Though facing long odds in the battle against oil encroaching on fragile wetlands, federal officials remain vigilant about protecting hundreds of miles of the Gulf Coast from the expanding BP slick. Photo courtesy of Greg Thompson/FWS.
VENICE, La. -- As fingers of oil from the massive Deepwater Horizon spill continue to expand along the Gulf Coast, officials are scrambling to protect marshes and beaches. But there's only so much that can be done, experts say.
So far, efforts to keep the oil offshore have centered on two strategies: booms and berms.
For weeks, workers have encircled barrier islands in the Mississippi River Delta with floating containment booms -- long, linked sections of PVC fabric -- designed to keep oil from reaching the marshes, with mixed success. More recently, Louisiana officials are undertaking a new project to construct 6-foot-high sand berms on the seaward side of barrier islands fringing the delta to protect sensitive shorelines, fish nurseries and other wildlife habitat further inland.
But with such large volumes of oil spreading through the Gulf -- between 12,000 and 25,000 barrels continue to spew each day from BP PLC's damaged well 50 miles offshore -- many experts doubt whether such efforts will be effective.