#1 Grand Isle First Impressions

This post is written from Louisiana by Bud Ris, New England Aquarium President and CEO.

June 27, 2010
Grand Isle, Louisiana

Our contingent of New England Aquarium board members, led by Chairman, Bill Burgess, and I arrived in New Orleans yesterday. Our first stop was the sea turtle recovery center run by the Aquarium of the Americas, which Charlie and Connie have been reporting on over the last several weeks (Starting here, a full list of oil spill posts is on the right hand sidebar of this blog). But more on that later.

Today we're out on Grand Isle, a seven mile long barrier beach, southwest of New Orleans, about a two hour drive from the city. Behind Grand Isle, lies Barataria Bay, one of the most important wetlands and wildlife habitat areas along the Louisiana coast. One thing you notice immediately is how high every home is built up on pilings--hurricanes are part of life down here.

Oil first appeared on the beaches here several weeks ago, but then moved east, driven by the winds and currents pushing the spill toward Florida. In the interim period, a huge "army" of workers and equipment have moved in to install an oil barrier along the entire length of the island. The idea is to prepare for a return of the oil should the winds drive it back to the west.

It is hoped that this barrier--with an extensive fence and lane for the constant stream of vehicles--will keep the slick from permanently fouling the beach, containing it in way that will allow it to be scooped up, placed in special containers and carted away. The operation is extensive and impressive. About every 500 yards there is a tent from where 20 to 30 workers mount regular patrols along the beach. Whenever any oil is found, which for the moment seems to happen only sporadically, it is quickly shovel up, put in plastic bags, and carted off.

It is an impressive sight. But no one knows whether all these preparations will really work and there's a lot of discussion among the locals about whether the "defense" is focused on the right place. Some feel that it would be much more important to protect the "passes" (what we could call "inlets" up north) that open into Barataria Bay and the huge expanse of wetlands there. We'll be boarding a boat later today to view the preparations in these passes, and will be talking to some local fishermen and wildlife officials.


1 comment:

  1. Thanks telling us what's happening there! Looks like the defenses have closed that beach down, are most people not allowed to go see this?