The Seattle Times

In La., signs of regrowth seen in oiled marshes
The Seattle Times

Shoots of marsh grass and bushes of mangrove trees already are starting to grow back in the bay where just months ago photographers shot startling images of dying pelicans coated in oil from the massive Gulf oil spill.

More than a dozen scientists interviewed by The Associated Press say the marsh here and across the Louisiana coast is healing itself, giving them hope delicate wetlands might weather the worst offshore spill in U.S. history better than they had feared. Some marshland could be lost, but the amount appears to be small compared with what the coast loses every year through human development.

On Tuesday, a cruise through the Barataria Bay marsh revealed thin shoots growing up out of the oiled mass of grass. Elsewhere, there were still gray, dead mangrove shrubs, likely killed by the oil, but even there new green growth was coming up.

Whether it is a triumph of cleanup work, the marshes’ resiliency or both, scientists have reported regrowth of grasses, black mangrove trees and roseau cane, a lush, tall cane found in the brackish waters around the mouth of the Mississippi River. « The marsh is coming back, sprigs are popping up, » said Alexander S. Kolker, a marsh expert and coastal geologist in Cocodrie, La., with the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium.

For now, she and her son-in-law, Joseph Breaux, a 41-year-old grain elevator worker, are upbeat. « I don’t see an oil slick or nothing, » Breaux said. His two daughters and wife were going back and forth on the pier tending to a fishing line and crab nets. « We’re going to have us a crab boil, » he said.