Partnership with Entergy and Shell creates new marsh near Cypremort Point

On Friday, more than 130 school students from AMIkids and Catholic High New Iberia joined volunteers from Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) Louisiana, Entergy and Shell to build the Floating Islands Restoration Project near Cypremort Point in Vermilion Bay.

The project is being spearheaded by CCA Louisiana’s four local chapters (Sugar, Acadiana, Cajun and Vermilion) along with CCA’s National Habitat Program, the Building Conservation Trust.

Students and adult volunteers met early Friday at the Cypremort Point State Park where they planted roughly 4,000 square feet of new wetland island habitat. They planted three types of native plants, including mangrove, seashore paspalum and smooth cord grass, into 8-foot by 20-foot BioHaven Floating Islands. From there the islands were deployed into the water and towed a short distance by boat to be anchored to the water bottom just south of Quintana Canal.

“You all should be very proud of what you are here to do today,” said CCA Louisiana Floating Islands project Chairman Ed Landgraf during his welcome address to the volunteers. “The work you do will provide protection for the shoreline and new habitat for marine organisms and fish for years to come. When you pass by these islands in the future, you can tell people that you helped build them.”

Landgraf also told the crowd that these islands could be a great place to go fishing in the near future.

“Part of why our committee chose this location is because it is an area often visited by recreational anglers, just a very short boat ride or paddle from the landing,” said Landgraf. “Before long, the plants on these islands will be very full and tall and will look just like the natural marsh. They should become great fishing spots for anglers and their families.”

Students and faculty from Catholic High New Iberia were impressed with the project.

“This is such an amazing experience for our students, to be out here actually getting their hands dirty building these islands,” said Katy Benson, a 4th grade Science and Math Teacher at Catholic High New Iberia. “We teach them about coastal land loss and erosion in the classroom, but to come out and see it for themselves and be part of a solution like this is priceless.”

Isaac Williams, Executive Director of AMIkids Acadiana, agreed.

“Our kids had a blast working on this project today, and we really appreciate CCA providing the opportunity for us to come out and help,” said Williams. “At AMIkids, we teach our students to take action when they see a problem that needs to be fixed. Today was a chance for them to put that into practice by helping rebuild our coast.”

This is the fourth project of this type spearheaded by CCA Louisiana in recent years. The first was Phase I of the Isle deJean Charles Project in Point Aux Chene, completed in 2011. Phase II of the Isle deJean Charles project followed in 2013. In 2015, CCA and partners joined forces to build more than 1000 linear feet of islands off Highway 1 near Grand Isle. In all, nearly 20,000 square feet of new marsh has been created by CCA to create habitat and fortify marshland that had been devastated by years of erosion and storms. These projects are the first to use this technology, developed by Martin EcoSystems, in an open-water marine environment application. In some cases, the “floating island marsh” has even outperformed the surrounding natural marsh.

“CCA is so proud to be a part of the solution to our State’s coastal erosion problem, and we are especially thankful to Entergy and Shell for making today’s event possible,” said Kirk Sieber, CCA Louisiana State President and New Iberia resident. “To be here today with these great kids and our local CCA volunteers and partners doing this important work is very gratifying.”

Trip Arnauld, Regional Customer Service Representative for Entergy, said it was only natural that he and his fellow Entergy volunteers would come out to help on a project like this.

“Our coast is vital to our customers and to our business across Louisiana,” said Arnauld. “Entergy is proud to partner with CCA on this project and we hope this serves as an example of how conservation organizations and corporate partners can work together to make a difference for Louisiana. Today was a lot of fun.”

Funding for the Cypremort Point project was provided by CCA’s Building Conservation Trust, Entergy, Shell and Martin Ecosystems along with donations by individual CCA members. Youth volunteers are coordinated by the CCA Louisiana Youth Outreach program in partnership with the Irene W. and C.B. Pennington Foundation. The total project cost is expected to be approximately $180,000.

“We are so grateful for such generous partners like Entergy and Shell,” said Sean Stone, Executive Director of Building Conservation Trust. “They have both funded past phases of the Floating Islands project, and we would not be able to continue these large-scale, impactful projects without their support.”

In all, this is 26th habitat project completed in recent years by CCA Louisiana and their partners, including 22 artificial reefs and 4 marsh planting projects, at a total cost of about $9 million. CCA Louisiana’s next habitat project will be an expansion to the Brad Vincent Artificial Reef in Calcasieu Lake, scheduled for later this Summer.

More photos from the project can be viewed at CCA Louisiana’s Facebook page.