Wetlands, such as this one in St. Bernard Parish, are in danger. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
The first oil from the massive slick in the Gulf of Mexico is going to reach parts of the Louisiana coast today — not tomorrow or over the weekend — officials now estimate.
In the declaration of an emergency he issued a short time ago, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal states that:
"National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration models show the oil spill could reach parts of the Louisiana coastline Thursday, April 29, 2010, and proceed into the Breton Sound and Chandeleur Sound by Saturday, May 1, 2010. At this time, the Pass-a-Loutre Wildlife Management Area is expected to see the first impact of the oil spill."
Here is NOAA's latest projection of the slick's path, which you can also see by clicking here:
The Pass-a-Loutre Wildlife Management Area, as you might imagine, could be devastated by oil from the damaged rig that exploded off the coast (leaving 11 workers missing and presumed dead). According to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries:
"The area is characterized by river channels with attendant channel banks, natural bayous, and man-made canals which are interspersed with intermediate and fresh marshes. Hurricane damage and subsidence have contributed to a major demise of vegetated marsh areas resulting in formation of large ponds. Habitat development is primarily directed toward diverting sediment-laden waters into open bay systems (i.e., creating delta crevasses), which promotes delta growth.
"Waterfowl and other migratory game bird hunting, rabbit hunting, and archery hunting for deer are permitted on Pass-a-Loutre.
"A trapping program is conducted annually to control surplus furbearing animals and alligators.
"There is excellent fishing in the freshwater areas as well as the more saline waters. Fish species present are typical inland saltwater varieties near the gulf and along river channels. Freshwater species including bass, bream, catfish, crappie, warmouth, drum, and garfish can be caught in the interior marsh ponds. Salt water species include redfish, speckled trout and flounder."
It's important to bear in mind that the leak hasn't yet been stopped — and is said to be adding another 5,000 barrels of oil a day to the mess.