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Recent Visit to Elmer’s Island: Closed Since Hurricane Isaac
In October, representatives from several nonprofit organizations who have funded planting and fencing projects on Elmer’s Island Wildlife Area or sponsored volunteer projects were invited to discuss continued stewardship of the area.
Staff from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) met us at the entrance to Elmer’s Island, which remains closed since Hurricane Isaac due to ongoing clean-up work. We arrived at high tide and the first thing I noticed was a new washover to the left of where the road ends at the beach. There are now two washovers on Elmer’s Island as you head along the beach toward Caminada Pass and noticeable beach erosion. You can see this in a photo of the damaged sand fencing near the water’s edge. Sand fencing was also damaged in areas along the back side.
Several organizations, including BTNEP, Bayou Land RC&D, and the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana have organized volunteers who installed fencing and planted hundreds of plants since the 2010 oil spill. The good news is that much of the fencing did its work to retain dune and plants. We know the beach can recover with sand accretion as it has after other storms.
BP recently let the contract to remove structural barriers at Bayou Thunder so that should be open again soon.
After seeing the beach area for ourselves, we moved on to LDWF Fisheries Research Lab on Grand Isle for an indoor meeting to talk about management planning for Elmer’s Island and how groups, such as LWF, can help. A significant amount of projects to enhance the island’s habitat have been funded by nonprofit organizations and their volunteers’ efforts, which demonstrates the public’s interest in enhancing habitat and wildlife in the area.
There was talk about repairing or building new sand fencing. We discussed how to keep the beach clean and recommended an increase in enforcement for littering and more education of recreational users about carrying their trash off the island, though a significant amount of trash washes in from the Gulf. Elmer’s Island presents educational opportunities that several groups brainstormed around for future development with LDWF and the local community.
Representatives from the Office of Coastal Planning and Restoration gave an update on the “Caminada Headland Beach and Dune Restoration Project – Increment I,” which is currently out for bid and expected to start in January 2013. You can check out that project here. The proposed “Increment II” project is currently not funded but could be funded with 2010 oil spill penalty funds. Between the two projects much of the beach of the entire Caminda Headlands could be restored.
Since that meeting, we learned more about a project NOAA is proposing in the CWPPRA PPL-22 project list to create salt marsh habitat behind the dune on Elmer’s Island and maintain shoreline integrity and prevent breaching for 20 years as an interim measure until the implementation of a larger beach nourishment/dune restoration project(s). The project would result in approximately 272 net acres over the 20-year project life. Here’s a link to the project map and fact sheet. The CWPPRA PPL-22 project list is currently open for public comment.
-Rebecca Triche, Executive Director