Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Nutria at Fault

Taken from an AP article regarding Big Oil's part in the damage to the Louisiana Wetlands

Service canals dug to tap oil and natural gas dart everywhere through the black mangrove shrubs, bird rushes and golden marsh. From the air, they look like a Pac-Man maze superimposed on an estuarine landscape 10 times the size of Grand Canyon National Park.

There are 10,000 miles of these oil canals. They fed America's thirst for energy, but helped bring its biggest delta to the brink of collapse. They also connect an overlooked set of dots in the Hurricane Katrina aftermath: The role that some say the oil industry played in the $135 billion disaster, the nation's costliest.

The delta, formed by the accumulation of the Mississippi River's upstream mud over thousands of years, is a shadow of what it was 100 years ago. Since the 1930s, a fifth of the 10,000-square-mile delta has turned into open water, decreasing the delta's economic and ecologic value by as much as $15 billion a year, according to Louisiana State University studies.

The rate of land loss, among the highest in the world, has exposed New Orleans and hundreds of other communities to the danger of drowning. Katrina made that painfully clear.

Oil wells also discharged about a billion gallons daily of brine, thick with naturally occurring subsurface chemicals like chlorides, calcium and magnesium, as well as acids used in drilling.

It was poured into the marshes, said Virginia Burkett, a longtime researcher of the Louisiana wetlands and the chief scientist for climate change at USGS. It contaminated soils and killed plants and animals, she said, before brine dumping was finally regulated in coastal marshes in 1985.

I remember when I was a young boy we had a camp out in the marsh," said Don Griffin, a grocer and seafood dealer in the delta town of Leeville, which became an oil-drilling center for decades.

"The same places you used to have to get around with a pirogue and a push pole now you can go with a 25-foot outboard. There's no more marsh, which is your first barrier of defense for hurricanes."

I've got duck leases out there and I remember when they were covered in grass. They're all ponds now," said Don Briggs, president of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association. "It's not gone because of drilling. It's because nutria ate all the grasses."


1 comment:

Euphemia said...

It will not succeed in actual fact, that is what I think.