HOUMA—Officials from the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program are hoping to parlay generosity sparked by the recent Gulf oil spill into expanding habitat for birds affected by the disaster and ongoing land loss.
Shell Oil Co. is donating $25,000 to Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program to aid the group's work. In July, Delaware businesses and the Delaware Center for the Inland Bays, a sister estuary program, held a festival that raised more than $60,000 for the local program.
That includes creating new forested habitat for the migratory birds that pass through Louisiana en route to warmer southern climates. Those birds begin their travels in August, resting on barrier islands and wetlands and feeding in local waters. Many of those traditional habitats were affected by oil, and scientists worry about the impact the spill will have on the birds.
St. Pe' said some of the money will be used restore Grand Isle forests. A plot of land on the island is mostly lawn, and the program aims to plant trees and cover the ground with shell to make it more appealing to birds.
Program officials also hope to launch a more-ambitious effort to restore small barrier islands popular with nesting birds "because they don't have predators like raccoons or coyotes on them," St. Pe' said. "But a lot of these islands have gotten much, much smaller."
The islands are often overlooked for restoration projects because of their size.
Wine Island off Terrebonne Parish, for example, is a popular nesting site that has eroded to as little as 5 acres by some estimates. Though it hosts thousands of nesting birds in spring, it was cut from a corps project restoration project. Scientists deem it unsustainable.
St. Pe' said the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program is also considering projects that would restore some unnamed barrier islands popular with nesting birds off Plaquemines Parish. The islands are a few miles north of Grand Terre Island. They're working with landowner Apache Corp. and the Plaquemines Parish government to investigate the possibility of putting dredged material on the islands.
"It will require a lot of money to restore those islands," St. Pe' said. "But they're very important to birds."
To double the size of those islands from 7 acres to 14 acres would cost roughly $2 million.
The estuary program could also partnering with the federal Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act program, which often takes on restoration projects.