PLAQUEMINES PARISH, LA (WVUE) - South of Venice, Louisiana, hundreds of skimmers make their nests on a section of beach that did not exist weeks ago.
Contractors are finishing work on a brand new, man-made island, built from material dredged in the nearby Mississippi River and piped into West Bay.
"Who was to think that within five-and-a-half years, all this would be here," asked Earl Armstrong, a cattle rancher and early supporter of the West Bay Diversion.
In 2003, the Corps cut a hole in the Mississippi River bank in a pilot project designed to deliver sediment from the river in the marsh. Since then, West Bay has evolved into a coastal project with a split personality: part diversion, part dredging project.
The Corps has deposited sand and dirt piped in from the river bottom to build a series of islands in West Bay.
The latest project, wrapping up in the next few days, will have added another 44 acres on a brand new man-made island.
"That's the idea to get the message across, that there are some positive actions being taken," said Plaquemines Parish President Amos Cormier, who surveyed the site last week.
Plaquemines teamed with the Corps in a first-of-its-kind partnership to capitalize on the "beneficial use of dredged material."
While the Corps regularly dredges the river to maintain navigation, Louisiana officials frequently complained in the past that much of the material was lost off the Outer Continental Shelf.
In this case, Plaquemines put up 25 percent of the cost.
"We wanted to capitalize on the dredge being in the river already," said Darrel Broussard, the Corps project manager.
Engineers aimed to place this island strategically, about one mile south of the three previously dredged islands, to slow the water flow from the river and steer sediment to spots in the bay where land might best accumulate.
"This is part of the West Bay project also," Broussard said. "While it's not linked to West Bay, it's trying to help the West Bay diversion catch the sediment."
In past years, the Corps has concentrated dredging projects on the east bank. However, engineers say they have almost filled that basin. Depending on funding from Congress, West Bay offers 10,000 acres of potential open space for future projects.
"This place is going to do great," Armstrong said. "I think you're going to be looking at another delta in years to come."