Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge receives $1 million to rebuild research complex

CAMERON PARISH, LA (KPLC) - The Federal Emergency Management Agency recently announced more than $1 million in recovery aid to build a new Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge Fish Lab and Fish Lab Complex, both of which were destroyed in Hurricane Rita, according to a news release from FEMA.

The Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge includes more than 76,000 acres in Cameron and Vermilion parishes and is noted as one of the most biologically diverse wildlife areas in the nation.

"The refuge was also home to a biological research complex, where staff and biologists studied the American alligator, fish, plants and waterfowl populations," the release states.

Andre Cadogan, FEMA's Louisiana Recovery Office Deputy Director of Programs, said the Grand Chenier complex plays an "integral role in the pioneering research performed at Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge."

Through FEMA's assistance, the state will be able to reverse the damage done by Hurricane Rita and build back this complex in a more resourceful manner, Cadogan said.

"Hurricane Rita's storm surge, high winds and flooding destroyed the Refuge's Grand Chenier biological research complex of buildings, owned by Louisiana Facility Planning and Control and operated by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. Rather than rebuild each facility back to its pre-disaster condition, the state decided to pursue a more efficient design, consolidating the buildings and moving them northwest of the original location," the release states.

Officials said six of the buildings destroyed by Rita — a fish lab, fish lab boat shed, chemical storage building, alligator incubator shed, alligator storage shed and freezer storage shed — will be consolidated into three new buildings.

Officials said the final blueprint calls for a 5,460-square-foot fish lab and an alligator incubator shed, both elevated on pilings 13 feet above base flood elevation, as well as a boat shed. Funding for the consolidated structures also comes from an alligator pump house, trappers camp and airstrip, all of which will not be rebuilt.

To date, FEMA officials said the agency has obligated approximately $18.8 million in public assistance funding for Hurricane Rita-related recovery work at Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge. This figure includes the recent $1 million in funding.

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