Corps project could breathe new life into island heavily damaged during oil spill

Published: Oct. 24, 2014 at 7:52 PM CDT
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A tiny island that has virtually vanished since the 2010 Gulf oil spill may be reborn, through a seldom used coastal restoration program.

Cat Bay, once home to thousands of nesting birds, was heavily oiled in the spill.

This spring, pelicans, egrets and shore birds nested on only one of the four islands that once were teeming with life.

Plaquemines Parish officials have scrambled to save another island that locals dubbed, "Cat Island."

Now, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is considering the island for a demonstration project aimed at illustrating the feasibility of delivering sediment over long distances.

Congress authorized the demonstration program under the federal Louisiana Coastal Area program in 2007, but Plaquemines officials only recently learned money was available in the fund.

"We're definitely going to be looking at Cat Island as the site to send the material," said Darrel Broussard, an LCA manager for the Corps.

The Corps would get the material from regular maintenance dredging it conducts for navigation each year on the Mississippi River.

Although the program authorizes the transport of sand and dirt by pipe, engineers believe the most likely, and cost-efficient method, would involve barging the sediment roughly 20 miles from the river to Cat Bay.

The parish and the Corps still need to work out project details, including the scope and the cost. While LCA demonstration projects have a $20 million cap, Plaquemines Parish coastal zone management director P.J. Hahn envisions a $6 million plan to build roughly 21 acres.

Plaquemines would be required to foot 35% of the cost, but the parish has already cobbled together roughly $3 million dollars from various sources, including $1.2 million from the state.

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