One year after the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill devastated the Gulf Coast, residents still have more questions than answers about when they'll be properly compensated, if seafood sales will pick back up and whether the Gulf will ever truly recover.
The Gulf Oil Spill One Year Later
BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor (Venice, Louisiana):
Now to what brings us here to Louisiana. It is hard to believe it's been a year since those first sketchy reports of some sort of big blowout on an offshore rig off the coast of Louisiana. The BP disaster, as it later become known, went on for months. So did those relentlessly depressing underwater pictures. In all, 4.9 million barrels of oil discharged over the long 87 days. To this day, 66 miles of coastline remain moderately or severely oiled. So how is this area doing now? That is a big question. Our chief environmental affairs correspondent Anne Thompson back with us again here with some answers.
And here we are again, Anne.
ANNE THOMPSON reporting:
Hi, Brian. And things are still tough down here, in part because of the losses you can't quantified, like the erosion of trust in officials who spent months underestimating the size of this spill, and promises that a year later have yet to be delivered.
Along Louisiana's coastal bayous, nature's breeding grounds, there are signs of spring and sounds of lurking danger. Air canons scare birds from sandbars and marshes where the Mississippi River meets the Gulf of Mexico and oil lies just beneath the surface. A reminder of the deadly explosion that sank the Deepwater Horizon, killing 11 men, including Shelley Anderson's husband, Jason. For her family life can't ever be the same.
Ms. SHELLEY ANDERSON: I just do the best that I can, one day at a time. I don't normally plan past a week or two. We just keep moving forward as best we can.
THOMPSON: Across the gulf, folks try to recover and cope. Oil production is still down 160,000 barrels a day, tourism losses are projected to reach $22 billion by 2013.
Mr. KEN FEINBERG: We're not certain about the future of the gulf.
THOMPSON: But the number on most people's minds is 20 billion, the amount of the claims fund established to make victims whole administered by Ken Feinberg.
Mr. FEINBERG: There have been mistakes. I'm the first to admit it.
THOMPSON: He says the numbers reveal some success. Three hundred thousand claims paid for a total of almost $4 billion. Most were emergency payments.
Unidentified Man: Why don't you have people helping with the claims processing?
THOMPSON: Today's frustration is over his calculation of final payments, a process some say is slow and doesn't cover all they've lost.
Can you make people whole? Will you make people whole?
Mr. FEINBERG: I can't give you back your heritage. I can't restore the gulf the way it was a hundred years ago. I can only do what small role I can play in providing you compensation for your current damage.
THOMPSON: Mitch Jurisich is harvesting oysters again, but sales are slow.
Mr. MITCH JURISICH: If we can get back to 30 percent of what we normally did, we'll be--I know it's crazy to say this--somewhat satisfied, because at least we'll be able to do something and pay the bills.
President BARACK OBAMA: (From file footage) These are the tar balls that they're talking about.
THOMPSON: Jurisich met with President Obama on his first trip to the gulf and listened to his promises.
Pres. OBAMA: (From file footage) You will not be abandoned.
Mr. JURISICH: Just getting our share of it back.
THOMPSON: And now?
Mr. JURISICH: I don't know that there's really much he can do. Kick Feinberg in the butt and tell him to get off his butt.
THOMPSON: And among the many questions, what's behind the fourfold increase in dolphin deaths? Dr. Moby Solangi tracks the strandings in Mississippi and Alabama, 86 so far this year, 67 babies.
Dr. MOBY SOLANGI: It is very unusual. It was very concerning.
THOMPSON: But there are no answers yet. The government won't reveal any results because of the ongoing criminal investigation into the spill.
Dr. Samantha Joye of the University of Georgia is looking at the effects of a layer of oil her team found on the bottom of the gulf, suffocating the first links in the food web.
Dr. SAMANTHA JOYE: You cannot expect those kinds of impacts to be clear and apparent in 12 months.
THOMPSON: One year later so much is unknown, and yet there still is hope.
Dr. JOYE: There's no doubt that it will come back and be as robust as it was before, but it's going to take time.
THOMPSON: Now despite that optimism, the people down here who have generations invested in these waters say they need fast financial help so they can stay afloat and give this to the next generation. Brian:
WILLIAMS: Anne, I want to talk a little bit more about this later on the broadcast, specifically the oil that remains here. Anne Thompson with us here in Venice, Louisiana.