Construction begins on artificial reef in Gulf

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Most South Louisiana anglers couldn't care less about fishing structures in the Gulf and big bays this time of year. They don't hold a lot of fish in the autumn and winter, and you'd have to drive over a whole bunch of speckled trout and redfish to get to them anyway.

         So the removal of the Pickets in Ship Shoal 26 isn't really in the forefront of any angler's mind right now, but it likely will be again when the sun is a whole lot closer to the Tropic of Cancer.

         The oilfield platform will be entirely gone, but there will be a new artificial reef in its place. Construction is beginning this week.

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         As part of the project, workers will deploy roughly 14,000 tons of 4-inch limestone over three specific areas. The reefs will be designed to protect and maintain depressions in the Gulf floor that developed over years of scour from swift currents wrapping around the legs of the old Pickets platform.

         Part of the funding for the project is coming from the state's Artificial Reef Development Fund, which has been raided by the Legislature in recent years. An amendment that would provide the fund with constitutional protection will be on the Nov. 4 ballot.

         Saltwater fisheries biologist Randy Pausina, assistant secretary of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, said the scour holes were the main reason the Pickets was so productive for anglers for so many years.

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         "Speckled trout and redfish are typically associated with low- to mid-relief structures that provide a refuge from currents, where they can remain without expending energy while preying on food as it is carried across the structure," he said. "This makes this area a particularly important fisheries habitat."

         In addition to the dollars from the Artificial Reef Development Fund, the project is also receiving funding from the Coastal Conservation Association, Apache Corporation and Fieldwood Energy. Fieldwood purchased the structure from Apache, and was responsible for its decommissioning.

         Removal of the structure was required by federal law.

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         According to CCA executive director David Cresson, construction of the new reef should take no longer than a month.

         The new reef is the 10th of its kind to be funded through the Artificial Reef Development Fund, and is the 14th to receive funding from CCA.

         Marker buoys will be placed at the site of the Pickets reef after construction.  


         – by AP/ Todd Masson for The Times-Picayune

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