The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) officially opened its new office in Lake Charles today, as LDWF Secretary Jack Montoucet called the new structure the result of partnerships with city leaders and Gov. John Bel Edwards.

The $3 million facility, which replaces an aging building near the city’s lakefront, is better located for public access and provides LDWF a better staging area for enforcement agents to prepare for rescues before and after weather and other emergencies in the state’s southwest region.

The new, state-of-the-art facility is welcomed by LDWF’s Lake Charles staff. The over 50-year-old building was 4,000 square feet smaller and forced four biologists to work in offices built for two people. And, space was limited for equipment storage.

“We have benefitted from remarkable cooperative efforts, beginning with the funding we received from the Edwards’ administration and Mayor Nic Hunter’s office as we negotiated the exit from our old building and for this building and property,” Montoucet said. ”That cooperation also includes the Chennault International Airport Authority. It has taken a team effort to get this done for us and the people of this region.”

LDWF is paying $1 for a 99-year lease for the 12,000 square-foot (10,000 square feet of actual working area) building at 1025 Tom Watson Road. “Chennault made us dig deep,” Montoucet joked in remarks to the audience of city and regional leaders, Chennault and LDWF staff gathered at the new site.

“Chennault International Airport is extremely proud to partner and host Louisiana’s Wildlife and Fisheries’ administrative and research facilities at our airport,” said W. Kevin Melton, Executive Director of the Chennault International Airport Authority.

“Today is a culmination of over three years of work with the agency. We are excited they chose to partner with Chennault – a partnership that inserts more than two dozen permanent jobs on the airport,” Melton said. “The airport property will enable them to grow more jobs and more opportunities when they are ready, which we hope will also include an aviation unit at some point in the future.”

“This is certainly a moment worth celebrating, not only for our community, but for our region and state. The opening of LDWF’s new headquarters is a tangible example how we can all benefit in a major way from partnerships,” added Mayor Hunter. “LDWF personnel and local residents now have a state-of-the-art headquarters and Chennault has a new tenant, further exemplifying the airport’s critical role in our area’s economic diversification. This move also helps pave the way for LDWF to be engaged in our lakefront development projects. Their presence will remain through their Science and Nature Center inside Port Wonder and the site of their former headquarters will provide opportunities for additional lakefront development in the future.”

The new office is housing wildlife, fisheries and enforcement personnel. There will be about 28 permanent personnel daily on the Chennault site and additional biologists will use the site to complete file sampling and observation reports on waterways and wildlife management and refuges in the area.

The department will be seeking additional funding from the state to add more storage for fisheries and wildlife equipment, along with accommodations for enforcement vehicles and the storage of investigation evidence.

“The bottom line is that we will be able to do what we do – maintain Louisiana as the Sportsman’s Paradise and serve the people of our great state,” Montoucet said.