Category Archives: Features

Oil Found in Gulf Beach Sand, Even After Cleanups

oiled-sediment-usgs
Oiled sediment. This photo shows the swash zone at USGS sampling location MS-39 on East Ship Island, MS. Waves have cut a steep section into the sand, revealing alternating layers of clean and sticky organic-rich sand that are visible after low tide. (The swash zone is the zone that is alternately covered and exposed by waves.) Captions and Photo source: Shane Stocks / USGS

Excerpts;

Oil patties and tarballs were discovered as deep as 2 feet (0.6 meter) beneath beaches dirtied by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill—the deepest oil yet found by a team of University of South Florida coastal geologists that’s been studying the effects of the oil spill on Gulf beaches since early May. The previous record had been 6 inches (about 15 centimeters) deep, said geologist Ping Wang, the team’s leader.

The discoveries suggest that toxic oil lies hidden under even “clean” patches of beaches along the U.S. Gulf Coast, and that oil-spill cleanup crews are only scratching the surface.

Because the buried oil is both harder to clean and slower to break down, it could be a long-lasting threat to beachgoers, both animal and human, experts say…

Read Full Article; By Christine Dell’Amore, National Geographic.

Mangrove forests in worldwide decline


Photograph: © SAF — Coastal Care

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More than one in six mangrove species worldwide are in danger of extinction due to coastal development and other factors, including climate change, logging and agriculture, according to the first-ever global assessment on the conservation status of mangroves for the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

As a result, 11 out of 70 mangrove species (16 percent) which were assessed will be placed on the IUCN Red List. The Atlantic and Pacific coasts of Central America, where as many as 40 percent of mangrove species are considered threatened, are particularly affected…

Read Full Article; By the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Mangrove Extinction Risk and Geographic Areas of Global Concern, in Plos One

BP spill hits a somber record as Gulf’s biggest

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Oil moving into a marsh. Photo source: NOAA

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BP’s massive oil spill became the largest ever in the Gulf of Mexico on July 1st based on the highest of the federal government’s estimates, an ominous record that underscores the oil giant’s dire need to halt the gusher.

The oil that’s spewed for two and a half months from a blown-out well a mile under the sea hit the 140.6 million gallon mark, eclipsing the record-setting, 140-million-gallon Ixtoc I spill off Mexico’s coast from 1979 to 1980. Even by the lower end of the government’s estimates, at least 71.7 million gallons are in the Gulf…

Read Full Article; By Tom Breen and Seth Borenstein, Associated Press

70,000 turtle eggs to be whisked far from oil

sea turtle egg
Photo source: ©©Emmanuel Frezzotti

Excerpts;

An effort to scoop thousands of turtle eggs from their nests to save them from death in the oily Gulf of Mexico will begin in the coming weeks in a desperate attempt to keep an entire generation of threatened species from vanishing.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will coordinate the plan, which calls for collecting about 70,000 turtle eggs in up to 800 nests buried in the sand across Florida Panhandle and Alabama beaches.

It’s never been done on such a massive scale. But doing nothing, experts say, could lead to unprecedented deaths. There are fears the turtles would be coated in oil and poisoned by crude-soaked food as they hatch and swim out to sea…

Read Full Article; By Brian Skoloff, AP.

Goleta Beach, California; By Claire Le Guern

Goleta Beach

By Claire Le Guern

Goleta Beach County Park, occupies approximately 29 acres with 4,200 feet of beach frontage in Santa Barbara County. The Beach Park is bounded on the west by the University of California at Santa Barbara and to the north and east, by private natural gas generation and storage facilities. An easement containing various utility and sewage lines traverses the park. To the northwest, Clarence Ward Memorial Boulevard separates the Park from the greater area of Goleta Slough and the Santa Barbara Municipal Airport. All portions of Goleta Beach Park situated landward of the sandy beach are located on top of a clay-rich fill base.

Goleta Beach Park has been a treasured community investment going back to the early 1900s. Today it is still the most heavily used park in the Santa Barbara County system, with an estimated 1.4 million visitors per year.

An ongoing problem concerning Goleta Beach is coastal erosion; sand and sediment is constantly being washed away and the beach is narrowing. After facing several El Niño storms, in the last 14 years, the beach has been eroding at an average rate of 20 feet (6 m)-per-year, and the park and its structures is in danger of being lost.

In response to this erosion, the County has placed several rock revetments on Goleta Beach in attempt to protect the park structures.

In 2009, the California Coastal Commission voted 9-1 to deny Santa Barbara County’s proposal to build a permeable pile pier, a “hard” structure designed to allegedly slow the effects of beach erosion by holding sand on the beach along the wharf at Goleta Beach. But in doing so, this groin project would have interfered with down-coast movement of sand to other beaches.

In March 2010, a “soft “option was chosen, that is: beach nourishment (actually re-nourishment or replenishment). In a sense, beach nourishment certainly appears as a far better solution than construction of hardened structures such as sea walls and groins, in that it allows the beach to continue to exist, well…temporarily! Indeed, beaches must be nourished in perpetuity, again and again and again. One can look at the nourishment record of nearby beaches to get a very rough idea of how long a particular beach may last, but of course, if the big storm occurs the day after the beach is nourished all estimates are meaningless… (Orin Pilkey, PSDS).

Beach (re-)nourishment involves bringing in sand by dredge, barge, or truck, to artificially build up the height and breadth of naturally disappearing beaches. Approximately 50,000 cubic yards of sand
necessary to Goleta’s beach replenishment, has been collected from Santa Barbara West Beach and Harbor. The nourishment project cost was 1.6 millions dollars.

Beach nourishment has both direct and indirect effects upon flora and fauna of the sandy shore, impacts that occur during dredging of subtidal sand, as well as those that occur during emplacement. The loss of beach critters is believed to impact on the shore birds and the swimming nearshore creatures, and to reduce the quality of fishing.

Key to the (temporary) performance of a beach nourishment project resides in sand compatibility used to nourish, the eroding shoreline. The borrow sand must contain essentially all of the same grain sizes that exist on the beach to be replenished. Thus, sand compatibility studies are of utmost importance. Costs for such investigations range from $100,000 to more than $500,000. Nationwide there has been a lack of control of beach sand quality for nourished beaches leading to dozens of beaches that are too rocky, too shelly or with a high mud content.

The shape of a beach may vary over distances of a kilometer to hundreds of kilometers and is based on the balance between processes that promote erosion and processes that favor deposition of sediment. Palliatives and artificial attempts to slow beach erosion exacerbate the problem. Thus, Nature needs to be observed and apprehended in responsible ways, and coastal developpement, construction and re-configuration need to be in accordance with reality.

Santa Barbara County Parks held a public forum last April, to discuss Goleta Beach 2.0, a new plan to protect Goleta Beach from land erosion. The plan includes the option called managed retreat whereby structures, utility lines and the west end parking area at Goleta Beach Park would be moved away from the beach to allow a more natural erosion buffer zone.

The managed retreat option appears as the best solution. Beaches are dynamic, changing in shape over both space and time, while the seas are rising. As the beaches are allowed to naturally grow, upper beach dune plants and dunes will eventually form.

These are nature’s best form of coastal defense.

criminal penalties when entering oil cleanup ‘safety zone’

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Following manual cleanup at Fourchon Beach, La., on May 27, 2010, booms made out of plastic pom-poms are set to protect the sandy beach area. Captions and Photo source: NOAA

Excerpts;

The Coast Guard has put new restrictions in place across the Gulf Coast that prevent the public, including news photographers and reporters covering the BP oil spill, from coming within 65 feet of any response vessels or booms on the water or on beaches.

According to a news release from the Unified Command, violation of the “safety zone” rules can result in a civil penalty of up to $40,000, and could be classified as a Class D felony. Because booms are often placed more than 40 feet on the outside of islands or marsh grasses, the 65-foot rule could make it difficult to photograph and document the impacts of oil on land and wildlife, media representatives said…

Read Full Article; By Kris Kirkham, Picayune Times.

UK backing loans for ‘risky’ offshore oil drilling in Brazil

rig-worker
Photo source: ©© William Kitzinger

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The British government is subsidising one of the world’s largest and riskiest oil-drilling projects in the Atlantic Ocean and would be liable for tens of millions of pounds if a major accident took place.

Documents seen by the Guardian show that UK trade ministers underwrote loans taken out by the Brazilian state-run energy company Petrobras in 2005 in order that Rolls Royce and other companies could contribute to the building of the giant P-52 platform.

The platform is now operating 125km off the coast of Brazil in 1,798 metres (5,900 feet) of water, deeper than BP’s Deepwater rig…

Read Full Article; Guardian UK

US accepts Gulf oil spill aid from 12 countries

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Photo source: NOAA / US Coast Guards

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The United States will accept offers from 12 foreign countries to help clean up and contain the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, officials said on Tuesday.

Offers of boom to contain oil and collect it off the surface of the water have been accepted from Canada, Mexico, Norway and Japan, said a spokeswoman from the Unified Area Command, an entity headed by the US Coast Guard that is coordinating with BP on the oil spill response.

A total of 27 countries have offered assistance to the US government following the explosion in April of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig…

Read Full Article; AFP