Next week, we’ll be down on the Louisiana Bayou during the one year anniversary of BP’s Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. And we’re very lucky to be going down there. This excerpt of an article from the Associated Press today illustrates why we chose to go down this year.
At dawn, the sky south of New Orleans is fringed with violet and pockets of thick fog mix with the odor from Chevron’s Oronite fuel additives plant. But another 14 miles down Louisiana Highway 23, the sun breaks through, and Mark Brockhoeft climbs into a flat-bottomed boat painted camouflage, motoring into a marshland that is its own world.
A flock of mottled ducks erupts from the high grass. The fins of fat redfish slice the water like torpedoes. Brockhoeft, who sports a thick moustache and a Saints cap, has been plying this bayou as a fly fishing guide since 1993. But the familiar scene still kindles a smile.
“You can take it for granted,” he says. “We did. Until we were about to lose it.”
Before the spill was capped, thick slicks moved into Barataria Bay, connected to the bayou about 10 miles south. The oil was the last in a series of setbacks for Brockhoeft, who once worked on the water 250 days a year. But that was before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks prevented tourists from flying down to fish. Hurricane Katrina swamped this part of Plaquemines Parish, putting it off limits for weeks and taking the lodges that accommodate anglers out of commission. The area rebuilt, but the recession kept visitors away.
If oil made it to the marshes, Brockhoeft knew, it would be over. When BP flooded the region with money, Brockhoeft rented out a boat and crew to a cleanup contractor at $1,560 a day for 82 days. Meanwhile, he sent back customers’ deposits and talked with friends about moving.
“Where the hell are we going to go? We were born down here. We spent our lives down here. Our livelihood is here,” says Brockhoeft, who is 58 and worked for a mosquito control company before becoming a guide.
Crews kept the oil at bay long enough to keep these backwaters open to fishing and to cap the well. Now, when clients call to ask, Brockhoeft assures them that “it’s beautiful. Come on down.”
But the guide says he’ll be glad this year to get bookings for more than 130 days on the water. And, while he’s upbeat about the health of the estuary, he watches for signs the oil and chemicals used to disperse it might eventually filter into a world that sees fish and other wildlife migrate between bayou and Gulf.