Jenn will be returning to the Gulf of Mexico to continue the coverage of the BP Deepwater Horizon Gulf oil spill August 4-10,
one month after the original trip.
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She will be documenting:
Venice/Fort Jackson/Buras/Grand Isle LOUISIANA,
Long Beach/Gulfport/Biloxi MISSISSIPPI,
Orange Beach/Fort Morgan/Dauphin Island ALABAMA.
The ‘sugar sand’ beaches at Fort Morgan used to be white according to one clean-up worker. Fort Morgan is a State Historic site as well as an upscale beach community. One of the interesting aspects of Fort Morgan are the endangered Alabama Beach Mice. They live in small burrows in the sand, and only come out at night. When they dig out the burrow the contrast between the clean sand below and dirty sand above becomes obvious.
The beach mice are endangered due to dissappearing habitat, the effects of the oil spill on their only remaining habitat are, as yet, unknown. The beach in this area is not inundated with the orange oil mousse that we have seen much of in Mississippi, but instead with the black tar balls that the burrows are surrounded with.
Photo by Jenn LeBlanc/Iris Photo Agency
Boom operations in Cotton Bayou and Bayou Saint John. The white boom is called sorbent boom and is dragged behind the boats with pompoms attached that collect any surface oil. The different colors of boom are for different types of water, and use, but every boom has universal attachments so they can be linked without problems, regardless of manufacturer. Vehicles of Opportunity drag boom back and forth across the inlets to different areas to prevent as much contamination into the bayous and harbors as possible. The brown discoloration in the water is not oil but tannins which are eaten by the local fish and important to the habitat.
Photo by: Jenn LeBlanc/Iris Photo Agency
The oil spill has prompted BP to give the state of Alabama $17 million to build a mile-long sand and rock barrier designed to block oil from washing upon the state’s shoreline, according to a BP spokesperson.
The barrier is currently being built on the west end of Dauphin Island, which is a few miles south of Mobile, AL.
Alabama’s Department of Environmental Management is overseeing the project that will be a mile and a quarter in length and 50-feet wide.
Huge-boulder rocks are shipped to Dauphin Island everyday by barges and, after they’re placed in the water, sand is spread over them to create a manmade island, said Henry De La Graza, a BP spokesman.
Dauphin Island has roughly 1,700 people who live there, and each day BP work crews clean the beaches of tar balls.
“We had 800 workers combing the beaches since yesterday,” De La Graza said. “We picked up around 12,000 pounds of tar balls, which is a light day for us.”
A small percentage of the tar balls are recycled, but most of them are shipped to a landfill.
Tourism has taken quite a dip on the Island.
Karl Hoven, who owns Dauphin Island Cheveron and Grill said his business has dipped 75 percent since the oil slick.
“It has slowed down considerably,” he said. “The tourists is what makes us from the middle of March to the end of September. If you don’t make your money then, you have a long hard winter.”
Although tourism has dropped, locals still swam in the oil contaminated waters.
Mobile, AL resident Sheila Clark, her daughter Sara, 13, and friend Jaimee Orrell, 12, visited Dauphin Island July 8. BP clean-up crews combed the beaches while they enjoyed the sunny weather. She wanted to witness what the oil was doing to the beaches first hand.
“All we’re seeing is these little globs right here. We’re not seeing what’s under the water,” Clark said. “Our Mobile industry, so much is seafood and tourism — it’s killing us here. It is on Dauphin Island anyway.
Clark also said she visited the island to spend money, giving what she could to the local economy.