Work begins to restore Louisiana island that is home to thousands of brown pelicans

Settlement from 2010 Gulf oil spill funds $16 million project

Work begins to restore Louisiana island that is home to thousands of brown pelicans
Rabbit Island, site of $16 million coastal restoration project (Source: WVUE)

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Restoration work has begun on Rabbit Island in Cameron Parish, the only brown pelican colony in Southwest Louisiana.

The $16.4 million project is funded with settlement money from from the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

“After a devastating hurricane season in Southwest Louisiana, this restoration project is even more important to the overall recovery of the region,” said Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Chairman Chip Kline in a statement. “Rabbit Island is yet another example of our commitment to investing in and restoring Southwest Louisiana’s coastline.”

The project follows a similar effort last year that successfully rebuild Queen Bess Island near Grand Isle, where contractors raced the clock to complete work in a short window of fall and winter before birds returned to nest in the spring.

Following the completion of Queen Bess, the state estimated 8,000 brown pelicans nested there, more than double what biologists expected.

Rabbit Island, positioned in the southwestern corner of Calcasieu Lake, is more than double the size of Queen Bess, with 88 acres of being rebuilt as nesting habitat.

As with much of coastal Louisiana, Rabbit Island has seriously degraded, losing approximately 30% of its total acreage since 1955.

The project contractor, Weeks Marine, will dredge sediment from the Calcasieu Ship Channel for the project.

“Hatchlings were drowning and eggs were washing away and breaking because much of the island had eroded to sea level or below,” said CPRA Project Manager Todd Baker. “We are filling in and elevating portions of the island so the birds can survive the wind and water that overtopped nesting areas even during normal high tides.”

The project is scheduled to be complete before nesting season begins in 2021, according to CPRA.

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