsored in the legislature by State Senator Bret Allain as Senate Bill 128.