Venice, LA-- A dredge in the Mississippi River works like a giant vacuum cleaner, keeping open a parking spot for ships and making for "instant islands" in the West Bay Diversion.
Albertine Kimbel of the Plaquemines Parish Coastal Zone Management Office scrawls a little message in this new earth.
"BUDM," she explains for, "beneficial use of dredge material."
Between now and July, contractors for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will dredge two-and-a-half-million cubic yards of material from the river, or enough to fill roughly 225,000 large dump trucks.
In 2002, the Corps cut a hole in the river levee, a pilot project designed to mimic nature and free the Mississippi to build new land.
In the case of the dredging now underway, contractors give nature a helping hand.
Through two miles of pipe, the material is pumped onto a brand new island in a matter of minutes.
The project aims to build four artificial islands.
"What you see here is automatic land build," said Captain Mike Lorino of the Associated Branch Pilots. "This should be done up and down Southwest Pass."
For a time, West Bay seemed destined to close.
A report from the Corps blamed the diversion for 25 percent of the shoaling taking place in the nearby Pilottown anchorage.
Ships use the spot as an emergency parking lot during fog or other adverse conditions.
In a compromise last year, a federal-state tax force voted to using coastal funds to pay for one more round of dredging.
"People from here are real happy to see this place have a chance top build up," said Earl Armstrong, a Plaquemines Parish cattle rancher who has long championed the diversion.
"All we've been doing is losing land," Armstrong said.