Louisiana has likely seen the last of the early restoration money that was set aside as a down payment for larger BP oil spill ecosystem repairs, but the work on $371 million worth of projects Louisiana did receive is well underway.
The money comes from part of a $1 billion commitment from BP to do early restoration projects as the larger Natural Resource Damage Assessment process moves forward.
While cleanup of an oil spill is required, the Natural Resource Damage Assessment process outlined in the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 goes a step further to line up projects that can help repair some of the damage done.
State and federal agencies, as well as BP, are continuing the work of finding and quantifying the damage the 2010 well blowout and subsequent oil spill did to the Gulf of Mexico and the bordering states. That can be a lengthy process, so in the interim, BP agreed to put up the $1 billion to pay for projects that could be done now. Louisiana’s share is helping pay for marsh creation, barrier island restoration and fish hatcheries and research stations.
“We were very fortunate to be ready with a suite of projects,” said Kyle Graham, executive director of the state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.
Many of the projects were also put into engineering and design two years ago in anticipation of funding announcements in 2013, which also allowed the state to have projects ready for construction, he said.
BP had to approve each project and agree to the amount of credit it would get for each through the court system.
In Louisiana, the project list submitted for review was the one that BP approved without any denials.
That work includes money for four barrier island restoration projects at Breton Island, Shell Island West, Chenier Ronquille and Whiskey Island, as well as fish hatchery and research centers, marsh creation and oyster habitat improvements.
The barrier island work is at different stages of completion.
- The $72 million for Breton Island restoration is being handled through the Department of Interior U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and is being designed. Construction is expected to start on the project in 2016.
- Shell Island West in Plaquemines Parish received $102 million and has gone through the necessary permitting. The state is currently finishing up the engineering and design of the project. The hope is the project can be put out to bid in spring.
- Chenier Ronquille Barrier Island Restoration in Plaquemines Parish has a couple more months of engineering and design needed with construction to begin next summer, said Mel Landry, project manager for the project with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The project will involve construction of 127 acres of beach and dune with 259 acres of marsh creation and nourishment.
- Whiskey Island in Terrebonne Parish at $111 million is having design modifications done and the state expects to go out to bid for construction in March or April, Graham said.
One marsh creation project was included in the early restoration money for $13.2 million in Barataria Bay which was hard hit by the oil spill.
The money was used to add more than 100 acres to an existing project that built more than 500 acres of land. Dredging on this Lake Hermitage project was completed in January and the planting of vegetation will be done in the spring, Graham said.
About $22 million is going to build two fish hatchery and research centers which will become Louisiana Marine Fisheries Enhancement, Research and Science Centers.
The hatchery in Calcasieu Parish will be just south of Lake Charles and will focus on the production of spotted sea trout, red drum and southern flounder. The facility will include a visitor center and a hatchery complex.
The other facility in Plaquemines Parish, to be located near West Pointe a la Hache, will focus on marine baitfish like the Gulf killifish and Atlantic croaker, according to the lead agency on the projects, the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
A final design process for both facilities is expected to take another year and a half. Once permits and the final design are done, construction is expected to take about two years.
Construction of an additional oyster hatchery facility in Grand Isle started in April 2013. The state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is equipping the new hatchery building and expects the facility will be ready for operations in the spring.
Almost $15 million helped pay for oyster enhancement which involved putting oyster cultch — material oysters use to set up for growth — on about 850 acres of public oyster seed ground. Six different sites were given additional oyster cultch between 2012 and 2013.
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