Keith Magill / Houma Courier Executive Editor
HOUMA, La. — About $145 million in fines from the 2010 Gulf oil spill will pay for a project that will restore barrier island beaches and dunes at the southern tip of Lafourche Parish.
The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation announced the grant Thursday. It will help pay for the second phase of the Caminada Headland Beach and Dune Restoration project.
The foundation, charged with distributing about $2.5 billion in fines paid by BP and Transocean, issued about $3 million in November for the work's first phase. Construction began in August to create about 303 acres of beach and dune along a six-mile stretch of the islands. It will use 3.3 million cubic yards of sand sent 26 miles via pipeline from an area called the Ship Shoal off Terrebonne Parish. The state has spent $70 million on phase 1 construction.
The second phase will pump more than 5 million cubic yards of sand from the Gulf of Mexico via pipeline. It will create 490 acres of beach and dunes and restore 7.5 additional miles of beach. Construction is expected to begin late this summer.
“This investment is a milestone for NFWF and Louisiana, one which reflects the strong partnership we have established over the last year,” foundation Executive Director and CEO Jeff Trandahl said in a news release. “Barrier shorelines like Caminada Headlands are vital to the overall protection and restoration of Louisiana’s threatened coast, while providing critical habitat for important fish and bird species. We look forward to continuing our support as Louisiana works to repair its fragile coastal ecosystem.”
“The Caminada Headland directly protects Port Fourchon, the nation’s most important energy port,” said Kyle Graham, executive director of Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority. “But this project will also complete an important component of our Coastal Master Plan as we continue to restore the protective chain of barrier islands and beach headlands forming the perimeter of the Barataria Basin.”
Native vegetation will be planted over the entire project area before construction is completed in early 2015.
Restoring the Caminada Headland will protect sensitive inland marshes and maritime forests from erosion and saltwater intrusion from the Gulf, officials said. The beaches and dunes serve as a source of sand for nourishing islands to the east and west, including Grand Isle, and buffer Port Fourchon from storm surges.
The foundation's Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund was created in 2013 after a U.S. district judge approved two plea agreements resolving the criminal charges against BP and Transocean related to the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Over the next five years, the fund will receive approximately $1.27 billion to be used exclusively for Louisiana barrier island creation and restoration and to implement river diversion projects on the Mississippi and Atchafalaya.
The foundation is a congressionally chartered nonprofit corporation and is one of the largest financial contributors to environmental conservation the U.S. It is subject to oversight by Congress and a board of directors that includes the heads of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as well as representatives from states, non-governmental organizations and industry.