Volunteers plant floating plastic islands
Hundreds of volunteers helped launch 187 “floating
islands” in a demonstration project of new technology to protect
the area south of Houma, Louisiana, that is considered to be
“ground zero” for coastal land loss in America.
The islands offer promise, not only to protect existing land
against eroding wave action, but also as a means of building
new land in shallow open waters in an area that has suffered
some of the nation’s greatest loss of land.
Martin Ecosystems of Baton Rouge, the company that is installing
the islands with the help of volunteers from Entergy, Shell,
CCA, Brown and Caldwell, local 4-H club members, Bayou Faith
Shared Community Organizing (BISCO), Bayou Grace Community Services,
Pointe Aux Chene Elementary, Montegut Middle School, Future Leaders
of America’s Gulf (FLAG), Sassafras Louisiana and the local Native
American tribes, will monitor the effectiveness of the islands
over the next year.
The 5’ x 8’ islands were planted with 40 to 60 native plants
by volunteers, then anchored end-to-end for 1,500 ft. next to
remaining marshes on the thin strip of road that leads to Isle
de Jean Charles, south of Houma. The plants will set roots into
the water bottoms, forming traps for land-building sediments.
Several islands will be stacked away from shore to test their
ability to build land in open water.
The floating islands create a man made ecosystem that mimics
naturally occurring wetlands. They are made of 100 percent recycled
plastic bottles which have been found to be safe for marine life,
Coast Guard approved marine foam for buoyancy and held in place
on a PVC pipe frame.
“This is the first site where we will have islands off by themselves,”
Nicole Martin Waguespack, spokesperson for Martin Ecosystems
said. “In our previous installation, along the banks of Bayou
Sauvage, we are already seeing plants jump off the island and
set roots after three months. This is going to be a good test
for the effectiveness of the floating islands to generate new
vegetation and new land.”