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

Hezbollah Chief Says Does Not Want War But Ready for One

VOA's Jerusalem correspondent reports that with an Israeli election looming and Hezbollah's involvement in Syria, neither side appears interested in a wider conflict More

Multimedia VOA SPECIAL REPORT: Despite Danger, Best US Minds Battle Deadly Virus

Scientists at America's premier biological research center race in military confinement to find effective drugs, speedier tests and a safe vaccine amid the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history More

Kurdish Poet Battles to Defend Language, Culture

Kawa Nemir's work is an example of what he sees as an irreversible cultural and political assertiveness among Kurds in Turkey More

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.
Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unresti
X
Heather Murdock
January 30, 2015 8:00 PM
Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Mobile Infrared Scanners May Help Homeowners Save Energy

Mobile photo scanners have been successfully employed for navigational purposes, such as Google Maps. Now, a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says the same technology could help homeowners better insulate their houses and save some money. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid