Stories coming from the Gulf of late are a mix of "open for business" optimism and never-ending stains from last year's spill. And of course, the music never stops. So here's a quick update on what's happening in my favorite region of the country.
- Although Tropical Storm Lee may have largely spared the Gulf coast, Alabama beaches did not fair so well. Smelly, ugly tar balls have washed up on Alabama beaches. Tests by Auburn University have concluded that the oil and tar originate from the blown BP well that spewed millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico 18 months ago. Volunteers and some BP clean-up crews worked rapidly to assess and manage the situation. The city of Gulf Shores, Alabama (home of the Hangout Fest) requested that BP send more cleaning machinery down to their beaches, only to be DENIED!
- Interestingly, Shaul Zislin, a partner in the Hangout Fest and owner of the restaurant of the same name, is featured in a new TV ad from BP encouraging gulf tourism. Hangout sold out in advance this year, and will be back on May 20-22 of next year.
- Nearly a year and half after the spill, federal agencies have released their most comprehensive study of the spill yet. I won’t bore you with the details of the 200+ page blame-fest, but…I will tell you a little something that may not surprise you in the least bit…experts concluded that shortcuts and poor management decisions by BP are to blame for over 75% of the disaster. Among the many possible outcomes of these findings, some believe the chance of criminal charges for BP have just increased.
- Despite the fact that fatal drilling mistakes led to one of the worst environmental disasters in our nation’s history, drilling in the Gulf of Mexico is back to pre-spill levels. Major explorations have led to new discoveries of billions of barrels of oil. Even BP is getting a piece of the proverbial oil pie as they already have deals in the works that would bring their rigs into the Gulf of Mexico. Although Gulf residents involved in the oil industry are pleased to hear the news, there is much concern about whether new regulations will be effective and how safe the drilling will be thousands of feet under water.
- And now some news from the entertainment world. I think it is fair to say that when people thinkabout music in New Orleans they think of Jazz, not hip-hop. Well, the explosive New Orleans-born rapper Lil’ Wayne, is doing everything he can to break those barriers and get NOLA hip hop on the map. Weezy released his new, highly anticipated album, Tha Carter IV, on August 29th. The album dropped with almost record-breaking numbers and sat comfortable at the Numero Uno spot on the Billboard 200 for close to three weeks! Can anyone say Cash Money?
- Six years after Katrina – where are we now? In the words of one New Orleans reporter, “Most of the work is done. But scars remain. What’s left is hard, and only getting harder.” Things that have righted the course include civic leadership, education, and soon, health care facilities. However, in a sign of failed long-term recovery, some insiders are still reporting that the city’s levees and pumps are in no better shape than they were 6 years ago.
- New growth spotted in the Louisiana wetlands! A Mississippi River sediment diversion has successfully brought new life to Lousiana’s wetlands. A tiny, newly-formed island has been found in the West Bay area. The island’s formation has been attributed to this year’s floods, which passed through the West Bay freshwater diversion. Wetland wildlife has already sprouted up on the island, and birds common in the area have used it as a breeding ground. This is a powerful example of how sediment diversion projects can help to restore the precious Louisiana wetlands.
Thanks to everyone for staying in-tune with all things Gulf Coast. It is increasingly important to keep fighting for a healthy, clean Gulf of Mexico and for peace of mind for the people who live and work in, on and around it. Remember, you can always check back with theHeadCount Blog for news updates on the Gulf Coast, elections, music and more!