Oil spill money could be used for birds off coast

NEW ORLEANS—Nearly $17 million in Deepwater Horizon oil spill money would rebuild a barrier island bird rookery off Louisiana to more than seven times its current size under a recently released plan.

The group tasked with allocating $5 billion from the 2010 spill is taking public comment through Jan. 22 on the proposal. The Louisiana arm of that group will also hold a public hearing Jan. 3 at the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries headquarters in Baton Rouge.

With about $2 million already spent on planning and design, authorities say construction, monitoring and management would cost another $16.7 million. Most of the work would be done in 2020.

Queen Bess Island was the first spot where brown pelicans were returned to Louisiana after the pesticide DDT wiped them out in the 1960s. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries counted 11 nests there in 1971, marking the first successful recolonization. The number of nests there peaked at 4,000 in 2008.

Despite restoration projects over the years, its usable nesting area is now down to about 5 acres.

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