Massive Restoration Project Underway on North Breton Island

Breton Island supports one of the largest water bird colonies and brown pelican rookeries in Louisiana.

Pelicans nesting on North Breton island

Work to restore North Breton Island began in late December 2020, with the first of 5.87 million cubic yards of dredged sand placed on the island. This project is adding 400 acres of barrier island wildlife habitat to address some of the injuries to birds caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The project was approved in 2014 as one of the three components of the Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) Phase III Early Restoration Louisiana Outer Coast Project. It is the largest Gulf of Mexico NRDA project the Department of the Interior is implementing. 

North Breton Island is one of the most important barrier islands in Louisiana. It provides habitat for one of the largest water bird colonies in the state, including one of the largest rookeries for brown pelicans. The island also provides crucial protections for mainland Louisiana, including the City of New Orleans, from storm surge and wave impacts.

President Theodore Roosevelt -- the Conservation President -- understood the importance and value of this vulnerable habitat and established the series of islands, including North Breton, as a National Wildlife Refuge in 1904. Breton is the second oldest refuge in the National Wildlife Refuge System.

To accomplish this project, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service awarded a contract for $54.9 million to Callan Marine LTD. Callan Marine is pumping up to 5.87 million cubic yards of sand onto Breton’s beaches, dunes and marshes. If restoration were not to occur, North Breton will continue to erode and eventually become a completely submerged shoal.

“Breton is a special and unique place that is tremendously important to water birds and nesting birds,” said, Leo Miranda-Castro, Regional Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s South-Atlantic Gulf and Mississippi Basin  Regional Office. “If the island disappears, it will dramatically impact coastal bird habitat. This project will help Breton continue providing vital habitat for our vulnerable bird colonies for generations to come.”

Sand for the project is being pumped from the Gulf floor three miles away from the island. Sand was placed first on the north end of the island where mangroves provide valuable brown pelican habitat. After the start of the 2021 bird nesting season, Callan Marine turned its efforts toward the south, away from nesting birds.

In August 2021, Hurricane Ida caused delays in the restoration work, but work has commenced again in earnest and work is likely to be completed by the end of 2021.

For more information, see the Phase III Early Restoration Louisiana Outer Coast Project and the Breton National Wildlife Refuge Project.

For staff testimonials and aerial and on-the-ground views of North Breton Island, please view our videos: Why Restore Breton Island video and Restoring Breton Island - Building Back Better.


Was this page helpful?

Please provide a comment