An oil plume from the well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico is expected to wash ashore at Gulf Islands National Seashore by Saturday morning, and crews are working to be ready for that event.
Today some crews are working to assess conditions across the seashore, while others -- with the help of the U.S. Navy -- are working to install containment booms around the seashore's coastlines.
According to Gulf Islands Chief Ranger Clay Jordan, "the oil plume from the sunken oil rig Deepwater Horizon made landfall late yesterday afternoon along the Mississippi River delta. It’s forecast to progress northward and eastward and estimated to make landfall in the park’s Mississippi District tomorrow and the Florida District on Monday."
"The incident has been legally 'federalized,' which opens the door to public funding and a (Department of Defense) response, which was immediate. Rough weather forecast for this weekend may cause unusually high oil inundation of beaches – reaching vegetation – unless landfall comes later than forecast," added the chief ranger.
The oil spill could be devastating to the seashore's shorebird populations. According to the American Bird Conservancy, Gulf Islands "hosts thousands of wintering shorebirds, including endangered Piping Plover, Wilson’s Plover, and American Oystercatcher, as well as Brown Pelican, Black-crowned Night-Heron, White Ibis, and Black Skimmer."
As part of their preparation, national seashore crews conducted water and sediment sampling Thursday in the Mississippi District, with the same to be done within the Florida District today.
Containment booms have been deployed on Cat Island, West Ship Island, East Ship Island, Horn Island, Perdido Key, and Ft. Pickens, according to park officials. Additional deployments were made at Davis Bayou, Perdido Key and Ft. Pickens on Thursday, but rough seas did not permit further deployment along Mississippi District islands.
Additionally, crews went over park maps to identify "vulnerable archaeological sites" and it's been recommended that specialists be dispatched to those sites during cleanup operations to ensure they're not impacted by heavy equipment.
One problem that has arisen, though, is a lack of wildlife biologists and information officers to help during the incident, according to park officials.
Along with preparing Gulf Islands for the oil, teams were coordinating with National Park Service staff at Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, Padre Island National Seashore, De Soto National Memorial, Everglades National Park and Dry Tortugas National Park in anticipation of potential future impacts.