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Sunday, July 14, 2019

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Construction to begin to preserve popular fishing spot

Construction to begin to preserve popular fishing spot

Coastal Conservation Association of Louisiana, Apache Corporation, Fieldwood Energy and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries will begin construction this week on an artificial reef system at the site of the recently removed structures in Ship Shoal 26, known by many Louisiana anglers as “the Pickets.”

This cooperative effort calls for the deployment of roughly 14,000 tons of 4-inch limestone over three specially engineered artificial reefs.

The reefs will be designed to protect depressions in the seafloor that were created by the prevailing current flowing around and through the Pickets. In doing so, the reefs will maintain and enhance these scour holes, while providing additional habitat for marine life.

“This area has served as a trout fishing haven for many years, and we are extremely pleased that we are able to preserve this angling hot spot,” said LDWF Assistant Secretary Randy Pausina. "Speckled trout and redfish are typically associated with low- to mid-relief structures which provide a refuge from currents, where they can remain without expending energy while preying on food as it is carried across the structure. This makes this area a particularly important fisheries habitat.”

“There are many trout fishermen in this state who have fond memories of the Pickets," said David Cresson, executive director of Coastal Conservation Association of Louisiana (CCA Louisiana.)“It’s unfortunate that we have to say goodbye to those structures, but we are grateful to have partners here who were committed to doing everything they could to maintain the area for future generations. The Pickets has been a special place, and this partnership is working to make sure it stays that way.”

Fieldwood acquired Apache's Gulf of Mexico shelf assets in 2013, including the Pickets structures and pilings located at Ship Shoal 26. As part of the acquisition, Fieldwood entered into a decommissioning agreement with Apache and is responsible for making sure the removal work at Ship Shoal 26, which is required by the federal government, is completed.

From the outset, both companies understood the significance of the iconic structures and were committed to mitigating the impact of the removals on the fishery and the recreational angling community.

Obie O'Brien, vice president of Governmental Affairs for Apache Corporation, said, "Apache has operated in South Louisiana and in the Gulf of Mexico for decades. Hundreds of our employees and former employees live, work and raise their families along the coast. We were happy to be part of this effort to preserve, protect and enhance one of the iconic fishing spots in Louisiana. We understand the need for a strong and diverse environment because we live it every day."

John Seeger, Fieldwood's vice president of Decommissioning, noted, "The Pickets is an area that residents of Louisiana and Texas—including many of our employees at Fieldwood—have fished for decades. We are required by federal law to remove the structures but wanted to come up with a solution that would preserve this renowned fishing area for generations to come."

The $1.2 million project is being funded by Apache, Fieldwood, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Artificial Reef Trust Fund, and CCA’s Building Conservation Trust.

The Pickets Reef is the 10th reef of its kind to be funded through the Louisiana Artificial Reef Trust fund in cooperation with CCA Louisiana. Overall, this is the 14th reef built by CCA Louisiana since 2004.

“This project is a great example of industry, nonprofits and government coming together to create a positive outcome for our coast,” said LDWF Secretary Robert Barham.“Our thanks goes out to Apache, Fieldwood, CCA and all of our partners for working with us to find a solution to this challenging issue.”

“This had the potential to be a sad ending to a storied fishing spot, but now we have a tremendous amount of hard structure going in to replace habitat that is required to be removed,” said John Walther, chairman of CCA Louisiana's Habitat Committee. “This is the best outcome that could be achieved, and Apache and Fieldwood should be commended. They didn't have to go the extra mile, but both companies wanted to make this right from the beginning and they certainly stepped up. We hope this can be a template for addressing marine habitat that stands to be lost due to the Idle Iron Policy.”

Marker buoys will be placed on the site after construction is completed so that anglers can locate the reefs.