The Wild Side for Aug. 26, 2012

It’s taken about four months to try to understand what President Barack Obama’s administration is trying to accomplish with its Idle Iron Policy.

Most offshore fishermen might not know this U.S. Department of the Interior project by that name, but they sure know its effects.

In short, this policy is designed to remove all wells (mostly in the Gulf of Mexico) that have not been used in the last five years. It requires those now-defunct operations to plug wells, and “decommission” all production platforms and pipelines related to that nonproducing well.

Shelly Dupré, a contact for the Environmental Defense Fund, said the last count affects as many a 3,500 wells and 650 production platforms.

The EDF doesn’t like it, nor does the Coastal Conservation Association. CCA Louisiana is fighting the federal move tooth and nail.

Ain’t it strange what strange bedfellows our federal government enhances?

Who’d believe EDF and CCA would agree on much 5, 10 or 20 years ago. These two groups were linked in the battle for BP’s responsibility and recompense from the BP-Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. Now it’s the Idle Iron Policy.

It’s doubtful the issue here lies in the same problems BP-Deepwater caused. Maybe the only rational problem on the horizon is that these platforms could become hazards to navigation.

Or is it that the federal government is continuing what has become its very obvious intention of increasing its barriers to recreational fishing? (Must we again run through the dozens of reduced seasons and creel limits imposed during the last four years?)

There’s little doubt that these platforms have a vital secondary contribution to our economy: Oil and gas platforms have become the Gulf of Mexico’s most productive artificial fishing reefs.

And there’s little doubt that because most of these platforms are off Louisiana’s coast that our state has the best offshore fishing in the country.

Remove 650 platforms and their related pumping structures and we’re destroying the very habitat that’s made us what we are when it comes to producing extraordinary numbers of fish in more than 100 species in water depths not found off the shorelines of any of the other four Gulf States.

Louisiana Sen. David Vitter has introduced the Rigs to Reefs Habitat Protection Act. Like the recently passed RESTORE Act, this legislation needs your support, and the support from others in Congress.

Several platforms already have been removed, and Congress is the only method we have today to put the brakes on this policy.

Shrimp closure

After small shrimp showed up Department of Wildlife and Fisheries will close inshore waters from Bayou Lafourche west to the Atchafalaya River Ship Channel at Eugene Island for two weeks beginning at 6 p.m. Monday.