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From The Daily Advertiser - Lafayette, Louisiana

Reef rebuilding begins;
project boosts coastal fisheries

By Jason Brown

PRIEN POINT, LA - Oct 21, 2021 - The Louisiana Wetlands Association began construction of their long-awaited oyster reef in Prien Point on Friday by dumping thousands of pounds of oyster shells into the bay.

The benefits of the oyster reef, nicknamed Ronney's Reef after the late Ronney Mayard who was instrumental in the project, could begin as soon as today, said LWA President Wayne Touchet.

Touchet said the reef should immediately begin attracting fish, which feed off the sea creatures and oyster spat that cling to the underwater structure. The reef could become a live oyster bed within months, but it will be permanently off limits to commercial oyster fishing or harvesting. However, the site will be open to other types of fishing.

State Rep. Mickey Frith, D-Abbeville, also was instrumental in the project and created legislation to allow for the reef's construction.

Frith, a self-proclaimed environmentalist and outdoor sportsman, said the reef could provide a big economic boost to the area by attracting fishermen to the bay.

The reef also will help offset Vermilion Parish's increasing problem with coastal erosion.

Frith and Touchet pointed to an area referred to as the "4 Mile Canal" and said it was originally only 100 feet wide. Today, it's at least 300 feet wide because of erosion.

Frith said if the reef is left alone, it could grow and result in "natural coastal erosion prevention in the bay."

The project was made possible through a grant from the Gulf of Mexico Foundation, as well as funding from the state and in-kind matches totaling about $125,000.

"It's been a tremendous undertaking. None of our group had any experience in building reefs before," Touchet said as he stood on the bow of the Isabella, one of two boats charged with hauling the shells to the site.

The boats belong to the Bagala Oyster Company, which expects to bring more than 20 loads of shells out into the project site.

When it is complete, the reef will be about 75 feet wide and 600 feet long and will stand anywhere from 1 foot to 2 feet high, Touchet said.

At the site Friday, Michael and Stuart Bagala blasted water onto the shells, pushing them from the boat's deck into the water below.

The oysters gave off a pungent odor, but to LWA members, it was a smell of success and promise.

"Smells like perfume to me," said Ronney's widow, Dixie Mayard.



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