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Texas Oil Spill Shocker

The real truth of the Galveston oil spill: Ignored birds covered in oil, a dead dolphin in a plastic bag

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Galveston oil spill March 2014 dead dolphin being taken care of
A volunteer prepares to remove a dead dolphin from the beach. Photo by Katie Oxford
1. Katie Oxford Galveston oil spill March 2014 Entering Galveston County - Intracoastal Waterway Bridge - going south on 124 to High Island
Entering Galveston County via the Intracoastal Waterway Bridge going south on 124 to High Island. Photo by Katie Oxford
5. Katie Oxford Galveston oil spill March 2014 Parked barge
Keep out. Photo by Katie Oxford
3, Katie Oxford Galveston oil spill March 2014 Parked barge on waterway
Parked barge on waterway. Photo by Katie Oxford
6. Katie Oxford Galveston oil spill March 2014 Not much moving on the Intracoastal Waterway
Not much moving on the Intracoastal Waterway. Photo by Katie Oxford
13. Katie Oxford Galveston oil spill March 2014 Dead dolphin. Carnival Magic leaving Galveston Bay
The dead dolphin in the foreground, with Carnival Magic leaving Galveston Bay in the background. Photo by Katie Oxford
8. Katie Oxford Galveston oil spill March 2014 Oil slicked Sandpiper (maybe a Plover)
Oil slicked Sandpiper, maybe a Plover. Photo by Katie Oxford
19. Katie Oxford Galveston oil spill March 2014 Tankers waiting just outside Galveston Bay. Note orange tint in water
Tankers waiting just outside Galveston Bay. Note the orange tint in the water. Photo by Katie Oxford
16. Katie Oxford Galveston oil spill March 2014 At Milt’s Dock House - Shrimp boats were parked too
At Milt’s Dock House, shrimp boats were parked, too. Photo by Katie Oxford
17. Katie Oxford Galveston oil spill March 2014 Marquee at Bolivar Ferry
The marquee at the Bolivar Ferry. Photo by Katie Oxford
20. Katie Oxford Galveston oil spill March 2014 Boom at Seawolf Park
Boom at Seawolf Park. Photo by Katie Oxford
21 Katie Oxford Galveston oil spill March 2014 oil containment
Another look at the boom. Photo by Katie Oxford
22. Katie Oxford Galveston oil spill March 2014 Blockade at Seawall Boulevard & Apffel Park Road
Blockade at Seawall Boulevard and Apffel Park Road. Photo by Katie Oxford
23. Katie Oxford Galveston oil spill March 2014 Final shot. Beyond the Blockade
Beyond the blockade. Photo by Katie Oxford
18. Katie Oxford Galveston oil spill March 2014 From Bolivar Ferry - Bollard, Boom, and parked Tanker
From the Bolivar Ferry, booms and the parked tanker. Photo by Katie Oxford
Galveston oil spill March 2014 dead dolphin being taken care of
1. Katie Oxford Galveston oil spill March 2014 Entering Galveston County - Intracoastal Waterway Bridge - going south on 124 to High Island
5. Katie Oxford Galveston oil spill March 2014 Parked barge
3, Katie Oxford Galveston oil spill March 2014 Parked barge on waterway
6. Katie Oxford Galveston oil spill March 2014 Not much moving on the Intracoastal Waterway
13. Katie Oxford Galveston oil spill March 2014 Dead dolphin. Carnival Magic leaving Galveston Bay
8. Katie Oxford Galveston oil spill March 2014 Oil slicked Sandpiper (maybe a Plover)
19. Katie Oxford Galveston oil spill March 2014 Tankers waiting just outside Galveston Bay. Note orange tint in water
16. Katie Oxford Galveston oil spill March 2014 At Milt’s Dock House - Shrimp boats were parked too
17. Katie Oxford Galveston oil spill March 2014 Marquee at Bolivar Ferry
20. Katie Oxford Galveston oil spill March 2014 Boom at Seawolf Park
21 Katie Oxford Galveston oil spill March 2014 oil containment
22. Katie Oxford Galveston oil spill March 2014 Blockade at Seawall Boulevard & Apffel Park Road
23. Katie Oxford Galveston oil spill March 2014 Final shot. Beyond the Blockade
18. Katie Oxford Galveston oil spill March 2014 From Bolivar Ferry - Bollard, Boom, and parked Tanker
News_Katie Oxford_hair cut_column mug_head shot

A day after the oil spill in Galveston Bay, I called a guy I’d met a few weeks ago on Oak Island, six miles south of Anahuac. I had gone there to pay tribute to a deceased friend. He reported that they didn’t have a problem at all in Trinity Bay.

Fortunately, they’d had a northeast wind blowing. Best he could tell, the oil was at the Texas City Dike. “They oughta have it pretty well contained and cleaned up probably by this evening,” he said.  

Denial runs deeper than a river, I thought.

The next day, I traveled the long way to Galveston. I drove 1-10 East and took 61 South toward Anahuac. I turned left on FM 1985 and headed east, which minus a few curves runs as straight as a ruler. Off to the right in the distance, the bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway looked like a prehistoric dinosaur. That’s where I found the first sign of trouble flashing across a black marquee. OIL IN WATER – MUST REMAIN IN VEHICLE.
 
Just past High Island, I turned right on Highway 87 and traveled west on Bolivar peninsula. The peninsula is so narrow now that in places you can see both the Gulf and the Intracoastal Waterway. Typically, barges move like snakes down the waterway but on this day, all of them were parked. After awhile, I stopped counting them.
 
Oil Shaken
 
Further west at Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary, I parked my car and walked the beach where I met a birder. He was looking through binoculars at a Sandpiper, or so we thought, covered with oil.  He explained that he’d already reported the bird to the Texas Parks and Wildlife.  
 
About a mile west of there, I came across four workers carrying a dead dolphin in a plastic bag. They didn’t like talking to me much. One explained that until they performed the lab work, they couldn’t know for sure what killed it.
 
Leaving Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary, I stopped a guy who was driving a Texas Parks and Wildlife truck and asked him if he’d seen any birds. He said that he’d been driving the beach for 10 miles and hadn’t seen one bird with oil. I told him about the Sandpiper. 
 
“Oh, there’s tons of birds with oil on em’,” he said, “but they’re not catchable.” He must have seen my jaw drop. “If they can fly,” he said, “they’re OK.”
 
I got back on Highway 87 and continued toward the Bolivar Ferry, where I saw another marquee with the same message. OIL IN WATER – MUST REMAIN IN VEHICLE. I pulled over to take a look at the oil booms on the Gulf side and a few minutes later, a nice couple from Port Arthur walked up. They’d just taken the ferry over from Galveston. The man had counted 20 or so tankers parked just outside Galveston Bay waiting to get in. “A lot of people are gonna get hurt from this,” he said.
 
Now riding the ferry over to Galveston, I saw the orange booms snaking around Seawolf Park had turned black. A family from Minnesota told me that the park had been closed since Sunday. Their son had also wanted to visit the Elisa (an historic ship) but it was closed too.
 
On Galveston Island, I took a left on Seawall Boulevard and traveled toward the east end of the island. About a mile later, I came to a road blockade. After working up some nerve, I drove around it and continued. Until just up ahead, I saw some police car lights turn on and hit the brakes. To my relief, they weren’t for me. I made a U-turn and decided that it was time to go home.  
 
Driving back, I thought about the dolphin and worried more about what I could not see. While it’s way too early to know the damage, there will be those who will minimize this oil spill.
 
In spite of what Mother Nature says. Repeatedly.

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