Wildlife Management Area Still Full Of BP Oil

Last week, I had the pleasure of leading a boat trip from Venice, Louisiana to the Pass-a-Loutre Wildlife Management Area (PLWMA) located in southern Plaquemines Parish at the mouth of the Mississippi River. The request and sponsorship for this trip came from Ulrich Hahnloser from Zurich, Switzerland and Stanislav Macha from the Czech Republic, both of whom were present for the journey. This PLWMA is owned by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and encompasses some 115,000 acres. The natural bayous interspersed with intermediate and fresh marshes are breathtakingly beautiful and the thousands of plant and wildlife species are truly unique and amazing to see in their natural habitat. I have been to many, many places along the Gulf coast as part of my field monitoring activities and they are all beautiful and special but the PLWMA is one place that I hold very close to my heart. I spent quite a bit of time down there in April and May of 2010 waiting, watching, and dreading the impending impacts that BP’s oil would eventually bring. On May 28, 2010 I posted a blog where I included some raw video taken of BP’s oil lacquered all over roseau-cane marsh and sheen coating the surface of the surrounding water. I cannot recall how many times I have visited the PLWMA but here is another blog with photos from September 14, 2010 where I made note of dying roseau cane that had been heavily oiled which then appeared to be dying. I went back in November of 2011 and posted yet another blog with photos of continuing and lingering impacts and in which I made comments about the Coast Guard’s decision to allow BP to wind down its cleanup efforts. On a positive note, in that blog I discussed a successful marsh planting effort along the sandbar located at the very end of Pass-a-l’Outre by the group “Restore the Earth” .Fast forward to June 14th, 2012, to the untrained eye one would perhaps mistakenly believe that, besides some issues with marsh erosion, things seem to be back to normal and that all of the oil is gone. Well, I wish that were true–but it is not. I revisited some of the exact places in the PLWMA that I had been to before in 2010 and 2011. Yes, it is true that you cannot see the oil on the outer perimeter reeds of roseau-cane anymore. That’s because most of it is dead. Where once stood tall, green, and healthy reeds now sits black, slime-covered, dead stumps. Even more disturbing is that, as we scoured the shoreline in some familiar areas, the outboard motor of Captain Rock’s (Charter Boat Captain) boat scraped the bottom soft, muddy soil causing heavy rainbow sheen and brown liquid oil to surface. The smell released from the toxic crude oil became too dangerous to inhale so we had to keep moving. We hit several spots where I collected samples from each, then made our way to the beach at the end of the Pass. I waded ashore; camera safely secured in my wet bag, and found some scattered tar balls. I also took some new photos of the plants from Restore the Earth’s restoration project. The plants looked healthy a much needed bit of good news. Please take a look at the slideshow below and please be sure to share this update as far and wide as possible so the world knows that all is not well in Pass-a-l’Outre. Also, if you would like to help GRN out by sponsoring our important field monitoring work, please click here to make a donation. Thanks! Jonathan Henderson is the Coastal Resiliency Organizer for GRN.

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