East Timbalier, one of the islands that protect the Louisiana coastal wetlands in the us, is expected to disappear in just a few years, perhaps as early as 2004. Narrowed and cut by hurricanes and oil and gas exploration efforts, East Timbalier is just a shadow of its former self. Today it can be traced only by connecting its erratic coastline. Al Mistrot, an engineer working for the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, and his 57-member crew are trying to rebuild the island -- by moving massive amounts of sand and shaping it into dunes and marshes. Though they are aware of the fact that their hard work will be washed away by the eroding winds and waves of the Gulf of Mexico, scientists say that for the time being it is important tokeep East Timbalier afloat beyond 2004. It provides wintering places for 70 per cent of the waterfowl, migrating through Central America, and also acts as a breeding ground for fish, sharks and shrimp. By reducing wave energy, it keeps water calmer in coastal bays, thereby protecting fisherfolks, oil and gas infrastructure and shoreline marshes ( Extreme Engineering , Vol 10, No 4).
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