(WVUE) - On Louisiana's newest beach, workers with Great Lakes Dredging have brought back 2.8 miles of sand, a $76 million effort to reassemble Shell Island, west of the Mississippi River.
The project, funded with early restoration money related to the 2010 Gulf oil spill, is creating 300 acres of beach and an almost equal amount of wetlands behind the island.
"Over the course of time and storms, they had taken away these islands," said Brian Puckett, project manager for Great Lakes. "Now, we're restoring the islands."
They mine the wetland material from offshore, but the sand comes courtesy of the Mississippi, dredged from the river bottom and delivered from 12 miles away with the help of powerful booster pumps.
"Now, we've got a major speed bump for any sort of storm surge that comes through," said Chris Allen, project manager for the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.
The rebuilding project, on the western side of the island, follows another project in 2013 that carved a new beach from the berms the state erected in 2010 in hopes of providing an island barrier to BP oil.
Most of the island had been under two feet of water. Great Lakes is building the island back to an elevation of eight feet.
Twenty-five years ago, the first barrier island restoration projects failed miserably when subsequent storms simply blew the islands apart.
On paper, the state has designed the Shell Island project to endure for half a century.
"We try to make our money go as far as we can," said Johnny Bradberry, CPRA Chairman.
The marsh area on the north side of the island is designed as a backstop to capture sand that might otherwise be blown off the island.
Project managers also says the river provides better sand than the offshore material used for beaches in the past.
"It doesn't look like the Florida beaches," Allen said, "But this is about the best sand you can get in Louisiana, the coarsest sand."