Ownership of Louisiana island makes for a trivia question

Ownership of Louisiana island makes for a trivia question

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - When one thinks of New Orleans City Park, many images come to mind, from lagoons to giant oaks, the Botanica Garden, or the City Park Train.

Few people associate the island with Louisiana wetlands, specifically a 2,200 acre, marshy island on the west bank that separates Lake Salvador and Lake Cataouatche.

The island provides an extra layer of hurricane protection, knocking down storm surge, and keeps the lakes from becoming one.

Since 1996, Couba Island has been in the hands of City Park, thanks to a donation from the Timken family.

Not knowing quite what to do with their island, past board members turned to people who know something about wetlands, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

LDW&F manages Couba Island as the Timken Wildlife Management Area under a cooperative agreement that won't expire for over 10 years.

Like many places along the Louisiana coast, the island suffers land loss.

"The island is shrinking from the north and the south," said Shane Granier of Wildlife & Fisheries. "It's kind of being squeezed both ways, more from the south than the north."

As big waves come in off Lake Salvador, they chew up the shoreline.

"A piece of land like this, when a surge is coming out of Salvador heading north, it's going to diminish that surge," said Bob Thomas, Ph.D., a City Park board member.  "So, it's going to have less damage up there."

Couba Island is not your grandfather's marsh.

"Well, it's a natural setting in that it's South Louisiana in the marshes," Thomas said, "but it's covered with alien species."

Invasive plants plague the site, including hyacinth plants and Chinese tallow trees.

According to Granier, the trees-- normally despised by most Louisiana naturalists-- actually serve a purpose in the is case.

"It's certainly holding some of these shorelines together."

He points out growing a sizable oak here could take 100 years.

For a time, park officials hoped they were sitting on riches, but the crude oil below the island turned out to contain too much water to be marketable today.

In the immediate future, City Park spokesman John Hopper said the board plans to hold onto its unusual possession.

"In another ten years, we'll see where technology is and the board, I'm sure, will make the best decision on what to do with the island," Hopper said.

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