Now you see it, soon you won't

Pelicans cling to a mound of shells on what remains of a tiny island in Cat Bay
Pelicans cling to a mound of shells on what remains of a tiny island in Cat Bay

Barataria Bay, La. -- On May 22, 2010, agents of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries scrambled to get boom around a tiny island at the southern end of Barataria Bay.

Dubbed by locals as "Cat Island," the small spec of real estate -- home to hundreds of nesting Louisiana Brown Pelicans -- sat directly in the path of oil slicks from the BP's crippled Macondo well.

The name causes some confusion with the more famous island of the name in Mississippi.  However, that could be academic soon as the island is vanishing before our eyes.

Although a USGS survey showed the island had stretched over 40 acres as recently as 1998, it had shrunk to four acres by the time of the spill. Today, the island is barely one acre.

Cat Island was in peril long before the Gulf oil spill.  Mississippi River levees deprive the islands and marsh areas in the Barataria basin of the annual spring floods and the land-building silt and mud they historically brought.

Hurricanes and winter storms deliver seasonal one-two punches, along with everyday tidal flow that pulverize the islands.  Hurricane Isaac was nearly a final blow to Cat Island, wiping out virtually all the remaining vegetation.

Plaquemines Parish has applied to state and federal regulators to build some kind of barrier around two islands in Cat Bay.  Consultants hope to design the barriers in a way that would put the tidal flow to use, depositing sand and material to add to the island.

Phase Two of the project would involve dredging material onto the islands.