Calcasieu Lake in Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana, is known for its abundant fishing and recreational opportunities. Located in the lake’s west cove, Rabbit Island boasts a significant nesting area for brown pelicans, Louisiana’s state bird. Brown pelicans affected by the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill were rehabilitated and relocated to Rabbit Island. One of these pelicans, Pelican No. 895, is the subject of a recent HBO documentary (Saving Pelican 895).

Relocating pelicans to Rabbit Island following the oil spill reflects the importance of having a diverse geographic range of habitat suitable for the colonial, shoreline, and wading birds that are resident and migratory to coastal Louisiana. Man-influenced and natural perturbations might destroy local habitats in specific areas and cause injury to local populations, but having other sites away from such disasters allows the affected resources to repopulate and recover.

Rabbit Island can be significantly restored to enhance its ability to serve as a haven for Louisiana’s brown pelican. Wind-generated waves in the shallow estuary, coupled with periodic high tides have slowly worn down Rabbit Island. Storm surges from hurricanes expedite the erosion. Much of the island is at or below sea level, with its highest points reaching two to three feet above sea level. On Rabbit Island, pelicans are forced to nest on the ground where periodic high tides drown their nests, resulting in failed breeding attempts.

With funding from the federal Coastal Impact and Assistance Program through the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, Calcasieu Parish targeted the Rabbit Island Restoration with the aim of increasing the amount of nesting land available for the brown pelican.

Tetra Tech’s plan calls for restoring lost land and marsh habitat by building up the island’s elevation with sediment from the Calcasieu River Ship Channel. When the restoration is complete, Rabbit Island will be the westernmost rookery for the brown pelican in Louisiana, providing additional habitat for the pelican and other colonial birds. The south and east areas of the island are also rich oyster habitats, which will be maintained during the restoration.

Tetra Tech is now moving forward with the design portion of Rabbit Island Restoration, working with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New Orleans District; the Port of Lake Charles; and the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury.