Xerxes Wilson / Houma Courier
Beach-goers will again not be able to use Fourchon Beach this year.
The beach has been closed for cleanup of the 2010 BP oil spill in previous years but is closed this year because of a large coastal restoration project, said Ricky Cheramie, chairman of the Lafourche Beachfront Development Commission.
Another issue is how in years past the public could cross private property to reach the public beach, but the landowners have since restricted access.
While the state controls a small sliver of beach, the area is primarily owned by the Caillouet Land Co. and the Wisner Donation, a private land trust. The general area has been off limits to vehicles and pedestrians.
In 2012, the Lafourche Parish Council set aside $275,000 to make an offer to the landowners to provide the public access to drive on the beach and the parish the right to develop parts of it for public use. The offer was unsuccessful, so the money remains budgeted for litigation to wrangle some control for public use, Cheramie said.
'We are kind of in a holding pattern right now because it is all going to hinge on if the state is going to give us access to the beach,' Cheramie said. 'We think that they may allow us vehicular access.'
Currently the beachhead at Fourchon is undergoing an extensive restoration. Contractors for the state are spreading some 8 million cubic yards of sand along the wave-beaten stretch to restore about 13 miles of beach.
Because the footprint of the beach will be greater, the public might get access without the cost of litigating, Cheramie said.
The soonest that could happen would be after next summer because construction on the second phase of the beach restoration won't begin to late this year at the earliest.
The issue is further complicated by ongoing arguments over control of parts of the land between the Wisner Donation and city of New Orleans.
Meanwhile, those looking for a white-sand experience all the way down the bayou can visit Grand Isle or Elmer's Island just to the west where the Coast Guard this spring ended its more active search for spill oil.
Elmer's Island, which is controlled by the state, is opened seven days a week, 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset. There is no commercial fishing or oyster harvesting on the Island. Camping and night-time access is also prohibited.
Officials say anyone seeking to spend time on local beaches should be cognizant of sensitive nesting bird populations.
Nesting season is ongoing and hundreds of birds can have nests within a mile or so stretch. Most of large nesting areas are roped off, something beach-goers should be watchful of, said Delaina LeBlanc, migratory bird coordinator with the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program.
Least terns and Wilson's plovers are the main species that visitors should be watchful for.
'If a place isn't roped off, but you have birds flying at you and squawking at you ... they are probably nesting and that is a real sign to turn away,' LeBlanc said.
Fourchon beach closed for summer, Elmer's Island open
Xerxes Wilson / Houma Courier