Intrusion Costs Louisiana on Many Levels
Nearly 100 years ago, Theodore Roosevelt walked amongst the thousands of shorebirds nesting and roosting in the rookeries along the United States’ coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Due to his conservation efforts, and those of the conservationists of his time, Breton Island and the Chandeleur Islands, barrier islands off of the Louisiana coast, became protected habitats for shorebirds. The Breton National Wildlife Refuge was established during the presidential administration of Roosevelt, in 1904, and was subsequently visited by him in 1915.
Eroded and battered by hurricanes and other forces of nature, these islands, today, face another obstacle to survival. On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 workers, and injuring many more. The rig, 50 miles off the shore of Venice, Louisiana (the southeast “toe of the boot” of Louisiana’s geographical imprint), eventually sank and started spewing crude oil from the bottom of the Gulf – over 200,000 gallons a day, by some estimates. There is never a good time for a disaster such as this – but this happens to be the approach of the peak migratory and nesting season for many species of indigenous shorebirds.
British Petroleum, the holder of the contract for exploration and production at the site, has been reluctant to estimate the amount of oil being released, but has worked feverishly to minimize damage to the environment. Still, efforts by BP and the United States Coast Guard have not been enough to hold back the tide of crude creeping toward the shores of these protected jewels.
One would assume that everything that can be done is being done, for now – but what about thinking ahead to the future? There have been reports of cautionary flags raised hours before this catastrophe. Only time will tell if there were any signs of things to come, and, if there were, how warnings were heeded or disregarded.
It seems that the benefits of prevention would far outweigh the temporary profits realized from ignoring a dangerous situation; unfortunately, too often, it takes a disaster to bring thought and common sense into operations. In the end, it’s not the disaster that really matters, but the costs involved to remediate the damage done as a result of bad decisions.
Costs in cleanup will be tallied, lawsuits will be filed, and court cases will be settled. In the end, there will be a substantial monetary price to be paid. Ultimately, though, there will be the reality that not every cost can be covered by any amount of financial reparation.
There will be lingering effects on the environment and on the humans and wildlife dependent on that environment for survival. Human lives have been lost; ecosystems are being damaged; and wildlife is being killed. We will never have an accurate tally on the true costs of this disaster; but, hopefully, the pecuniary calculations that will take place might make decision makers cognizant of the consequences of their actions, or their lack thereof.
Article contributed by Cory Turner