Time quickly is running out for the islands of Louisiana's Cat Bay

Time quickly is running out for the islands of Louisiana's Cat Bay

(WVUE) - P.J. Hahn, the former coastal zone management director for Plaquemines Parish, gets a bird's eye view of one of the most documented parts of Louisiana's coast.

Hahn flies a drone over what locals call "Cat Island," one of four islands in Cat Bay that were heavily oiled in the 2010 Gulf oil spill. The island, 4 acres in April of 2010, now measures about 100 feet long by 30 feet wide in mid-tide without a blade of live vegetation remaining.

"Sad, really sad," Hahn said, surveying the barren landscape.  "When you look around and you see how much land was once here."

Only a few short years ago, Cat Bay was a pelican paradise, home to thousands of nesting pelicans and other birds of various species.

"By this time of year, this place would be covered up with birds, some rare and endangered," Hahn said.  "It's sad now when you come out here and see nothing but scorched earth."

While the islands first attracted attention following the 2010 BP oil spill, they were actually eroding long before the Deepwater Horizon blow out. However, the parish has blamed the spill for hastening their demise.

"This island's toast," Hahn said.

A couple miles away, the GPS device on a boat tells passengers they are sitting on an island. In fact, that spot now is in about five feet of water as storms and everyday tides have devoured what was left.

One last island a few miles to the northeast can still support a modest group of pelicans. A couple dozen mangrove trees will provide the only meaningful habitat for pelicans, which need the few feet of elevation to protect eggs and chicks.

Last year, Plaquemines Parish learned the islands would qualify for restoration funding from the spill through the Natural Resource Damage Assessment. Hahn hopes work on restoring two of the islands could begin sometime next year.

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