Coverage of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill by Noelle Leavitt and Jenn LeBlanc

Posts tagged “U.S. Dept. of Fish and Wildlife

The return

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.

If you are interested in content, you can contact her via

email: Jenn@jennleblanc.com

She will be documenting:

Venice/Fort Jackson/Buras/Grand Isle LOUISIANA,

Long Beach/Gulfport/Biloxi MISSISSIPPI,

Orange Beach/Fort Morgan/Dauphin Island ALABAMA.

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BP to build a large barrier on Dauphin Island to block oil

By Noelle Leavitt

DAUPHIN ISLAND, Ala. Crews worked to clean up beached oil that washed ashore at Dauphin Island while people sunned and swam all around them. 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.

DAUPHIN ISLAND, Ala. Crews worked to clean up beached oil that washed ashore at Dauphin Island while people sunned and swam all around them. Photo by: Jenn LeBlanc/Iris Photo Agency

DAUPHIN ISLAND, Ala. From left Sheila Clark, her daughter Sara, 13, and friend Jaimee Orrell, 12, walked the beaches of Dauphin Island while crews worked to clean up beached oil that washed ashore around them. Clark said they came down to do a little shopping and enjoy the day, support the Dauphin Island economy as bet they could by spending a little money.
Photo by: Jenn LeBlanc/Iris Photo Agency

DAUPHIN ISLAND, Ala. The rocky beach is splattered with flows of gooey, thick, oil that washed ashore at high tide at the east end of Dauphin Island beyond the old fort. Photo by: Jenn LeBlanc/Iris Photo Agency

DAUPHIN ISLAND, Ala. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service walked around Dauphin Island handing out information cards to visitors with phone numbers to call in case of oil or wildlife in imminent danger.
Photo by: Jenn LeBlanc/Iris Photo Agency
A bird drinks from a small stream on the beach at Dauphin Island. A light oil sheen is difficult to detect in the bright sunlight, but can be seen in some images.
Photo by: Jenn LeBlanc/Iris Photo Agency
DAUPHIN ISLAND, Ala. Crews work on the land bridge that will eventually connect Dauphin Island with another barrier island while Brown Pelicans and laughing gulls rest, fish and sun next to an enclosed tide pool. The green barrier fence was built by the National Guard to protect the area.
Photo by: Jenn LeBlanc/Iris Photo Agency
DAUPHIN ISLAND, Ala. A brown pelican rests on a pier near oil booms at the base of the bridge to Dauphin Island.
Photo by: Jenn LeBlanc/Iris Photo Agency

BP official expresses need for industry overhaul

©2010 Jenn LeBlanc

By Noelle Leavitt

©2010 Jenn LeBlanc
A chart in the Joint Information Center in Venice, LA
is tagged with information concerning areas in their command.
Photo by Jenn LeBlanc/Iris Photo Agency

Venice, LA — A BP official stationed at the joint information center in Venice, LA expressed regret and sorrow on July 5 about the oil slick, which continues to gush oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

“It’s disheartening to me, very much so,” said Jon Parker, BP operations section chief for Venice emergency response. “We know we need to do better, and I think you’re going to see a lot of changes in the oil industry because of it and how we not only get the oil, but also how we protect against it.”

Joint information centers are set up along the Gulf Coast, where a federal government official, usually a U.S. Coast Guard lieutenant, and a BP executive work as a team in insuring the oil mess gets proper attention and remediation.

“We’re operating in a unified command structure,” said U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Frank Kulesa, who works in unison with Parker in Venice.

©2010 Jenn LeBlanc
Coast Guard Lieutenant Frank Kulesa July 5, 2010 at the Joint Information Center in Venice, LA speaks about the BP gulf oil spill and their role in the cleanup and the effects he has seen on the environment.
Photo by: Jenn LeBlanc/Iris Photo Agency

Although the pair work together in decision making pertaining to the oil disaster, the Coast Guard has ultimate authority over what happens with the clean up, Kulesa said.

“It’s an ongoing process. We constantly have to prepare for the next wave as we remediate what has already impacted the shorelines here,” Kulesa said.

The rehabilitation efforts for wildlife and the marshes is an ongoing effort that keeps Kulesa, Parker and hundreds of workers — charter boat owners, biologists, U.S. Fish and Wildlife representatives and hazardous material personnel — constantly on their toes.

“We’re in a unique position where the oil can constantly come, and we’re constantly fighting the tropical storms, the natural currents, trying to determine where the oil is going to go,” Kulesa said. “We’re deploying containment boom, using different strategies to keep it from getting into sensitive areas, such as the Delta National Wildlife Refuge, and then we’re getting skimmers down on the water to try to recover some of the oil before it hits shoreline.”

But no matter how hard they try, it’s virtually impossible to keep the oil from entering the marsh along the Mississippi River Delta, where Venice is located.

“A couple of weeks ago, we had a reprieve, where the oil had predominantly been moving towards Florida and Alabama, because of the winds. However it seems to be coming back our way, so we’re constantly looking for where the likely impact location is,” Kulesa said.

The delicate landscape of the Mississippi delta is home to a variety of wildlife. Small islands along Venice are nesting areas to various species of birds. One island in particular — Breton Island — was deemed a national wildlife refuge in 1904 by executive order of President Theodore Roosevelt, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

©2010 Jenn LeBlanc
Clipboards have plan of action for specific sites for cleanup above images of the area. Joint Information Center in Venice, LA.
Photo by Jenn LeBlanc/Iris Photo Agency

Breton National Wildlife Refuge is the second oldest of 540 national refuges in the United States, and is located in a chain of islands 16 miles northeast of Venice. Extending northward toward the Mississippi Gulf Coast for 70 miles, it’s a nesting area for thousands of birds, including endangered species like the brown pelican.

Efforts to protect the island have been so extensive, that oil has yet to directly pollute the island.

“We’re averaging maybe two to three bird recovery a day, so we’re not getting the several hundred birds that we anticipated, at this point and time, which could change in the future,” said Bruce Miller, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service public information officer for Venice.

©2010 Jenn LeBlanc
Bruce Miller, Pubilc Information Officer for U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife Service July 5, 2010 at the Cove in Venice, LA speaks about the BP gulf oil spill and their role in the cleanup and the effects he has seen on the environment.
Photo by: Jenn LeBlanc/Iris Photo Agency

Yet that doesn’t mean the birds are in the clear of contamination. Brown pelicans continuously dive for fish in the oily waters, bringing home contaminated food for their babies, Miller said.

Protecting marine life from the oily waters is an enormous task, and BP is well aware of the ongoing problems it faces.

“I think it was an eye-opening experience for not just BP, but it was an eye opening experience for the whole industry,” Parker said. “And we’re here to do what ever we can to make it right.”

©2010 Jenn LeBlanc
“I think it was an eye-opening experience for, not just BP, I think it was an eye-opening experience for the whole industry.” Jon Parker, BP Information Section Chief for Venice, LA. said July 5, 2010 at the Joint Operations Center in Venice, LA about the BP gulf oil spill and their role in the cleanup and the effects he has seen on the environment. Parker was formerly an Assistant Chief with BP and has nearly 23 years of service with them.
Photo by: Jenn LeBlanc/Iris Photo Agency