Independence Island Reef construction planned

Partnership between CCA, LDWF, Shell and the Candies Family makes project a reality

Coastal Conservation Association is set to begin construction on an island reef near Grand Isle that is expected to boost recreational fishing in an area damaged by erosion. Despite recent heavy winds and high water, CCA has all the pieces in place to begin construction on the 4-acre, $500,000 Independence Island Reef.

Over the past month, nearly 8,000 tons of limestone was barged from Kentucky to New Orleans by Vulcan Materials. From there, it will be taken by Bertucci Contractors to the permitted reef site. The reef is scheduled to be deployed during the first week in June and is expected to take about two weeks to complete.

The reef will be sited where the historic Grand Isle fishing hot spot Independence Island was once located. Years of erosion and degradation caused the once-emergent island to completely disappear. While recreational fishing boats have been seldom seen in the area over recent years, the new reef structure is sure to attract fish and fishermen alike.

“The reefs we have built over the years have proven to be great habitat for all sorts of marine species, including speckled trout, redfish, drum and flounder,” said CCA Artificial Reef Coordinator John Walther. “This new reef at Independence Island will be the largest we’ve ever constructed, and it is sure to become a popular spot for Grand Isle anglers.”

The center of the reef will be located located at 29° 18′ 29.40″N, -89° 56′ 00.24″W and will be marked by several mooring buoys. Anglers will have the ability to tie their boats to the buoys without dropping anchor. The buoys are not only convenient but will also help preserve the reef structure against damage from traditional boat anchors.

The project is a partnership between CCA Louisiana and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. Funding was provided through the LDWF Artificial Reef Development Fund and the CCA Building Conservation Habitat Program, including a lead gift from Shell Oil Co. Additional funding was provided through a generous gift by the Paul Candies family. CCA Louisiana would also like to extend a special thanks to NOAA and Mr. Tim Osborn, whose assistance in planning and implementing this project were invaluable.

“We are so pleased that this project was the first to be funded through CCA’s Building Conservation Habitat Program,” said CCA Louisiana State President Ed Francis. “Our deepest gratitude goes to all who made it possible for us to turn this concept into reality, especially Shell and the Paul Candies family. Their generosity and commitment to Louisiana’s coast is incredible.”

Funding from the Artificial Reef Development Fund was dedicated to the project in December during a ceremony at the State Capital. During the event, Gov. Bobby Jindal and officials from LDWF noted that Louisiana’s coastal environment has faced many challenges, some man-made and some natural, and that projects like Independence Island Reef are critical to the recovery of our coast.

“The recreational fishing industry has sustained a number of challenges over the last six years – hurricanes, the Gulf oil spill and the current flood waters from the Mississippi River have and will continue to impact our inshore reefs along Louisiana’s coast,” said LDWF Assistant Secretary Randy Pausina. “The building of inshore reef structures is an essential component in restoring our recreational fisheries. We are incredibly grateful for Governor Jindal and Secretary Barham’s leadership in what is an essential effort to rebuild areas along our coast that have been damaged by erosion.”

Independence Island Reef is the first in a series of inshore reefs that could be funded through the Artificial Reef Development Fund over the next few years. LDWF and CCA Louisiana have been working for several months on plans for a number of new reefs and reef refurbishment projects. Those proposed projects include sites in Lake Pontchartrain, Plaquemines Parish, Barataria Bay, Terrebonne Parish, Vermilion Bay and Calcasieu Lake.  The fund may also be used to create a reef logistics program whereby alternative reef materials, like concrete from old bridges and roads, discard material from concrete plants, oyster shells and the like would be identified, collected, stored and deployed as artificial reefs.  CCA Louisiana and LDWF partnered recently on the I-10 Twin Span reefs in Lake Pontchartrain, which are the first in Louisiana to be built using debris concrete.  The logistics program is currently in the development stages.