Katie Moore / Eyewitness News
NEW ORLEANS -- Wildlife experts caution: the Gulf Coast might not see the full impact of the BP oil spill for several years. Meantime, contractors for the oil giant are still trying to get the oil out of some of the Gulf’s most delicate habitats.
On the one-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion, charter fishing captain Dave Marino said the trip to find oil by boat is a lot quicker of a trip than it used to be, because oil is a lot closer.
“This is where we fish. This is, the areas that have been directly affected by the oil. I would say it's 75 percent of the areas where I usually fish and bring customers,” he said.
But he can’t bring them there anymore. Now, it’s an area where you see clean-up boats instead of shrimp boats, and you hear air cannons trying to scare away birds. But according to bird conservation expert Melanie Driscoll, they only work on some species.
“The marsh is full of birds, but they prefer not to be seen,” she said.
Wildlife isn't the only thing being impacted by the spill. In some parts of Bay Jimmy in Plaquemines Parish, marsh grass is dying because it's coated in oil. Already, a section separated from one peninsula of marsh grass is under water, with marking sticks standing where the land used to be.
When the grass dies, the water erodes the land a lot faster.
Wednesday, BP clean-up contractors combed out dead, oily marsh grass in Bay Jimmy using a big crane and a mechanized rake.
“Last month, they were scoopin’ it by hand. The month before that, they were vacuuming oil. There's a lot of different things going on, but the oil is still here,” Marino said.
“I'm not sure we need to lose more wetlands. We need to restore wetlands,” said National Wildlife Federation President Larry Schweiger.
He and a coalition of other advocates are pushing congress to make sure 80 percent of the fines paid for by BP come back to restore the Gulf Coast.
It’s a drum Women of the Storm founder Anne Milling has been pounding since Hurricane Katrina.
“Until we, the Gulf Coast delegation, gets its act together, the rest of the country and Congress are not gonna follow. They have to lead and that's what we're urging them to do,” she said.
Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., sponsored a bill in the house to bring the fines back to the coast.
“Restoring our coast, cleaning up the marshes that are still oiled, that's our biggest priority. Other states have different priorities,” he said.
Its just one of many battles still left to fight, both in the Gulf, and in Washington.
The U.S. Justice Department hasn’t levied any fines against BP yet for violating the Clean Water Act.
BP disputes how much oil spilled. It’s why estimates of the future fines range anywhere from $5 to $20 billion.