Xerxes Wilson / Houma Courier
A popular fishing hot spot known as The Pickets, which had been threatened by required demolition, will now be around for future anglers fishing off southern Terrebonne Parish.
For decades, the abandoned pilings and oilfield jackets have served as habitat for sea life and provided what fishermen have called one of the best places to snag trout.
Last week, a team made up of state officials, energy producers and conservationists unveiled a $1.2 million plan to replace the habitat that was enhanced by underwater pilings and jackets at Ship Shoal 26. About 35 miles southwest of Dularge, The Pickets has been in place since the 1960s or 70s, officials said.
The plan is to replace the underwater components of the platform with three artificial reefs made up of 15,000 tons of concrete rip-rap, or large broken pieces.
The reefs will protect depressions in the sea floor created by local currents. The goal is to protect those depressions, which serve as habitat.
“There are many trout fishermen in this state who have fond memories of The Pickets,” said David Cresson, executive director of CCA Louisiana, the state's largest sport fishing group. “It is unfortunate that we have to say goodbye to those structures, but we are grateful to have partners here who were committed to doing everything they could to maintain the area for future generations.”
The process will begin in July once the platform's underwater components are removed.
The structures were acquired by Fieldwood Energy from Apache last year. As part of that agreement, Fieldwood is responsible for making sure the removal of structures at Ship Shoal 26 is completed.
Apache had agreed to delay demolition as a solution was cobbled together.
“The Pickets is an area that residents of Louisiana and Texas, including many of our employees at Fieldwood, have fished for decades,” said John Seeger, Fieldwood's vice president of decommissioning. We are required by federal law to remove the structures but wanted to come up with a solution that would preserve this renowned fishing area for generations to come.”
To cover the cost, Apache, Fieldwood, the state Wildlife and Fisheries Reef Trust Fund, and the Coastal Conservation Association's national habitat program collectively will contribute $1.05 million. The reef contractor, DLS Energy, and the company providing reef materials, Matt Durand Contractors, will discount their services as a donation to the project.
“This had the potential to be a sad ending to a storied fishing spot, but now we have a tremendous amount of hard structure going in to replace habitat that is required to be removed,” said John Walther, chairman of CCA Louisiana's Habitat Committee.
Federal law requires that owners of shut-in or abandoned infrastructure decommission and remove the asset as hurricanes of previous years destroyed many idle outposts. The shallow water Gulf of Mexico is one of the most matured offshore oil and gas fields, meaning decommissioning has been on the rise in recent years.
About 45 percent of the 2,900 or so active production platforms on the inner continental shelf are more than 25 years old, according to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.
Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement statistics show more than 600 platforms were either not producing or on expired leases and eligible for decommissioning as of last year. More than 75 percent of those are in shallow water. There were still about 2,500 structures in the Gulf at the beginning of 2014.
Record numbers of structures were removed in 2011 and 2012.
Since Louisiana's artificial reef program began in 1986, more than 70 offshore reefs utilizing the jackets of more than 300 obsolete platforms have been created off Louisiana's coast.