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The Scene in Louisiana: Disaster Looming
I’m in Venice, LA today, near where the leading edge of the Gulf Coast oil spill has started to ooze ashore. Despite the sense of looming disaster you get from talking to people here, there are at least two groups seeing an uptick in business:
The staff at the bar & restaurant at the Venice Marina, packed with reporters here to cover the spill.
The pack of friendly dogs roaming the deck in search of scraps.
But the dogs are much happier than the people – they don’t know the boom will be short-lived. While the oil remains just offshore for now, the slick continues growing at an alarming pace.
The economic dominoes have been falling day by day. Sunday, the biggest so far — NOAA has shut down commercial & recreational fishing for a huge swath of the Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama & Florida coasts. The Gulf Coast is in the early days of a nuclear winter, and no one can say for sure when it will end.
We passed two refineries & a lone active derrick on the two hour drive from New Orleans’ Louis Armstrong International Airport to Venice. A local tells us the area economy is dependent on two businesses – fishing & oil, and now one might kill the other.
Already, charter fishing boat captains are pitching their services not to sport fishermen but to reporters & conservations looking to get a first-hand look at the spill’s impacts. (One plopped a Miller Lite down next to my laptop as I was writing this. Clearly he knows the best way to bribe me.)
Larry Schweiger, president & CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, led two trips on Sunday in an attempt to get close to the spill. They were hampered by stormy conditions & six-foot swells, but were able to get to some marsh that had been touched by the oil. Grasses that had been bright green just a couple of days before were now dyed brown by the oil.
The National Wildlife Federation & Louisiana Wildlife Federation will be on the ground in impacted areas all week long, assessing the impact on wildlife & habitat and helping determine what volunteers can do to help.