Gulf Restoration Network

United for a Healthy Gulf

Jonathan Henderson
Bird’s Eye View: Troubling Photos Nearly 1 Year Later
Blog -
Monday, 11 April 2011 08:08

As the 1 year anniversary of the BP drilling disaster approaches, we at GRN are once again getting requests from media to show them what is happening with the clean-up of the Gulf and whether there is still oil to be seen. In fact, just last Wednesday and Friday I guided several media outlets on a tour to several areas that, unfortunately, are still heavily impacted with oil. We travelled by boat from Myrtle Grove, Louisiana to areas such as Bay Jimmy, Barataria Bay, Queen Bess Island, and a Grand Terre Island. The marsh in Bay Jimmy is still heavily impacted in most areas that we viewed. The Spartina grass is dead or dying from the waterline back about 10 in some areas. The grass is coated in oil, roots are exposed, and oil can be seen seeping up through the soil. It was an ugly and disappointing sight indeed.

The pelicans on Queen Bess Island seem like they are doing okay. However, it is the unknown long-term impacts that have scientists worried as oil exposure has been known to have impacts on the reproduction systems of birds. Also, the island itself is very vulnerable to erosion, and most experts that I talk to seem to agree that it may not last another 5 years, if that, at the current rate of land loss.

Grand Terre Island is the location of a 19th century historical landmark known as Ft. Livingston. In the early 19th century before the fort was built by U.S. forces, Grand Terre Island was the home to pirates under the command of Captain Jean Lafitte. In 1955, Grand Terre was designated as a state Wildlife and Fisheries reservation. Fast forward to today and you see a fort that is crumbling because of erosion and continuous battering by powerful storms. Take a closer look inside, which we did, and you see the fort is blanketed with oil. Some of the oil is hardened, crust-like tar mats, while some of it seeps up through the sand as you step. The caverns on the inside of the fortress walls, known as casemates, are also coated in oil. You’ll notice that in the slide show I included a couple of aerial photos that I took in June of last year. The photos show oil surrounding the fort and oil that had already penetrated the fortress walls. It is infuriating that today oil remains and it does not appear that much is being done.

It is high time that Congress and the White House to do their part to implement the needed changes to help restore and protect a healthy Gulf. Congress should put the Clean Water Act fines back into the Gulf ecosystems affected by the BP drilling disaster and establish a Regional Citizens' Advisory Council. These reforms are essential to the recovery and protection of the Gulf and the nation. Please take action by clicking here to send a letter asking Congress to step up and do the right thing for a healthy Gulf.

Jonathan Henderson is the Coastal Resiliency Organizer for GRN.

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