News / USA

    Stakes Are High Along the Louisiana Coast

    Multimedia

    Jeff Swicord

    As efforts to try to cap the oil well that has poured millions of gallons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico faltered Saturday, we took a tour of the vast ecosystem along Louisiana coast for a first hand look at what is at stake.  The Louisiana coastline is a complex network of rivers, bays, marsh and bayou that sustains abundant and diverse plant and animal life.

    Several miles off the Eastern Louisiana coast these barrier islands are all that stand between treasured wetland habitats and the giant oil slick adrift in the Gulf of Mexico.

    The nesting grounds for pelicans, gulls and other water foul, they rise less than 30 centimeters above sea level.  Matt Rota, an environmentalist with The Gulf Restoration Network says if the oil makes landfall here, it will spell trouble for the entire coast. "Well the Louisiana wetlands are just an amazing ecosystem.  They are very productive, have lots of different critters, and they all depend on each other," he said.

    To learn what is at stake, we chartered a boat to take us into the wetlands East of the Mississippi River.  Our guide, P.J. Blaize has been fishing these waters since he was a young boy.  As we cross the river, he takes us through a lock he says has been closed since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. "From what I am hearing, the governor general gave the order to open up the locks to push the fresh water out.  That is one of our allies is the fresh water holding the oil out in the open water as opposed to coming into the isle marshes and stuff," he said.

    Heavy rains and flooding in states up river in the past week, are exerting enormous pressure downstream.  Officials want to use that pressure to flush fresh water out into the Gulf of Mexico to keep the oil offshore.

    "You see the river is a tree line, and all this is basically fresh-water marsh," said Blaize.

    Just on the other side of the lock are natural waterways that wind through freshwater marsh.

    The marsh is home to a vast array of plants, fish, reptiles like the North American Alligator, and mammals. "We have a variety of species.  We have mink, we have nutria, we have muskrat, coyote, dear, wild pig," said Blaize.

    Matt Rota says if oil made its way into the marsh, a lot of the plant and animal life would not survive. "Well, if the oil did get into the interior of the wetlands it could be very devastating.  You could have oil getting on the plants, which could cause them, at the very least, to be stressed if not die.  And then you have issues such as birds and mammals coated with oil," he said.

    Further east we reach brackish water.  It is here the rich oyster and crab fishing grounds are found.  We stop at the mouth of an inlet where an oil boom should have been set.  But could find none. "Over time oil does dissipate and can get broken down from bacteria and other organisms in the water, but still they are putting certain dispersants on the oil that makes it sink down to the bottom," he said.

    The fear is that the oil would taint the bottom dwelling shellfish for decades. "It could be taken up by crustaceans like shrimp crabs, things like that which are the base of the food chain and that could be passed up to fish and then mammals and the toxins could be concentrated and that could be harmful to animals that feed on these smaller organisms," he said.

    Farther out, we reach the bird nesting grounds on the barrier islands.  Off in the distance, reminders of how prominent the oil industry is here.  In the past oil and ecology have struck a delicate balance in Louisiana, but as the massive slick drifts closer to the coast that could be coming to an end.

    You May Like

    Syrian Rebel Realignment Likely as al-Qaida Leader Blesses Split

    Jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra splits from al-Qaida in what observers dub a ‘deception and denial’ exercise

    New India Child Labor Law Could Make Children More Vulnerable

    Concerns that allowing children to work in family enterprises will push more to work

    What Take-out Food Reveals About American History

    Carry-out food explains a lot about the changes taking place in society, so here's the deal with pizza, Chinese food and what racism has to do with taking food to go

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Busi
    X
    July 28, 2016 4:16 AM
    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora