A young Steller’s eider, one of the rarest birds in Alaska. Credit: Heidi Cline, Alaska Fish and Wildlife Service
It’s been two years since the BP Deepwater Horizon tragedy – the worst oil spill disaster in U.S. history. Think back to the awful images of that spill: oil billowing into the ocean from BP’s Macondo well, people frantically setting up boom to protect the vulnerable coast, and skimmers trying to scoop up some fraction of the oil that was spreading over the surface of the Gulf of Mexico.
Now try to imagine responding to a similar spill in the Arctic Ocean. There would be no major ports from which to stage responders and vessels. There would be no roads to move equipment along the coast. Responders might have to cope with sea ice that would clog skimmers and wreak havoc on boom. And they might have to call off cleanup efforts because of the Arctic’s notoriously challenging conditions – conditions that can include extreme cold, thick fog, prolonged darkness and hurricane-force winds.
Shrimp boats outfitted to skim oil head out of Grand Isle to clean up the massive oil before it hits the Louisiana shore, Wed., June 9, 2010. Credit: Cheryl Gerber
No question it’s a big news day in Washington. One big thing we want to make sure doesn’t get lost in the mix is the inclusion of the RESTORE Act in the final Transportation bill that Congress will vote on this week. Directing the fines BP and other parties responsible for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster have to pay back to the Gulf for restoration has been a key priority of ours since the early days of this ordeal.
Thanks are in order to Senator Boxer for her leadership in the negotiations and the Senators and Representatives from the Gulf States, particularly Senators Landrieu, Nelson, and Shelby, and Representative Scalise for their work in shepherding the bill to final passage. We’d like to thank Senator Nelson of Florida specifically for making sure the bill includes a science and monitoring program, which is always a crucial issue for Ocean Conservancy.
A quiet victim went unseen in many of the images of oil-soaked animals publicized during the BP oil disaster. While many of us were moved by the plight of animals caught up in this man-made disaster, we should also be concerned for the wetland plants quietly suffering in the background.
Because of an expanding human footprint and natural processes, Gulf wetlands are declining at an accelerated rate exacerbated by the BP oil disaster. A recent study by the National Academy of Sciences, reported on in The Advocate, shows the BP oil disaster doubled the erosion rates of wetlands in some areas.
This critical habitat offers hurricane protection to the coast and serves as the nursery grounds, homes, food source and safe-havens to countless marine species. The Mississippi River is still working, as it has for thousands of years, to create these remarkably productive wetlands. Continue reading »