New life comes to a Louisiana island

Weeks after a restoration project wrapped, pelicans return by the thousands to Queen Bess
Updated: Mar. 16, 2020 at 10:19 PM CDT
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Queen Bess Island, La. (WVUE) - The first of the next generation of brown pelicans will hatch soon on Queen Bess Island, an important nesting spot a few miles north of Grand Isle.

“This is truly a day we’ve been waiting on,” said Todd Baker, a Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries biologist who led a team to the island last week.

Last month, contractors wrapped up an $18 million restoration project paid for with fine and settlement money from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

By law, that pot of money associated with the Natural Resources Damage Assessment must be used for environmental restoration.

Queen Bess, which was heavily-oiled during the spill, was actually suffering subsidence and erosion long before the BP’s Macondo oil well erupted in flames in April of 2010.

In a calculated gamble, the state attempted a first-of-its-kind restoration project to restore the island in a narrow window of time when most of the pelicans had departed the island.

From September through mid-February, contractors pumped dredge material onto the island, increasing its size from roughly five acres to 38.

That includes about one-third of Queen Bess, where a limestone surface is designed to attracted other bird species.

“To see those guys show up in force like they are behind us is very gratifying," Baker said.

As of last week, about 2,000 pelicans were nesting on the island with more arriving daily.

“The timeline was incredibly aggressive, to know that we had a fixed date that we had to be off the island,” said Katie Freer-Leonards, the project manager for the Louisiana Coastal Restoration and Protection Authority.

Biologists expect the first of the eggs to start hatching early in April.

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