“The bill allows the current 640 acre cap on state lands to be removed,” Sen. Perry said. “Without the passage of this bill there could be no leases. Without the passage of this bill the families that farm would be financially hurt. It has been first and foremost my desire to protect the farmers and their families. I understand that it is a great area for hunting, but above all it is a way of living for many families and that was most important to me in presenting the bill.”
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is making public nearly 35,000 acres of the 71,000 acre property. Existing leases on the acres expire this year. There are seven parcels up for lease. The seven parcels range from as small as 412 acres (120 acres of rice base and 324 acres of crop land) to as large as 18,500 acres.
Over the years, the money generated from the leases of these seven parcels is used to maintain the acreage around White Lake and the facilities on the lake. The upkeep is close to $1 million a year. The department is also facing erosion abatement costs along the Intracoastal Waterway that must be addressed.
Bottom line, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries needs more money for the upkeep of White Lake. Having the public bid could triple the amount of the money the state now gets for hunting and agriculture leases on the White Lake.
“While we are very grateful to our current leaseholders who have all been good stewards of the land, we have a responsibility to the citizens of Louisiana to allow all who would like a hunting or agricultural lease the opportunity to bid on it,” said LDWF Secretary Robert Barham. “Opening these leases up for competitive public bid ensures that the state will get fair market value for this land, as well as responsible tenants.”
The Vermilion Parish School Board has also begun opening its 16 Section land up for bids. This year, 383 acres around White Lake were leased for $85,000 a year by the school board. Near Forked Island, the school board leased 223 acres for $31,000 a year.
If Gov. Jindal signs Senate Bill 119, which now sits on his desk waiting for his signature, the highest bidder of the land may not be awarded the 10-year lease.
Perry introduced legislation known as Senate Bill 119. In the bill, it allows the most recent lessee of record, his heirs or assignees of White Lake property to match the highest bid of the track.
“Many families have put hundreds of thousands of dollars over 40 and 50 years into this property. We wanted to allow them the opportunity to keep the land and at the same time stay within state bidding law. The opportunity to match bid is in currently law for other lands. We wanted the same courtesy for these farmers.” Perry said.
Example: Joe bids on the 2900 acres on Tract A of White Lake, which is along the Intracoastal Canal. He learns his $50,000 a year bid is the highest bid mailed in. But Joe can not get excited just yet. If Jindal signs Senate Bill 119 into law, then Joe has to wait for the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries to contact the present lease holder of Tract A to see if he wants to match Joe’s $50,000 bid. If the present lease holder matches the $50,000 lease bid, then the present lease holder wins the bid and not Joe. If he elects not to match it, then Joe is awarded the lease.
Bo Boehringer, the press secretary for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, said he did not have a problem with Senate Bill 119. He said that those who had the lease on the property for the last 10 years managed it well. He said he wants to get as much money as possible for the leases.
One lease was only fetching $1 per acre.
Gueydan’s Glenn Ray Trahan, 65, is a second- generation farmer who leases one of the tracts up for lease - 980 acres. He pays an average of $12,000 a year for the lease to farm rice and raise cattle on the land. It also takes him another $30,000 to keep the land pumped off and clean in order for him to plant.
He plans to re-bid on the land but he knows his bid may not be high enough. He said he likes the idea that he could match the bid of whoever bids on the land. “I’ll look at it, but if it is too high, which I expect, then I am gone,” said Trahan.
He said he will have no problem handing over the land to someone else because the land is getting costly to maintain and the price of rice has fallen so low that he is not making much money on the land.
Trahan said the person who bids the highest for the 980 acres is going to have to maintain it year around.
“The state owes a great amount of gratitude to those farmers who have been good keepers of the land and levees. I truly hope that they will be able to continue for years to come, ” added Perry
According to documents, some of those leasing acreage for duck hunting are:
• Five T Farms, represented by Godfrey P. Trahan of Kaplan, 4,880 acres.
• Cajun Chef Products Inc., represented by James Bullaird, John Larry Trahan Sr., John Larry Trahan Jr. and Chad Trahan, St. Martinville, 2,010 acres.
• G & H Seed Co. and Quality Equipment, represented by Wayne Hensgens, Glenray and Scott Trahan, 800 acres.
• Friendship Hunting Club, represented by Gene LeJeune, Crowley, 800 acres.
• Bubba Oustalet, Jennings, 740 acres.
Smaller acreage is held by Lafayette Steel Erectors, Scott;
The bid packets detailing land use stipulations and minimum per acre lease costs will be available July 17. Interested parties will have access to bid details online via the LDWF Web site or by mail upon request. Completed bid packages must be returned to LDWF by close of business on August 17. Following review of all bids submitted, winning bids will be announced in September.
To review the parcels and acreage totals that will be available during the bid process or request more information, visit http://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/white-lake-leases on the LDWF Web site. Anyone without access to the LDWF Web site can call 225-765-2812 or send a letter of request to: White Lake Wetlands WCA Bid Process 2011 Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. P. O. Box 98000, Baton Rouge, LA 70898-9000