POSTED: Friday, April 19, 2013 - 5:00am
UPDATED: Monday, April 22, 2013 - 7:45pm
Plaquemines Parish, La (NBC33) — Plaquemines Parish officials are fighting to save coastal islands along the Gulf as the three year anniversary of the Deep Water Horizon oilrig explosion draws near. They say the oil spill destroyed the islands.
"These plant would still be green if it had not been for the oil,” Billy Nungesser,
Places such as Cat Island East and West used to be full of large mangroves and pelicans. Now dead plants cover what's left.
Plaquemines Parish officials say the islands started to shrink because of the BP oil spill.
"The mangroves are dead. The oil killed the mangroves. The root system died and with the root system dying, you lose the islands," P.J. Hahn, director of Coastal Zone Management for Plaquemines Parish, explained.
On April 20, 2010 the Deep Water Horizon oilrig exploded. Then the event forced more than 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf. Three years later officials say the oil is still washing up on shore on islands along the coast. Clumps of oil could be seen on the shores of Bay Jimmy, still destroying the pelican's habitat.
“Now what does that do? It allows salt water now to come further inland and kill more marsh.
Hundreds of pelicans have to cram on tiny islands to nest. The overcrowding is a sign of the damage to their habitat. Sand slips away from the islands every day and without change, officials say the birds could lose their home.
“Out here their nests are safe, that's what makes this a great area to breed these birds. That's gone now,” Nungesser said.
Parish leaders have a plan to save the islands. They just need money to make it happen.
"Every day we wait it becomes more costly, and we lose more land,” Nungesser exclaimed.
"We've got a permit for the island all we need is the money,” Hahn said. “Now if BP wants to make it right, come up with the money and make it right."
Parish leaders hope BP settlement money comes in before they lose the islands and the birds.
"Without quick restoration of this island it will be lost forever," Nungesser said.