Before and after pictures show rapid loss of Louisiana island - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Before and after pictures dramatize rapid loss of Louisiana island

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August 2013 aerial photo of island in Cat Bay, Louisiana (P.J. Hahn, Plaquemines Parish Coastal Office) August 2013 aerial photo of island in Cat Bay, Louisiana (P.J. Hahn, Plaquemines Parish Coastal Office)
January 2012 image of Cat Bay (P.J. Hahn, Plaquemines Parish Coastal Office) January 2012 image of Cat Bay (P.J. Hahn, Plaquemines Parish Coastal Office)

Plaquemines Parish, La. -- Aerial photographs provide a dramatic example of how quickly parts of Louisiana's coast are vanishing.

P.J. Hahn, director of Plaquemines Parish Coastal Zone Management, snapped two pictures of an island in Cat Bay, east of Grand Isle, from a helicopter. The first, from January of last year, showed the island stretching over two acres.

The second, taken earlier this month, shows all that is left, the skeletal remains of mangrove trees and a small mound of oyster shells pushed up by wave action.

The islands of Cat Bay were in trouble long before the April 2010 Gulf oil spill, which put them directly in the path of BP crude. Cut off from the river and subsiding rapidly, the islands also were battered by tides and everyday wave action.

"This is the first year pelicans did not nest on these islands," Hahn said.

A second island a few miles away mirrors the story.

The parish hopes to restore the two islands by pumping in sediment and partially surrounding the island with some kind of barrier. 

It has cobbled together $3 million from various sources, but needs another $1.5 million to perform the work on just one island. Hahn estimates that would construct about 15 acres of island.

To date, Hahn argues the early uses of BP restoration money have ignored habitat.

Some coastal experts point out the islands are so tiny and remote, they serve no hurricane protection function and are not included in the state's coastal master plan. Hahn hopes to piggyback on a much larger project a few miles away.

Meanwhile, this place once teeming with life provides barely a resting spot for the few birds that remain.

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