NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - When Tropical Storm Cristobal came ashore on the Louisiana coast earlier this month, coastal activists feared for the inhabitants of a newly-rebuilt island.
The Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries had only in recent months completed work on an $18.7 million restoration project for Queen Bess Island.
Fines from the 2010 Gulf oil spill paid for the project from a pool of money set aside for environmental restoration.
As they took a boat ride to survey the island in the aftermath of the storm, biologists and project managers were not sure how much of the island would be left.
Only a few miles away, the storm had chewed up 80-feet of beach and gouged a hole in the Grand Isle levee.
“As soon as we approached the island, even from a distance, we were pleasantly surprised,” said LDWF biologist Todd Baker. “We were greeted by a lot of birds coming off the island.”
Now on Queen Bess, life endures.
Thousands of brown pelicans, young and old, make quite a racket.
A year ago, the Gulf of Mexico was devouring this vital nesting spot, as it steadily sank and eroded.
Baker and others involved in the project found Queen Bess almost entirely in tact, which he credits on the design.
The project added a few feet of elevation and lifted the rock ring surrounding the island.
Contractors also used a course sand, which was dredged from the Mississippi River near Belle Chasse.
“If this island had not been restored, a lot of the birds that are nesting here wouldn’t have had an higher elevation to move to and would have simply drowned,” Baker said.
While he estimates 30 percent of the pelican chicks died in the storm, the toll was much higher among the smaller shorebirds that nest closer to sea level.
“We lost 95 percent of those.”
However, Baker is encouraged at finding new eggs in the nests of laughing gulls.
“We’re still going to produce a lot more birds on this island than what it did last year.”