My name is Jennifer Myles, and I have been interning with GRN since December, 2011. As a recent transplant to New Orleans from California it has been a wonderful opportunity for me to get involved and get to know the region. On a recent trip with some friends to Grand Isle, Louisiana in mid-January I had the chance of visiting Fort Livingston on Grand Terre Island. You may recall from past blogs that GRN staff visited Fort Livingston to survey and report on the damages from the BP drilling disaster. So it was neat knowing that I would be going there to follow-up on the current conditions and GRN staff was excited for me that I was going!
Being naturalists, my friends and I enjoyed the beautiful day, especially watching all the amazing wildlife around us. What we found at the fort was an incredible structure. Hand cut granite stairs and sea shell moldings incorporated into the fort were awesome to see. To just think of how well the structure had (so far) survived repeated storms without being maintained and to still be in the shape it is was mind boggling to our modern sense of buildings. However, it was clear that a lack of care and repeated damage from powerful storms and erosion to the island has caused severe damage to the historic structure and something should be done to preserve it.
While we found little evidence of any oil on the grounds, that does not mean that the oil isn’t there. Daily tidal surge as well as tropical systems over the last couple of years have deposited a lot of sand on the ground which may have covered up some of the oil and there was visible oil on the inside walls in some of the caverns. What is frustrating is knowing that the island is home to lots of wildlife, yet the long-term impacts of the oil on the island are unclear. We do know from recent reports on other nearby islands that, buried at least two feet beneath the sand can be found huge tar mats that have yet to be removed. Tropical events like T.S. Lee exposed buried oil on beaches thought to have been cleaned or at least declared cleaned by BP with the agreement of the State.The set of photos below shows aerial shots of oil inside the fortress wall as well as ground level shots from inside the caverns. The aerials were taken in the summer of 2010 while the ground levels were taken in the spring of 2011. Take a look:
Fast forward to January, 2012 and here is what we saw (Again, there was not as much visible oil but it doesn’t mean the oil was not there):
We were also extremely disappointed with the amount of trash we found. There were five gallon buckets of engine oil lapping up against the beach, plastic shopping bags everywhere, gloves, Doritos bags, old toys, and much more. It was not just the beaches around Fort Livingston, but Grand Isle as a well. I am not sure if it is the “off season” and there are few people anywhere to pick things up, or if it is always like that. For those of us, who had never been to a beach on the Gulf of Mexico before, it was shocking. It was so disappointing to look out over these beautiful places and see it tainted. We work so hard to hold corporations accountable for oil and waste, but what’s the point if WE aren’t willing to bend down and pick up a plastic bag or hold on to that bottle cap until we find a proper receptacle.
I have really been enjoying my time here at the GRN. It is wonderful to work with such passionate people on such important issues. I've learned that they cannot act alone and that it us up to people from the Gulf and beyond to take a stand and fight the good fight. So, I am asking you today to take a stand and take action by clicking here and sending a letter to Congress and the White House.
Jennifer Myles is a Development Intern for GRN.