Close to 100 Terrebonne Parish school kids withstood rain and winds of an incoming cold front to help build Phase II of the Floating Islands Restoration Project at the Isle de Jean Charles boat launch in Pointe Aux Chenes on Friday.
The project was spearheaded by the Coastal Conservation Association’s Building Conservation Habitat Program and its partners: Shell Oil Company, Keep Terrebonne Beautiful, Martin Ecosystems, Terrebonne Parish Government, Terrebonne Parish Schools and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
Kids ranging from eight to 13 years of age were on-hand for the project from three area schools, Point Aux Chenes Elementary, Bourg Elementary and Montegut Middle School as well as local 4H Club members. The kids planted two types of marsh grass – smooth cord and seashore paspalum –into 5-foot by 20-foot BioHaven(R) Floating Islands. The islands were assembled on-shore and were then moved to the water for installation. In total, the project resulted in 1,000 linear feet of new shoreline.
The kids were joined by more than 50 volunteers from Shell Oil, CCA Louisiana and teachers from their own schools.
“Being out here is very important for these kids,” said Holly Hebert, fourth grade teacher at Point Aux Chenes Elementary. “They know all about coastal erosion from first hand experience as many of them have lost their homes and belongings to flooding. They feel they are making a difference participating in this project.”
The students agreed.
“A football field of coastline is lost every day and we have to do something to help save it,” said fifth grader John Melancon. “Plus we’re having a lot of fun out here. It beats sitting in class all day.”
Even though Phase I was built in September of 2011 and survived the natural rampage of Hurricane Isaac last fall, getting to this stage was a long-time coming.
“Almost five year ago we decided to do a project like this but we didn’t have the funding,” Gerald Schouest, Chairman of the Terrebonne Parish Coastal Zone Management Advisory Committee said. “Thanks to Shell and CCA Louisiana, the funding became available to put the plan into action.”
Captain Wendy Billiot couldn’t agree more and helped aid in the funding of the project by securing the Keep America Beautiful Lowe’s Community Improvement Grant.
“In South Terrebonne Parish, the best way to help your community is to help restore the wetlands,” Billiot said. “And that is what we’re doing today and we’re able to involve volunteers of all ages.”
Martin Ecosystems’ “floating islands” technology allows the plants to take root in the water bottom while providing protection from the natural elements.
“It’s hard to believe that the waters we’re launching these floating islands into was thick marsh not that long ago,” Ryan Richard, CCA’s Bayou Chapter President, said. “And if we don’t try to do something about it now, it will be too late.”
Funding for the project was provided by the CCA Building Conservation Trust, Shell Oil Company, Keep Terrebonne Beautiful, Terrebonne Parish Consolidated Government and private donations by CCA members.
Area parish volunteers as well as volunteers from Shell and CCA Louisiana completed the project build on Saturday.