PECAN ISLAND – On Tuesday, Coastal Conservation Association of Louisiana’s REEF Louisiana Program, Shell and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) began construction on the Rawls Reef Complex, a new set of nearshore artificial reefs in Vermilion Blocks 119 & 124. The project is named in honor of well-known outdoorsman and conservationist, Jim Rawls.
Following a short dedication ceremony at Sea Trout Marina in Pecan Island, more than 50 of Rawls’ friends and family members, CCA volunteers and partners braved choppy seas to be on site as the largest of the recycled platforms was deployed in about 75 feet of water.
“This is amazing,” said Rawls’ daughter Kylee Rawls Courville, while watching the recycled platform being lowered into the gulf. “Our dad loved these waters, and spending time with friends and family fishing these spots. I know he’s looking down today with a smile on his face.”
CCA Louisiana and their partners are building 5 individual reef sites using pieces of decommissioned platforms and a variety of concrete “materials of opportunity.” The materials being deployed this week include recycled platform jackets, a helipad, a large concrete platform, and several highway barriers, catch basins and other concrete construction materials that were made available to CCA and approved for use on the project.
The reefs will replace lost habitat in depths ranging from 75-80 feet, where oil and gas platforms have been removed. The sites in VR 119 & 124 were chosen by local anglers since the platforms that once stood there were favorites for red snapper and mangrove snapper anglers, as well as divers. Each of the new reefs will sit roughly within the footprints of the old platforms and will be designed to optimize the water and bottom conditions with the hopes of creating the best possible fish habitat.
CCA Louisiana President John Walther was on hand at the event, and explained the importance of the new REEF Louisiana initiative.
“Marine reefs are some of the most abundant and productive habitat on the planet, and we lose that vital habitat every time a platform is removed,” he said. “At a time in Louisiana where we are losing so much habitat so quickly, it is critical that we do our part to replace as much as we can. That’s why we are out here today.”
Walther also talked about the efforts of all who worked together to make this happen.
“We’ve been working on this nearshore concept for years, but really gained momentum over the past year with the help of some incredible CCA volunteers and our partners at Wildlife and Fisheries,” said Walther. “Add in the commitment of a partner like Shell and local partners like DLS, Road Rock and others, it brings us to where we are today. This is a huge team effort, and it will pay benefits for generations of fish and anglers.”
LDWF Deputy Secretary Rob Shadoin attended the event and said that he and the Department were proud to participate in such an important effort.
“We are so pleased to partner with an organization like CCA and an industry leader like Shell to turn this vision into a reality,” said Shadoin. “I would also like to thank the Rawls family for allowing us to honor Mr. Jim in this way.”
Pam Rosen, Social Investment Manager for Shell, said that the company has a long-standing commitment to Louisiana’s coast, and projects like this one are a wonderful way to give back.
“Shell is dedicated to Louisiana and the communities across the coast. Our employees live, work and raise their families here, so it is only natural that we participate in critical habitat programs like this,” she said. “We would like to thank the Rawls family, CCA and all of the volunteers and partners who have made this possible, and for including Shell in the effort!”
Wildlife and Fisheries Commissioner Chad Courville (pictured), who is also the son-in-law of Mr. Rawls, was on hand for the dedication. He talked about how this project was special to him because of the man Jim Rawls was.
“One of the things I will always remember about Mr. Jim was his absolute commitment to excellence, both as a businessman and an outdoorsman,” said Courville. “It’s very fitting because this project is being completed by partners like CCA, Shell and others who are also obviously committed to excellence.”
Courville, who was one of the originators of the REEF Louisiana nearshore reefing concept, said this was a project he and Rawls had discussed shortly before Rawls passed away in August of 2018.
“Mr. Jim and I fished these spots for years, and when the platforms were removed, it was really disappointing to us all,” said Courville. “He asked me if I could talk to CCA to do something about all the platforms being removed, and so I did. At that point, the CCA REEF Louisiana Program was born, and barely a year later we are here dedicating this project in his honor. It’s just incredible the way this group get things done.”
This is the second CCA REEF Louisiana Project, and the 26th reef project by CCA Louisiana in recent years, representing more than $11 million in habitat creation. It will be CCA’s third reef project built on the site of removed oil and gas platforms. The first was the “Pickets Reef” complex in Ship Shoal Block 26 (built in 2014), one of the most popular and productive projects ever completed by CCA. The second was the Ted Beaullieu Sr. Artificial Reef Complex built in South Marsh Island Block 233 in June, 2019. Anglers have already reported speckled trout catches from the Beaullieu Reefs.
Funding for the Rawls Reefs comes from CCA Louisiana, Shell, CCA’s Building Conservation Trust and LDWF’s Artificial Reef Trust Fund, as well as individual gifts from CCA Louisiana REEF Club members. In-kind donations are being provided by DLS Energy, Road Rock Recycling, EMC Diving Services, Phoenix International Holdings and others.
Construction of the Rawls Reef Complex should take about two weeks. When construction is completed, CCA will publish GPS coordinates for each of the sites.
CCA’s REEF Louisiana Program is working on plans for additional reefs where platforms have been removed, including projects in Eugene Island Blocks 51 and 74, West Delta and hundreds of other sites across the Louisiana Coast. For more information about REEF Louisiana, please contact David at 225-952-9200.
About CCA Louisiana
In its 36th year, CCA Louisiana is the largest marine resource conservation group of its kind in the state. With more than 30,000 members and volunteers in 30 local chapters, CCA has been active in state, national and international fisheries management issues since 1977. Visit www.CCALouisiana.com for more information.