Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Gulf Road Trip Day 3

We went out on a boat trip in the morning with Judy Haner & Jeff DeQuatrro with The Nature Conservancy. We left from the Fowl River Marina and went downstream into on Mobile Bay, to Coffee Island a secondary (inner) barrier island and also onto the west end of Dauphin Island.
We saw boom placed in various spots, and also being picked up by Coast Guard and other vessels since it was just prior to Tropical Storm Bonnie.
The TNC guys are doing oyster reef restoration here, which helps reduce shoreline erosion as well as ultimately creating jobs and seafood. Oyster reefs have declined throughout the U.S. and this project is funded through stimulus money, and in fact is theonly conservation project in Alabama funded through stimulus funds.
This is Judy pulling up one of the bags of oyster shell, which they place in shallow water to attract oyster larvae. It also provides structure, and hence habitat, for a lot of little critters until a big oyster reef ultimately grows up out of it.
This is freelance writer Matt Jenkins, Jeff DeQuattro and myself. The wind was blowing my hair out of my face!
We had lunch on Dauphin Island where we saw oil, plus a lot of seabirds, some blue crabs molting in preparation for mating and some other things like...
A horseshoe crab! This is Meg Goecker with NOAA who was out with us also. She spotted this in the surf and I'm so glad she did because I've never seen one live before!
Another shot of Meg and the horseshoe crab
I love this photo because it shows it moving in the surf!
Here's a shot of some of the fresh oil we'd see looks like. There was fresh oil as well as tarballs, and things like plastic bottles coated with oil that had washed up.
More fresh oil...
Judy showing me the map. This photo copyright (c) 2010 Melissa Gaskill. All the others I took. :)
There is a project where BP has given funds to fill in the "Katrina cut" on Dauphin Island with rocks. Katrina created this cut and there's some concern that the project, which had a Corp permit in place before the oil spill, is sort of serving special interests. People can't develop the west end of Dauphin unless the cut gets filled back in. Judy mentioned that BP has to undo any project like this - which is theoretically to help keep the oil from coming inshore - and yet they're spending tens of millions of dollars to build this, and probably it will take as much to remove it. She is concerned it will not get removed and the island will get further developed. And the barrier islands have not kept oil from coming inshore anyway so how exactly will this actually help?
Writer Matt Jenkins holding the blue marble we gave him.
After our boat trip, we drove to where the boom was being place at Bayou Labatre and wanted to talk to some folks and this security guard was totally rude to us and would not let us anywhere near anything. The guys were taking down boom in preparation for Bonnie but we couldn't see anything. The guy behind him came over and talked to us and was actually pretty nice but didn't help us see anything.
Adjacent to the boom station was a place where the TNC folks keep the oyster sacks that are placed in the water to start a new reef.
The project actually involves comparing 3 different methods or structures - oyster sacks, Reefballs (shown here) and another triangular rebar structure called Reefblk.
After our boat trip, we stopped by the Dauphin Island Sea lab before taking the ferry across to Alabama Gulf Shores and the Fort Morgan peninsula. This is the coolest fish ever! A frogfish. Well several of them technically though most are not facing the camera. :)
And of course, the humble crab!
Next we took a ferry over to the Fort Morgan peninsula and stopped by the Beach Club for dinner and a stroll on the beach. I love this place - Alabama Gulf Shores - and its white sand beaches!! I love that they have these magnificent sea oats... so pretty.
I had fun shooting pics of the sea oats and the surf.
Unfortunately there was tar all in the surf! I actually thought these were all just black rocks at first. It wasn't until I picked one up....
Yep that's a tarball. Eww. Would not come off my hands. Note to self: do not rub tarballs in between your fingers when you don't have anything to wipe your hands off on!
As we walked down the beach we saw a sea turtle nest cordoned off. It's probably a loggerhead nest.
All these are tar balls...big and small, every one...
The Beach Club (a condo place where I've stayed before - it's pretty cool) had a Dawn station where you can wash the oil off...
We stayed at the Battle House hotel in Mobile, which was awesome! Went up to the rooftop hot tub and pool one of the nights and had some red wine. :)

No comments: