Hundreds of migratory birds likely impacted by oil spill near Grand Isle

Hundreds of migratory birds likely impacted by oil spill near Grand Isle

CUT OFF, LA (WVUE) - Hundreds of migratory birds could be affected by an oil spill near Grand Isle as the U.S. Coast Guard and response teams work to clean it up.

It happened on Sept. 5 when a contractor working on an environmental mitigation project funded through BP settlement dollars clipped a pipeline on the Chenier Ronquille Barrier Island, releasing more than 5,300 gallons of oil into Bay Long, just east of Grand Isle.

"During the project, an excavator actually punctured one of the lines that ultimately led to the release," said Capt. Wayne Arguin with the U.S. Coast Guard.

The response effort started almost immediately, as dozens of people mobilized to the temporary response center in Cut Off and the owner of the pipeline fronted the cost to begin the cleanup.

"This is nowhere near the size or scope of BP, but individual impacts could be similar. There have been some wildlife that have been impacted," Arguin said.

Crews have spent the past nine days skimming and recovering oil from the bay while monitoring nearby coastlines.

"We're just doing shoreline impact in this area here and we've had very, very minor impacts outside of this main spill area," said John Lane, who is heading up the cleaning effort.

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is using net guns and other tactics to recover oiled birds and bring them to a treatment and care facility.

"What happens is those birds that don't have a lot of oil on them, they're still flighted and they fly, so it's a little difficult to catch those," said Rhonda Murgatroyd, the managing director of Wildlife Response Services.

Murgatroyd's team is currently treating a handful of laughing gulls and clapper rails, two migratory species affected by the spill.

"There are more because LDWF has seen additional birds in the field and the weather has been a little choppy out there, so it's been difficult to have a lot of time today, but there are plenty of crews down there ready to go back out and capture more birds," Murgatroyd said.

Now crews are hoping to finish up the cleanup effort after making quick progress to recover a majority of the oil in the water.

"We are very pleased with the way this is going, we jumped on it right away our responders from the state as well as the Coast Guard were out there from jump street and we got on, we had the boom and the skimmers everything we needed and we're really satisfied with where we're at right now," said Marty Chabert, the Louisiana oil spill coordinator, said.

An investigation is underway to determine the exact cause and responsible party, but crews are hopeful their cleanup effort will be completed shortly.

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