Like oil barons: searching for black gold in silver water

There was an eerie feeling today out along the Louisiana coastline. When will it get here? When will the massive amounts of oil perched just off of our shoreline make its way into our wetlands? How are the birds? Did you see any dead sea-turtles? What about the booms? Were they there? Those are just some of the questions that we have been asked at GRN and we have been desperately trying to answer. Today was no different and, unfortunately, there are no easy answers.After the fog cleared early this morning, we launched from Cypress Grove Marina in Venice, Louisiana. Captain Keith Kennedy, of “Born to Fish Charters”, was our guide, and a very good one at that. By 8:30 AM, I along with the captain, Greenpeace’s Visual Communications Director, Tim Aubry, and videographer Frances James were already at Trappers Canal. We weaved in and around the wetlands here and saw Mexican whistling ducks, alligators, Spider lilies, Native purple Iris, Red wing black birds (Orioles), Egrets, Black Ibises’, marsh hens, and many more birds, plants, and marvelous creatures.We also met Alan Sesshun, known as “the mayor” of Trappers Canal, population 25 before Katrina. A man of French and Sicilian heritage, Alan has lived in Trapper’s canal for 35 years, doesn’t shop at the grocery store, and only lives off of the land. We stopped so that I could speak to Alan to get his perspective on the state of things in his, well, “neighborhood” . Several things that he said are in line with what GRN has been witnessing out in the Delta. Alan was perplexed at the lack of equipment being deployed to defend the coast. He asked, “How could they have been so unprepared considering how much these oil companies have invested in infrastructure in the area?” He asked, “How come the only people I’m seeing in this area are the press? Where are the responders? How come they aren’t doing anything over here to protect this marsh?” Alan blasted BP for telling fishermen and shrimpers, now in need of clean-up jobs since they can’t fish or trawl, that they would have to be reimbursed for their fuel and other expenses should they decide to join BP as part of its clean up team. By 10 AM we were already in the main Mississippi River heading to South Pass. We passed three small boats racing south with boom tucked away on board. We passed Pilotown (or what’s left of it since Katrina), where river pilots come to stay overnight, and at 3 Head Split, we saw a huge ongoing dredging project. By 10:15 AM we were at the beach fronting East Bay where Captain Kennedy stopped the boat and pointed out, to his utter disgust, that there was no protective boom in place. Kennedy explained, “We are positioned 25 miles away from where the BP Horizon exploded and sank and I am shocked that there is no boom in place here along East Bay. These oil companies have done absolutely nothing in this area to prevent coastal erosion, and they aren’t doing anything here now either.” Around 11:45 AM in South Pass at Coast Guard Cut, we spotted what appeared to be a light sheen moving in rapidly with the tide. We also found several small craft deploying boom. Two kinds to be exact: standard and absorbent. The standard boom is the bright orange kind while the absorbent is white and is placed directly in front of the standard. It’s designed to absorb oil before it hits the last layer of protection. Based on what we saw, neither of these types of boom will do much to protect those wetlands because of the rough nature of the wave action. So, why then is it that the deployment of boom is not being done in places like, say, Mr. Alan Sesshun’s neighborhood, where the seas are calmer? There are miles and miles of inland marsh that are still left completely exposed. GRN will keep you posted and we hope to answer some of these questions. In a strange twist of irony, we are like oil barons, searching for black gold in silver water.We can only hope that we don’t find it covering our real treasures.

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