CCA Louisiana, Phillips 66 Build Floating Islands in Lake Charles

CCA’s Lake Charles Chapter, conservation partners join local students to create new marsh in Prien Lake

The Coastal Conservation Association of Louisiana’s Lake Charles Chapter, Phillips 66, Martin Ecosystems and local students from Pearl Watson Elementary and Bishop Noland Episcopal Day School teamed up today to help rebuild the coastline near Prien Lake with a Floating Islands installation.

Volunteers from Phillips 66, local CCA chapter volunteers and about 100 students braved the chilly weather at the public boat launch next to the I-210 bridge to build approximately 2,000 square feet of new wetland island habitat.  Each 8 x 15 foot “island” held 300 plants, and were loaded onto a large barge for transport to the marsh site.  Once in the marsh, they were placed end-to-end and anchored to the water bottom. Roughly 4,000 native plants, including mangrove, seashore paspalum and smooth cord grass, were installed. The “floating islands” technology allows these plants to take root in the water bottom while providing protection to the existing shoreline from the natural elements.

The large group of volunteers gathered for the opening ceremonies and training at about 9:15am, and included the local students and dozens of volunteers from Phillips 66.

“Our employees appreciate good conservation and were excited to pitch in and help make these habitat enhancements on the lake. In fact, our entire Environmental Department, among others, are here today with the students having a great time,” said Richard G. Harbison, Phillips 66 Lake Charles Manufacturing Complex Manager.  ”Partnering with CCA and the children planting cord grass is a wonderful way to help sustain our way of life in the Sportsman’s Paradise here in southwest Louisiana,”

This is the second large-scale habitat partnership between Phillips 66 and CCA in recent years.  In 2018, the two groups worked together to expand the Brad Vincent Artificial Reef in Calcasieu Lake.

Eric Mire, President of CCA’s Lake Charles Chapter, expressed his appreciation to their project partners and to all of the volunteers who pitched in.

“As anglers and volunteers for CCA, we are always working to create more productive fisheries and better fisheries habitat,” said Mire.  “On behalf of our CCA Lake Charles members, I’d like to thank each one of you who are here helping us do that today.”

Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter was on hand for the project and spoke to the crowd about the importance of projects like this one, and how young people are a critical factor in addressing Louisiana’s coastal land loss issue.

“It is so impressive that students like you are here making a difference in our community and on our coast. You should all be very proud,” said Hunter.  “Through this great project, we are using our future generation today, to preserve our environment for tomorrow.”

Mayor Hunter continued by thanking Phillips 66 for their leadership in the Lake Charles community. Those sentiments were echoed by Senator-elect Mark Abraham, who was also in attendance.

“You will find that there are givers and there are takers in this world.  Phillips 66, CCA and all of the partners here today are givers,” said Abraham, as he addressed the volunteers and students.  “By being here today, doing this important work, you all are givers. Thank you the difference you are making today.”

Calcasieu Parish School Superintendent Karl Bruchhaus also attended the event, and said he was so pleased at the opportunity the project presented for the students from Pearl Watson Elementary.

“This is a rare opportunity for our students,” said Bruchhaus.  “Our kids learn about these issues in school, but to see it in person, and actually have a hand in making a difference is something they will remember throughout their lives.”

Reverend Francis “Boo” Kay, Head of Bishop Noland Episcopal Day School, watched as the students from both schools worked together to get the difficult work done.

“What we have out here today are special kids who care deeply about the environment and our community,” said Kay.  “They are leading by example, making a difference for our coastal wetlands, and creating a better world for future generations.  It’s inspiring!”

CCA’s volunteer project director Ed Landgraf led the project from the initial concept to completion. He said it was the generosity and leadership of the project partners and volunteers who made it all come together.

“I just can’t say enough about this great group of people.  From Phillips 66 to Martin Ecosystems, Entergy, Hooks Dredging and Stream Wetland Services, every one of them has gone above and beyond to help,” said Landgraf.  “Top it off with these amazing kids from Pearl Watson Elementary and Episcopal Day School, and you have the makings of a successful effort.”

This was the sixth floating islands project spearheaded by CCA Louisiana in recent years. The first was Phase I of the Isle de Jean Charles Project in Point Aux Chenes,  completed in 2011. Phase II of the Isle de Jean 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 2018, an initial installation was completed in Vermilion Bay close to Cypremort Point, and the second phase was installed in the spring of 2019.  In all, nearly 25,000 square feet of new marsh has been built 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.

Funding for the Lake Charles project was provided by Phillips 66, CCA’s Building Conservation Trust and Martin Ecosystems along with donations by individual CCA members. Program support for CCA’s Floating Islands initiative across Louisiana was provided by Entergy.  In-kind services for the project provided by Mike Hooks L.L.C. and Stream Wetland Services.  Youth volunteers were coordinated by the CCA Louisiana Youth Outreach program in partnership with the Irene W. and C.B. Pennington Foundation and the Magistro Family Foundation.

This build marks the 32nd habitat project completed in recent years by CCA Louisiana and their partners, including 26 artificial reef projects and 6 marsh planting projects, representing a total habitat investment of nearly $12 million.