Funding Received for Oyster Reef to Combat Coastal Erosion

Wed February 15, 2006 - Southeast Edition

LAFAYETTE, LA (AP) Officials with the Louisiana Wetlands Association said they have received the first installment of a $69,000 grant for the construction of an oyster reef in Vermilion Bay and expect to begin to move forward with the project by the end of January.

Russell Gaspard, secretary for the Louisiana Wetlands Association, said the first installment of approximately $13,000 will allow the nonprofit Abbeville-based group to lease a trailer or two needed to haul the shucked oyster shells and limestone used in the reef’s construction.

Gaspard said the group will store the shells and limestone at the Abbeville Harbor and Terminal District in Intracoastal City until enough supplies are secured for construction.

Since being featured in The Sunday Advertiser, the group has secured an agreement with a restaurant in Lafayette for its discarded oyster shells and attracted the interest of several potential new members.

Gaspard said the project still will require more oyster shells than the restaurant will be able to provide, “but every little bit is going to count. It’s coming around, and I think it’s going to help us.”

Donny Landry II, owner of Don’s Seafood Hut, said he was more than happy to help the group. He said during peak oyster season, which usually runs from December to April, his restaurant disposes of approximately 100 sacks of oysters a week, each containing between 100 to 200 shucked oysters shells.

“I think it’s a great idea and will help our coast to keep it from eroding away,” Landry said. “Plus, hopefully some of these reefs will come alive again … which will make a live oyster reef for the fisheries altogether.”

Gaspard said the reef, which is expected to be complete within the year, will be closed to commercial fishing but accessible to the public by permit.

The reef will be in Vermilion Bay in an area known as Prien Point, located approximately a mile south of North Lake. Once the first phase is complete, the reef will be 600 ft. (183 m) long and is expected to bring a wealth of benefits into an area once known for its oyster population.

The reef also is expected to serve as a buffer from hurricanes, help curb coastal erosion and draw marine life.

If the reef goes as planned, the group hopes to expand it to 3,000 ft. (914 m).