Last week the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources met to mark up the bills reauthorizing the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the federal law that manages our nation’s fisheries. “Marking up” is the process in which members of the committee debate, amend, and rewrite proposed legislation before it goes to the House floor to be debated and voted upon.
One little noticed amendment that the Committee passed was introduced by Representative Garret Graves of Louisiana. That amendment would exempt certain activities in Louisiana from the requirements of mitigating impacts to fisheries.
During the hearing, Graves explained that he introduced the amendment because National Marine Fisheries Services is designating lands that have been eroded and are now water as Essential Fish Habitat, thus requiring mitigation for impacts to the fisheries for coastal wetland restoration activities.
Rep. Jared Huffman of California identified his concerns that the Graves amendment was not narrowly tailored enough for wetland restoration and could apply to numerous other activities. The committee agreed that they would add in language that this applied only to wetland restoration at a later date and passed the amendment anyway.
Gulf Restoration Network is not aware of any coastal restoration projects that have been held up by essential fish habitat designations and is puzzled by why Rep. Graves felt the need to introduce the amendment. As this appears to be a red herring, we are troubled by any precedent that could be set by exempting certain activities from complying with mitigation procedures that are in place for good reason.
We will continue to monitor this situation closely as the Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization process continues.