One year after the fact, oil still a present concernApr 20th, 2011 | By William Dilella | Category: top story
Areas of Barataria Bay are still seeing the impact of the over 4-million barrels worth of oil that leaked into the gulf, some of which rests on the marshland and lingers below the Gulf surface.
Only one year ago, the area of marsh by St. Mary’s Point could only be accessed through a narrow pass between two juts of land. Today, the recess lays wide open, as dead plants and the land beneath slips steadily into the water.
Oil is still visible on the edge of the marsh. The acrid smell of the crude is noticeable, as is the line of dying vegetation it has caused.
Coastal erosion had already been a problem plaguing the parish. Louisiana’s Department of Natural Resources shows that the state experiences 90 percent of all coastal erosion in the lower 48.
The area’s vegetation on the coastline is dead or still dying from the oil saturating the soil of the marshes and covering the plants. As a result, more land is left exposed to the tides. When the water rolls back, more land is washed away.
Since the oil spill, the rate of erosion has become visibly worse. Large stakes with signs stick out of the water’s surface, acting markers for the landline as it stood last year. The only thing blowing in the wind near these posts is more water.
The situation is unfortunately similar a few miles to the east at Bay Jimmy. Here, on the masses of land surrounding the bay, there is an ongoing recovery effort to save the marshes.
Construction equipment and men with hand-tools dig into the marsh to remove the oil. Dozens of yards away from the visible coastline, a sign sits atop a submerged piece of land. The sign placed by the Plaquemines Government says, “Do Not Remove.” That sign marks where the visible coast used to rest but one year ago.
Now the sign’s post is part of the bay. A few strands of grass can reach the water’s surface, growing on the land that still holds that sign up, land that is now submerged under gulf water.
Life on the marsh
Along the marsh on Bay Jimmy and Barataria, large air cannons rest on tripods, firing off blank shots in an effort to scare away birds.
These cannons were placed by the coast guard, and are set by timers to fire off every few minutes. The noise is supposed to keep birds from coming into contact with the remaining oil.
Even a little coating of oil is enough to kill wildlife. But the birds do not flinch at the sound, and walk about the coast, dangerously close to the oil marshes.
Time and Tide
As the oil cleanup progresses and the drama that is the Deepwater Horizon incident continues, the people of Plaquemines Parish do not have to look to their memories to find traces of the disaster. They walk to the marina, they ride down the marsh shores, and they see what remains to be done.