No announcement yet.

Exxon Valdez: a glimpse of the future for Louisiana?

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Exxon Valdez: a glimpse of the future for Louisiana?

    Exxon Valdez: a glimpse of the future for Louisiana?

    By Cindy Chang, The Times-Picayune

    May 08, 2010, 11:00PM

    Two decades after the Exxon Valdez spilled almost 11 million gallons of crude oil into Alaska's Prince William Sound, the herring still have not come back.

    Without that cornerstone species, the commercial fishing season now starts two months later, in May instead of March. Oil still wells up in the little pits dug by sea otters as they forage for clams.

    Bitterness lingers, too, among the fishermen who only two years ago were awarded a final payout of punitive damages from Exxon. The money they have received from the company over the years is not nearly enough, they say, to make up for the devastating blow to their livelihoods.

    As oil continues to spew into the Gulf of Mexico at a rate of 210,000 gallons a day, Louisianans are desperately hoping that BP Deepwater Horizon will not surpass Exxon Valdez as the biggest oil spill in American history. If significant amounts of oil reach the coastline, as seems increasingly likely 19 days after the rig exploded, the effect on the region's fragile wetlands could be as long-lasting and profound as what happened in Alaska.

    The slow creep of oil toward Louisiana's coastal marshes and fishing grounds is a different kind of ordeal than the black tide that swept the rocky beaches of southern Alaska in 1989. Many other variables, from the water temperature to the viscosity of the contaminants, mean that Exxon Valdez cannot be used as an exact predictor for what may happen here.

    But here, as there, fishing has been a way of life in coastal hamlets for generations. For families who fought their way back after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the toll exacted by yet another disaster could resemble the trail of misery that forever changed places like Cordova, Alaska. With many fishing grounds east of the Mississippi closed, local fishermen are already idle.

    Just as Gulf Coast residents learned from the 2005 hurricanes and in some cases improved upon what was destroyed, Alaskans are now better-prepared for another spill. They have put new safety measures in place to reduce the likelihood of such an accident happening again. Government officials are using a $900 million settlement to restore habitats and fund environmental monitoring projects that continue to this day. Aside from the herring, many species are now thriving.

    "A heck of a lot of lives were permanently damaged. They didn't get made whole as Exxon promised," said Tim Richardson, author of a book on the effects of Exxon Valdez. "But it did happen for wildlife. They invested in habitat for the species that were injured by the spill, and that is what we'd hope to see here (on the Gulf Coast)."

    Much more at:
    "Safety and security don't just happen, they are the result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear."
    -Nelson Mandela