Time and distance have been Florida’s friend in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, said Gary Holder, assistant executive director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission today, Aug. 19, to the Florida Outdoor Writers Association. The static kill, top kill, worked as of Aug. 1. Florida was lucky that its impact was contained, he said.
BP spent $100 million in Florida thus far for proactive cleanup and tourism public relations efforts, he said. This figure does not include individual and business impact requests.
A great deal of oil evaporated from the surface; warm weather cooked it off or it evaporated; some was skimmed, and directly recovered.
From Cape San Blas in Florida west, thousands of pounds washed up on beaches. The state employed skimmers and booms in our waters, and physical equipment for oil cleanup that made it past the skimmers. Because we had time, our forces picked up oil in the form of tar balls and bagged it. They cleaned the beaches every day. The good news for shore line impacts is there are no new tar balls washing ashore, Holder said.
Florida crews were able to access the beaches, better than wetland situations. “We could get equipment there and thus got it out of the environment quickly,” said Holder.
However, 4.9 million barrels of oil escaped so impacts will be seen for months and years to come. Twenty-six percent of the escaped oil is still out there, being monitored and tracked.
Florida is “still booming,” Holder continued tongue-in-cheek. At its peak, nearly 800,000 feet of boom were deployed. The amount of boom still deployed is 73,580 feet. In Tier 1 and 2 (far west Panhandle): 496,400 feet was deployed; in the adjacent Tier 3 (comprising Panama City Beach): 303,460 feet was deployed.
Water and air monitoring continues, assessing chemical components, and will for the foreseeable future. No health issues in Florida were reported from this event, he said. Long term, Natural Resource Damage Assessment samples are being taken statewide.
All that said, impacts to Florida included:
Loss of service (fishing areas closed; 23-mile area of state waters were initially closed). As of now, all state waters are open.
Beach habitat affected;
Dune habitats and coastal vegetation: reconnaissance, response and cleanup activities;
Seagrass beds: impacts from boom and vessels of opportunity; they were able to help;
Oiling of sand resources offshore
Florida: total of visibly oiled birds:
428 were dead or recovered; 199 were recovered dead; 144 died post recovery. Total recovered alive: 229: 144 died, 18 released, 67 still in rehabilitation.
135 recovered; 134 recovered alive. Total dead 2 (1 recovered dead, one died post-recovery)
Sea turtle nest recovery:
Scientists decided it was better to move turtle nests that were in four Panhandle counties
230 were dug and moved down the cape.
So far, 7,000 hatchlings have hatched and released.
“We’ve been really happy with these results.”
To see real time what’s happening as the event continues to unfold, visit http://map.floridadisaster.org/GATOR/index.html
Another source is www.deepwaterhorizonflorida.com. Comprehensive information is updated each day. The toll-free number to report first-hand water quality observations is 1-888-337-3569.