05.24.2010

BP Chief Operation Officer, Doug Suttles, stated that there have been 30 miles of marshes that were affected with 15 miles of the the affected marshes having “significant” amounts of oil in which required “several” clean up teams.

EPA Administrator, Lisa Jackson confirmed this statement by indicating that, ” The oil is really piling up” and is “more convinced now than ever that BP/TransOcean/Halliburton has a BIG job in front of them.”

Officials stand by, helpless, while oil rolls into the shoreline wetlands and coats the stalks and leaves of plants such as roseau cane – the fabric that holds together an ecosystem that is essential to the region’s fishing industry and a much-needed buffer against gulf hurricanes. Soon, oil will smother those plants and choke off their supply of air and nutrients.

In some eddies and protected inlets, the ochre-colored crude has pooled beneath the water’s surface, forming clumps several inches deep.

Pelican eggs were glazed with rust-colored gunk in the bird colony, and thick globs floated on top of the water. Nests sat precariously close to the mess in mangrove trees. Workers had surrounded the island in Barataria Bay with the booms, but oil seeped through the barrier.

Meanwhile, in Barataria Bay, in southeastern Louisiana in Jefferson Parish and Plaquemines Parish,  orange oil had made its way a good 6 inches onto the shore, coating grasses and the nests of brown pelicans in mangrove trees. Just six months ago, the birds had been removed from the federal endangered species list.

Over time, experts say weather and natural microbes will break down most of the oil. However, the crude will surely poison plants and wildlife in the months – even years – it will take for the oil to dissipate.

Since the existing oil is hard to clean up, it appears that efforts have shifted to preventable measures.

Talks are now being held to utilize several chain of sandbag berms, reinforced with containment booms, that would skirt the state’s coastline. In addition, the Army Corps of Engineers also is considering a broader plan that would use dredging to build sand berms across more of the barrier islands.

Louisiana Governor Jindal has utilized the sandbag berm concept that protect the marshes behind Elmers Island, LA.
“You can see this is heavy oil. We tried to stir this up, This isn’t light oil. If this land bridge wasn’t here, this oil would go right through, and there’s nothing to stop it from getting into those wetlands,” said Jindal.

Despite the urgency of the matter, the request- which has been put in over 2 weeks ago- is still awaiting approval.  Governor Jindel has concluded that matters needed to be put in his State’s hands and wisely authorized this action to take place. In addition to this action, Governor Jindel also urged the federal government to approve their request to dredge sand off the sea floor to build more berms to protect the wetlands.

Extreme measures have been discussed; such as setting the marsh on fire or flooding the marsh in an attempt to push the oil back. However, these measures could do more harm than good.

If the marshes are drier than average, setting the marsh on fire could burn the vegetation to its roots, essentially wiping out the entire marsh.

Likewise,  flooding  could wash away the natural barriers that provide protection against  flooding from hurricanes and other disasters — much like hurricanes Katrina and Rita washed away marshlands in 2005. State and federal officials spent millions rebuilding the much-needed buffer against tropical storms.

The future for the Louisiana marshes look bleak with the majority of the response concentrated on preventing the oil from entering with very little focus on absorbing the method.

“Just the compaction of humanity bringing equipment in, walking on them, will kill them,” said David White, a wetlands ecologist from Loyola University in New Orleans.

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