CCA Louisiana begins construction on reef at Eugene Island Block 51

CCA’s partnership with Chevron and LDWF replaces lost oil and gas platform habitat.

Coastal Conservation Association’s REEF Louisiana Program began construction Wednesday on a new artificial reef complex off the coast of St. Mary Parish, on a former speckled trout fishing hotspot where oil and gas platforms have been removed.

Along with conservation partners Chevron, CCA’s Building Conservation Trust and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, CCA’s REEF Louisiana program began building a large reef using a variety of recycled concrete “materials of opportunity.”  The materials includes hundreds of pipeline weights and concrete pilings that have been made available to CCA and approved for use on the project.

The reef is replacing habitat in Eugene Island Block 51, in an area that was once a favorite of speckled trout anglers before oil and gas platforms were removed. The new reef is covering the footprint of old platforms, and is designed to optimize the water and bottom conditions with the hopes of creating the best possible fish habitat. The reef is built in roughly 17 feet of water, and the material is being placed on the bottom to create up to 5 feet of elevation from the seafloor. The location was proposed by members of CCA’s Atchafalaya Chapter, and approved by CCA Louisiana’s Habitat Committee.

CCA Louisiana VP of Habitat John Walther led a project site visit on Wednesday, and explained how the project came about.

“We worked closely with our Atchafalaya Chapter and Wildlife and Fisheries to choose and approve this site, in a place that was once a favorite for local anglers before the platforms were removed,” said Walther. “From there, we approached Chevron and our construction partners to secure funding and plan the project. Once we secured the matching funds from the Artificial Reef Trust Fund, it became clear that we could get this done, so here we are today.”

Chevron has partnered with CCA many times on projects like this one, and were on hand Wednesday for the reef site visit.

“All of us at Chevron are proud of the work we do with CCA and Wildlife and Fisheries, rebuilding critical fisheries habitat on the Louisiana coast,” said John Walters, Senior State Government Affairs Representative for Chevron. “We care about this coast, and the fish and wildlife that call it home. We would especially like to thank CCA, the other project partners and these incredible volunteers who are doing such important work.”

Senator Bret Allain of Franklin, a founding member of the CCA Atchafalaya Chapter, expressed his appreciation to the project partners and volunteers who made the project a reality.

“This is what is possible when a group like CCA works together with private industry and state government to solve problems,” said Allain. “As we all know, we are losing habitat at an alarming rate in Louisiana. But today, thanks to CCA, Chevron, Wildlife and Fisheries and the other partners, we are rebuilding lost habitat. As an avid angler myself, I’d like to express my thanks to everyone who made this happen.”

CCA and partners gathered for a site visit to the Eugene Island Block 51 installation. Pictured from left to right are: John Fell (Roadrock Recycling), Kellee Fell Kleinke (Roadrock Recycling), Gunner Waldmann (CCA), Stuart Billeaud (CCA), Wayne Hebert (DLS), John Walther (CCA), Kim Bishop, Rep. Stuart Bishop, John Walters (Chevron) and Chad Courville (CCA).

State Representative Stuart Bishop of Lafayette and his wife Kim were on hand for the dedication ceremony Wednesday morning at Quintana Landing. He reflected on memories of the Eugene Island site, and how happy he is to see it restored.

“My family and I spent many days and nights fishing these platforms, and I will never forget the good times we had,” said Bishop. “Being here today, seeing these CCA volunteers and partners who are dedicated to making a difference, makes me really pleased. I can’t wait to fish this new reef with my family.”

CCA Louisiana Executive Director David Cresson was also on hand, and discussed how leadership from Senator Allain and Representative Bishop in the past makes projects like this possible today.

“Years ago, Senator Allain and Representative Bishop had the foresight to drive legislation that dedicated Artificial Trust Reef Fund dollars for nearshore and inshore projects like this,” said Cresson. “That leadership makes it possible for funding from CCA and partners like Chevron to be matched by the Artificial Reef Trust Fund, allowing us to maximize the size and scope of these projects. They simply would not happen without what Senator Allain and Representative Bishop did years ago.”

State Representative Beau Beaullieu of New Iberia also expressed his appreciation for the project.

“Like a lot of people in this area, I grew up fishing those platforms, and was disappointed to see them removed,” said Beaullieu. “To see this work being done to rebuild the lost habitat and provide anglers and their families with a great spot to fish makes me proud to be a lifelong supporter of CCA.”

LDWF Secretary Jack Montoucet says he is proud of the good work being done in partnership with CCA.

“These types of partnerships lead to great projects like this, that benefit not only the fishing community of our Sportsman’s Paradise, but also the nation,” said Montoucet. “We know that our kinship with CCA Louisiana and others will give birth to more projects like this.”

CCA Louisiana Science Committee Chairman Chad Courville also attended the site visit.

“For years speckled trout fishermen in the Acadiana area have been disappointed Eugene Island 51 was removed from the Gulf,” said Courville. “From what I’ve seen, only CCA can assemble these kinds of partnerships to create what we see here today. No one else cares for Louisiana’s saltwater fishery like CCA, and I’m proud to witness their great work first hand.”

This is the eighth CCA REEF Louisiana Project, and the 32nd reef project by CCA Louisiana in recent years, representing more than $20 million in habitat creation.  It is CCA’s ninth reef project built on the site of removed oil and gas platforms.  The first was the “Pickets Reef” complex in Ship Shoal Block 26 (built in 2014) In 2019, similar projects were completed in South Marsh Island Block 233 (The Ted Beaullieu, Sr. Reef Complex) and in Vermilion Blocks 119 & 124 (The Rawls Reef Complex). In 2021, CCA completed the “Green Monster Reef” in Plaquemines Parish, the Bay Marchand Block 3 Reef, the South Timbalier Block 51 Reef and the “Jack Cart Reef” in Vermilion Block 69. Earlier this year, CCA completed a new reef in W. Cameron Block 45.

Funding for the Eugene Island Reef project comes from CCA Louisiana, Chevron, CCA’s Building Conservation Trust and LDWF’s Artificial Reef Trust Fund, as well individual gifts from CCA REEF Louisiana Club members. In-kind donations are provided by Roadrock Recycling and DLS Construction. CCA would also like to thank Mr. David Bell and Mr. Stuart Billeaud for their support of the Eugene Island 51 project.

CCA’s REEF Louisiana Program is working on plans for other new reefs, including projects at South Timbalier Block 165, West Delta Block 35, South Timbalier Block 77, Ship Shoal Block 28, Grand Isle Block 63, Vermilion River Block 69 and South Marsh Island Block 235. All of these projects are part of the REEF Louisiana Program, in which CCA, LDWF and our partners rebuild fisheries habitat on the sites of removed platforms. For more information about REEF Louisiana or to become a REEF Club Member, please contact David at 225-952-9200.

Construction of the Eugene Island Reef complex should take 7-10 days. The unofficial center point is 29°14.853′ N, 91°41.875′ W. Once work is completed, CCA will publicize the official GPS coordinates for the reef centerpoint, here.