The money from BP PLC's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 is used to expand the size of the US wildlife refuge off the coast of Louisiana.
A project has begun in Louisiana to more than double the size of an island in the country's second oldest nature reserve.
The project will add 400 acres of new bird and animal habitat on North Breton Island, which currently covers approximately 290 acres, US Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman Taylor Pool.
North Breton Island is located on the south side of the Breton National Wildlife Refuge, founded in 1904 by President Theodore Roosevelt on a 62-mile string of barrier islands. According to the website, it is the only retreat he has ever visited.
Without restoration, the island would have shrunk to a sandbar by the early 2030s, according to the U.S. Geologic Survey.
North Breton is now home to one of Louisiana's largest waterfowl colonies, including one of the largest pelican nesting areas, the Fish and Wildlife Service said in a press release on the work. The barrier islands also protect New Orleans and other parts of southeast Louisiana from hurricane storms.
Callan Marine LTD has a $ 54.9 million contract to deliver up to 5.9 million cubic yards of sand – enough to fill the Empire State Building more than four times – from the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico to the beaches, dunes and swamps from the island of North Breton.
It starts on the north side, where pelicans nest on bushy mangroves. The company operates from north to south and is expected to be ready in the spring, before the next breeding season, the press release said.
If bad weather causes the company to miss that deadline, work will stop during breeding season and resume afterward, The Times-Picayune / The New Orleans Advocate reported.
A century of erosion, hurricanes, the BP oil spill in 2010 and a smaller spill in 2005 have eaten away the islands. Among the hurricanes were Katrina and Rita, which ate 80% of the chain's land area in 2005, according to the refuge's website.
The entire refuge currently has about 6,000 acres (2,400 hectares) generally above high tide protecting nests on the ground.
In 1975 the islands – with the exception of North Breton, which was once an oil facility – became part of the National Wilderness System.
"Breton is a special and unique place that is hugely important to waterfowl and nestlings," said Leo Miranda-Castro, chief of the South-Atlantic Gulf and Mississippi Basin Regional Office of the Fish and Wildlife Service. "If the island disappears, it will have a dramatic impact on the habitat of shorebirds."
Two smaller waterbird colonies – Queen Bess and Racoon Islands – have already been restored. Queen Bess, reopened as a wildlife refuge early this year after expanding from about 5 acres to 37 acres, held more than 10,000 nests this year, the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries said in November. That month, volunteers planted 2,000 vines and more than 4,200 mangrove seedlings to provide more nesting habitats on Queen Bess.
Restoration of Rabbit Island, an island in western Louisiana, where hundreds of birds were released in 2010 after being drained of oil from the BP spill, has also begun.
The North Breton Island project was one of the first to be approved in 2014 as part of early restoration projects with money from BP PLC following the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.
“We won't remain the Louisiana we know and love if we don't integrate the needs of all of our residents, including birds and wildlife, because they contribute to making our ecosystem so unique,” said Bren Haase, Executive Director of Louisiana & # 39; s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority. "North Breton Island is the next step in preserving habitat for our state bird and other species."
Copyright 2020 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
The most important insurance news, delivered to your inbox every working day.
Receive the trusted newsletter from the insurance industry