The reef, which is being constructed over an area covering six to eight acres just northeast of California Point, is a joint project of the Coastal Conservation Association of Louisiana Shell Oil Company, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries the Barrier Island Restoration and Development Society and Bertucci Contractors.
If weather cooperates, construction is expected to be complete by next week.
The reef is being built from pieces of rubble from what was once Buras High School in southern Plaquemines Parish — a school destroyed during Hurricane Katrina. The material will be broken into pieces ranging from 1 to 2 feet in diameter that will be strategically placed throughout the grid where construction is taking place.
There will be peaks, valleys and flats throughout the area, which measures roughly 8 to 10 feet deep. It will be the 11th artificial reef built by CCA and the fourth using recycled materials.
Anglers have long been aware of how storm surge has been taking a toll on the Breton Sound wetlands, and this reef will help mitigate that loss of fisheries habitat.
"Coastal erosion is as bad there as any other place on the coast," said CCA Louisiana CEO David Cresson. "From personal experience, I know that not too many years ago there were a bunch of islands throughout Black Bay. Now, those are either mostly eroded or completely gone. Day to day, the structure that is there seems to be disappearing."
That's why projects like the California Point artificial reef are increasingly important in maintaining the top-notch quality of Louisiana's coastal fishery, Cresson said.
"The most-obvious benefit of creating a reef is that you're creating habitat," Cresson said. "Within minutes of hitting the sea floor, the material is going to attract microscopic organisms and tiny fish. But secondary to that is it makes for an easily-accessible fishing area, a very large fishing area.
"Imagine eight football fields put together. You can put dozens of boats on that without getting in anyone's way. Plus, it'll be accessible from Delacroix, Hopedale, Empire and Buras, Venice, Port Sulphur, Pointe a la Hache. People from all those spots can make an easy trip to the reef."
Cresson suspects the reef will be holding speckled trout, redfish and other gamefish by the summer.
The Breton Sound reef will be built for approximately $450,000, Cresson said. Funding comes from Shell, the CCA's Building Conservation Trust, the LDWF Artificial Reef Trust Fund and BIRDS. The Paul Candies family provided monetary support, as well, and Bertucci is providing in-kind services on the construction of the reef.
Near the end of construction, a survey is planned of the entire site. Cresson said a 6-foot clearance is required so boats can safely pass over the rubble. Exact coordinates of the new reef will be available shortly after construction is complete.
"This is good for area businesses and marinas, restaurants and gas stations," Cresson said. "We think there certainly is a trickle-down effect for Plaquemines Parish and for St. Bernard Parish, as well. It's a win for the fish, it's a win for the fishermen and it's certainly a win for the coast.
"It's a win-win for all."