Gaillard Island off limits to people, but a safe haven for birds

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Gaillard Island is just a 20-minute boat ride from downtown Mobile, but folks taking a boat out into the bay shouldn’t plan a stop at the 1,300 acre island.

News 5 flew high above Gaillard Island, AKA Pelican Island, to show you a view you’ve probably never seen in your lifetime, and not something you can see on foot because it’s against the law to access the island itself.

The reason why is simple: it’s gone to the birds.

Gaillard Island is home to 15 species of birds including the formerly endangered brown pelican.

The island gets its name from a Mobile dentist who envisioned the island as a bird refuge, but first, the island had to be created.

The Army Corp. of Engineers dredges the Theodore ship channel every two years so that ships can navigate the shallow waters of Mobile Bay.

The material dug from those dredgings ends up at Gaillard Island.

The Port Authority’s Judith Adams told News 5 that Gaillard Island might be little-known to most Mobilians, but it plays a crucial role in local commerce.

“It is critically important that the 9th largest sea port in America has these federal channels so our vessels ships and barges can move materials back and forth to support manufacturers,” she said.

Pat Robbins with the Army Corp. of Engineers seconded Adams, saying the dredging is both cost-effective and environmentally-friendly.

Plus, the huge amount of birds is a great sign for local fishermen that the fish are plentiful surrounding the island.

Check out the aerial view in the video above and then drag Gaillard Island over a spot you’re familiar with to see how big it is.

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