March 16, 2007
Reported By: Lee Peck
The proposed Cheniere Creole Trail LNG Pipeline Project will stretch 117 miles across the state. Part of that will cut directly through Calcasieu Lake.
To offset disturbances, Cheniere is donating 16 new acres of artificial oyster reefs to Louisiana. "Our goal here is to create and enhance the fishing habitat in Calcasieu Lake for both recreational and commercial fishing."
State Wildlife and Fisheries Secretary Bryant Hammett accepted the one million dollar donation on behalf of the state. "This reflects greatly on the corporate stewardship of Cheniere to have made this donation to be visionary enough to understand how important this lake is to the local people, and how important it is for the state of Louisiana, and how important it will be for our future generations," said Hammett.
The reefs are split in two areas of the lake, one the size 6 and a half acres near Commissary Point, with the other nine and a half sitting at the south end. Both reefs are open to fishing right now, but harvesting oysters will take some time. Experts say it will be at least two to three years before the oysters will be viable.
"Oysters will set on the reef fairly quick, they'll start at about a pinhead size. It will take the oyster 2 years to get three inches long, and for commercial harvest they have to be three inches or greater," said Southwest Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Biologist Manager Michael Harbison.
The pipeline project is expected to affect less than 5 percent of Calcasieu Lake's oyster population. Despite concerns from local fisherman, Harbison says the pipeline project may help their livelihood in the short term. "It may actually benefit in some areas and turn over some of those organisms on the bottom and the fish will utilize those," said Harbison.
However, the long-term effects for Calcasieu Lake are expected to benefit both commercial fishing and the oil and gas industry as the two try to co-exist.