Texas Wildlife Agencies Follow Gulf Oil Disaster

Texas’ natural resources agencies have been following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, but so far Texas has not seen any wildlife or fisheries impacts from the event. But an estimated 5,000 barrels of oil a day continues to spew from 5,000 feet beneath the surface of the Gulf of Mexico. Due partially to rough seas and heavy weather, the oil slick has expanded to roughly 3,000 square miles—an area the size of Puerto Rico.

While the emergency is unfolding in waters off the Mississippi delta, ground zero for coping with the spill is a suite of offices on the third floor of well-owner BP’s Houston headquarters, where company officials and an assemblage of scientists and engineers from a variety of other companies have been pursuing several options to contain the spill while at the same time lessening its impact.

Will the oil spanning much of the Gulf of Mexico find it’s way to Texas’ shores, impacting critical coastal wetlands? Hard to say, but here’s the latest from Don Pitts, of their Environmental Assessment and Restoration Program:

“Though some shorelines have received a light oiling, the bulk of the floating oil has largely remained just offshore. Conventional and innovative techniques are being employed to try to disperse, contain and recover the spilled oil. Aircraft continue to apply chemical dispersants at the sea surface to break the oil into small particles that can more easily mix within the water column.

A new technique was also used to inject dispersant into the rising oil near the source of the leak. Further efforts to refine this technique are planned, including using sonar to track the plume and the collection of samples of the sub-surface dispersed oil to more fully understand the fate of the dispersed oil at depth and its environmental trade-offs. Work also continues on a piping system designed to take oil to tankers on the surface from a constructed collection chamber that will be placed over the leaking pipes at the sea floor. Construction of the collection system is estimated to be completed near week’s end. Finally, the drilling of a relief or cut-off well is still planned… but the process will not be complete for up to 3 months.”

Fisheries closures have been established to protect the public and ensure the integrity of unaffected fisheries. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries announced the closure of both recreational and commercial fishing in areas of likely impact and the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals closed oyster harvesting areas in coastal parishes east of the Mississippi river. Federal waters from the mouth of the Mississippi River to waters off Florida’s Pensacola Bay have been closed to commercial and recreational fishing by NOAA.”

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