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Louisiana Sea Grant Examines History and Options of Coastal Access Conflict

A new report from the Louisiana Sea Grant College Program (LSG) examines the growing conflict over public and private access claims to the state’s coastal waters.

The report, Preliminary Options for Establishing Recreational Servitudes for Aquatic Access over Private Water Bottoms, was completed in early March. The document emanates from a 2017 legislative mandate (HR 178) that directed LSG to study and make recommendations on recreational access in coastal waterways. This ongoing conflict is primarily between private landowners and recreational fishermen, and it involves disputes over what water areas are considered private and what water areas are open for public access.

Jim Wilkins, Professor and Director of the Sea Grant Law and Policy Program, served as lead author of the study.  “The coastal access conflict has been with us since the early 1970s” said Wilkins, “…but it has really ramped up in recent years.”

A guiding principle imposed by the 2017 study resolution was to limit the analysis to voluntary actions that would not impinge on individual property rights or impede commerce. In preparing the study, LSG convened stakeholder meetings with fishermen, landowners and state agencies to hear concerns and identify potential options.

The final report provides a general overview of the context, history and drivers of the coastal access issue; describes the process utilized for soliciting stakeholder input; and details economic and legal considerations for ten preliminary options that could be used to partially mitigate this conflict. Louisiana Sea Grant does not oppose nor endorse any of the options, said Wilkins, who describes the report as a compilation of “suggestions that stakeholders and policymakers can use in future discussions of possible solutions.”

A full copy of the report and a list of frequently asked questions is available online at: www.laseagrant.org/sglegal/publications/other/.