Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Hurricane Ike report from Texas Parks & Wildlife

Here, you'll read about oil spills and saltwater intrusion along the Texas coast caused by Hurricane Ike in mid-September.

Chip Wood, an assessment biologist with Texas Park & Wildlife Department’s Natural Resources Trustee Program, said they're concerned about spills on various refuges and sanctuaries because migrating waterfowl will arrive in late October. "We’re working to monitor cleanup progress," he said. "If there’s still black oil on the water as birds come in to roost, they can be oiled. Experience shows waterfowl will typically not avoid contaminated areas."

Authorities ask people to call the National Response Center at 800-424-8802 to report pollution or displaced hazardous materials. To report oiled or injured wildlife in areas affected by Ike, call the TPWD Law Enforcement communications dispatcher at 281-842-8100.

The saltwater intrusion might prove a bigger problem in some areas.
But it’s another story for the Sabine Lake system marshes near Beaumont-Port Arthur, which are mostly freshwater and unused to high salinity. In recent decades, freshwater flow to these wetlands has already been reduced by industrialization along the Sabine River and the Intracoastal Waterway. At the storm’s height, the tide gauge at the Neches River saltwater barrier showed water flowing upriver 30 times faster than the river was flowing downstream before the storm surge. Now, levees and other infrastructure built around area wetlands are slowing Ike’s saltwater surge from draining.

"This hurricane may really be a pivotal factor that moves these freshwater marshes over to more saline type marsh," said Jamie Schubert, a Coastal Fisheries Division marsh ecologist who is team leader for upper coast ecosystem assessment. "Most plants here are used to freshwater, and once they die, that could affect the soil and lead to marsh loss. Increased marsh loss can affect the entire food chain. And that could have long-term impacts for fisheries production, including commercial and recreational species that use these marshes, such as red drum, white shrimp, and blue crab."
Map courtesy of Wikipedia

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