Hello everyone! I hope you are all doing well. I’ve been here just over a week now in the Delta National Wildlife Refuge (DNWR) working with local, state and federal wildlife officials gathering data and learning my way around the refuge. I’ll catch everyone up quickly… The day after I got here we started to head out on search and collection missions around the DNWR. BP is using local boat captains as guides and we (IBRRC)are manning each boat with two of our staff. This local fisherman know this area very well, most of them grew up fishing these waters. It was a smart move on BP’s part because the waters are closed to all fishing and the delta is littered with abandoned oil wells and pipelines. The area is deceptively shallow in places and if you didn’t know which channel or passage to take you might just have to spend the night out stuck in the mississippi mud with the alligators and water moccasins. Honestly this is the strangest spill I have worked to date. There is an estimated 5,000,000 gallons of oil spilt and the gulf currents are keeping it off shore. BP has not been able to cap the leaks and unfortunately this could go on for a very long time. Small stringers of oil (small meaning 10-20 miles in length and 1/2-1 mile wide) will “brush” the delta but so far we have seen very little sign of oil. If the oil does come in this will be by far the worst natural disaster the US has seen, well beyond the Valdez spill. The main area that the oil is threatening is the Mississippi Delta (Click here for satellite images) region which is a network of marsh lands and shallow mud flats. Areas that would be almost impossible to access to clean the oil. On top of that millions of birds and other species call this area home. It feels like there is a bomb out there that everyone can see, no one can disarm and everyone knows it will eventually go off, it’s just a matter of time and all we can do is helplessly watch. Needless to say tensions are high. NOAA Image for 5/12/2010
Right now I am leading a “hotshot team”
of 6 search and collection team members that are now living aboard a barge located in Dennis Pass out in the middle of the delta. We leave everyone morning in our boats to search our assigned zones. At the end of the day or when the weather changes we head back to the barge to report our finding to the US Fish and Wild Service who then relay the information up the chain of command. Its been really interesting to see this spill unfold. NOAA handles all offshore activity, the coast guard is in charge of cleanup, USFWS is in charge of anything with in the delta, USDA (that’s right the food people) have an animal services division that specializes in capture / collection and we are floating between all agencies helping/training them as the need arises. Until now we’ve been out of cell range but we finally got satellite communication aboard the barge…its slow but working! So far we only have a few birds in our center.
Partially because like I said earlier the oil is staying out at sea and partially because they will not allow us to head out to ground zero where all the oil is. Can’t catch oiled birds if you’re not where the oil is! We are working on getting permission to go out there to see the devastation for ourselves. Until then we’ll keep working the southern tip of the delta. Thanks again for your support. I will write more was thing progress.