Recovery continues 9 years after Deepwater Horizon disaster

Updated: Apr. 20, 2019 at 9:44 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Saturday (April 20) marks nine years since the fatal Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill, and while Louisianans remember those lives lost in the disaster, leaders say we can also celebrate strides in recovery.

Although the coast may not be fully restored, residents have reclaimed their waters from devastation. Plaqumines Parish President Kirk Lepine said the improvements are ongoing, even almost a decade later.

“We seem to be bouncing back each day,” Lepine said.

Louisiana has come a long way since the Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser said.

“The coast is coming back, the seafood’s back, just like a hurricane, we pick ourselves up and we come back,” Nungesser said.

But nine years after the catastrophe, there are still 11 lives loved ones will never get back.

"I woke up this morning and said a prayer for their families," Nungesser said.

Nungesser said he remembers the night well. He was Plaquemines Parish President when tragedy struck.

“You felt helpless because you were there on the shore, listening to the radio and the people being pulled out of the water,” Nungesser said.

In the days that followed, the aftermath of the explosion and subsequent spill plagued Plaquemines.

“It was a very difficult time, trying to work with the Coast Guard and officials and having good ideas across Louisiana, and not being able to implement them,” Nungesser explained.

Nungesser said the parish clashed with other responding agencies, in part due to ineffective communication.

"That's why you saw the frustration every night, from rescuing the birds, to finally getting the berms going," he said.

In the wake of adversity, residents persevered, demonstrating the strength and resiliency of Louisianans.

"Louisianans stepped up to the plate, went out there, took the situation into their own hands and really helped save our coast," Nungesser said.

BP was ordered to fork over $45 million to Plaquemines Parish -- an amount that did not please everyone.

“If you ask me, on a personal note, I sat on the council. And I don’t think it was enough money, but I voted to settle,” Lepine said.

Still, Lepine said the money was put to good use. In addition to helping to restore the coast and the state’s seafood industry, he said the parish utilized cash for capital improvement and infrastructure projects.

Yet, perhaps just as important are the lessons learned. Nungesser and Lepine said preventive measures since put into place and improved relations with responding agencies make the parish better prepared for the future.

“We absolutely think of everything we do a little differently because of that horrible explosion,” Nungesser said.

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