The Blog Aquatic » isaac News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Thu, 28 Aug 2014 17:32:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Hurricane Isaac Churns Up Reminder of BP’s Damage to the Gulf of Mexico Wed, 05 Sep 2012 21:22:30 +0000 Bethany Kraft

Tar balls photographed by Louisiana state response teams on Elmer’s Island in Jefferson Parish on September 1, 2012. Credit: Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries

Last week was a long one for Gulf Coast residents as we watched Hurricane Isaac waffle about where to land before settling on coastal Louisiana, causing massive flooding from storm surge in Mississippi and Louisiana and bringing businesses and communities to a grinding halt for over a week.

As if we didn’t have enough to deal with, what with hurricanes and flooding and power outages and devastation for too many people, we also had the pleasure of remembering (in case any of us had forgotten) that we are still in the grips of responding to and recovering from the BP oil disaster.

Far from magically disappearing, oil has persisted in the marine environment for over two years now, and the force of Hurricane Isaac has churned up an ugly reminder of how much work we still have to do to restore the Gulf ecosystem. Tarballs and mats are showing up from Louisiana to Alabama, even forcing the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to issue a closure for commercial fishing in the area of a large oil mat off Elmer’s Island.

Officials are working to assess the extent of oiling after the storm, and are not surprised to see oiled shorelines corresponding to areas that experienced significant oiling during the summer and fall of 2010 and beyond.

“I’d say there is a smoking gun,” Garrett Graves, the coastal adviser to Louisiana’s governor Bobby Jindal, told news organizations in this article from the Guardian. “It’s an area that experienced heavy oiling during the spill.’”

In the midst of the re-oiling of miles of shoreline and the stark reminder that our marine environment is ground zero for oil persisting in the environment, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) recently responded to what it calls “plainly misleading representations in BP’s papers concerning liability and Natural Resource Damage (“NRD”) issues” in a motion BP filed on August 13 asking the court to approve a private settlement regarding economic and property damage.

The DOJ states that BP’s motion for the private settlement “overreaches in seeking to establish either that it acted without gross negligence and willful misconduct or that the environment has recovered without harm from the discharge of millions of barrels of oil.”(Page 4 of DOJ brief.)

The filing gives an overview of DOJ’s case for gross negligence and willful misconduct, and provides evidence that the environment is still suffering lasting damage and degradation as a result of BP’s actions, disputing BP’s assertion that many aspects of the Gulf are recovering, stating that while “it is true that many resources are in a better condition than at the height of the Spill — after all, they are no longer slathered in layers of BP’s oil— it is also true they continue to suffer significant harm from the Spill, and it is not possible at this time to conclude that they have recovered, despite the information that BP presents.” (DOJ brief at 27.)

There is much work to do, but together we can take on any challenges we face. Tomorrow I will write about how Ocean Conservancy is thinking about restoration in the marine environment.

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Hurricane Isaac Threatens Gulf Region Tue, 28 Aug 2012 19:46:14 +0000 Bethany Kraft

This visible image of Tropical Storm Isaac taken from NOAA’s GOES-13 satellite shows the huge extent of the storm. The image was captured on Aug. 28 at 8:40 a.m. EDT. Credit: NOAA

I wrote a blog post about the start of hurricane season back in June, and I am writing this one today in Hurricane Isaac’s sights. Hurricanes are anything but predictable, and this one in particular has been hard to track. Would it rain and blow into the Republican Convention in Tampa? Head West towards Texas? Now, less than 24 hours away from landfall, it looks like Isaac has made up his mind to aim for somewhere in Louisiana or Mississippi, which means rain and wind anywhere across the Gulf Coast, and hopefully not much more than that. We hope.

If you are watching the approach of the storm on TV, you’d think that hurricanes are some sort of spectator sport or reality TV show. DEVASTATION! MANDATORY EVACUATION! DESTRUCTION! It turns what is a serious event into a sort of comic theater. Note to newscasters: Gulfport is in MS and Mobile Bay in in AL. Just sayin’. (Sorry, I’ve been seeing silly screen shots on Facebook all morning that are geographically confused).

In the midst of the TV hullabaloo, I thought I’d take a few minutes to tell you what I think about Hurricane Isaac while safely tucked away from the weather, listening to the weather radio and wondering what the day will bring. Mind you, these thoughts are mine alone, and not meant to represent those of Gulf residents, generally.

1. Hurricanes make me uncharitable. I want the storm to go anywhere but where I happen to be. Well, what I really want is to be watching the radar when all of a sudden–poof!– the swirling bands of rain disappear from the screen like a magic trick. But, knowing that is pretty darn unlikely, I instead find myself wishing that the storm knocks somewhere other than my front door, even though I don’t wish bad luck on anyone else. And so I watch the radar like I’m bowling, leaning left and then right, hoping that somehow the motion of my body moves the storm where I want it to go.

2. Hurricanes make me charitable, too. When you find yourself preparing for a storm, out and about gathering water, batteries, food, etc. everyone you come across is a friend, and you are lashed in the boat together for better or worse. “You leavin’ or ridin’ it out? You boarding up? Bout to get windy!” These are the greetings you exchange with friends and perfect strangers. As the storm approaches and everyone heads home to hunker down, I am reminded of how strong our communities are when faced with tough times: texts and emails and calls coming in from friends and family both near and far, with well wishes and offers to check on homes, to come over for dinner when the storm passes, to stay safe, to holler if you need help. The Gulf region has taken a lot of hits over the years, but the fabric of our community stays tightly woven, and that is a beautiful thing.

3. Isaac makes me worry. This is the first hurricane to hit the area since the BP oil disaster in 2010, and the churning of the water from Isaac may well toss up oil that has been lurking offshore. This is a stark reminder for me of how thoughtful we need to be about restoration moving forward, and that we can’t neglect the marine environment when we talk about recovery from the oil disaster– the oil hasn’t magically disappeared. There is still a long way to go before BP has made good on its promise to “make things right” for the Gulf, and I’m afraid we will get a stark reminder of that when we see what Isaac stirs up.

4. Hurricanes remind me of how vulnerable we are, and how we become more vulnerable with every passing year. Storms are a fact of life on the Gulf, but sea level rise and loss of protective habitats like wetlands (which act like giant sponges to protect coastal communities from storm surge) means that we are more at the mercy of Mother Nature than ever before, in spite of our efforts to engineer ourselves into a protective cocoon of levees and seawalls– you just can’t engineer the wildness out of nature. If you think of our coastal communities as the beating heart of the Gulf region, then our wetlands and marshes are the rib cage that protects us. Losing them to filling, erosion or oiling peels away our protection one layer at a time, and that is a loss for everyone, not just those of us who call the Gulf region home.

It’s starting to rain a bit, and so I will sign off for now. Keep the Gulf in your thoughts today, and we’ll see you on the other side.

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