National Guard extends barriers on coastline

Alabama National Guard soldiers build barrier walls on Dauphin Island, Ala., to protect the shore from oil (May 4, 2010, WBRC photo)
Alabama National Guard soldiers build barrier walls on Dauphin Island, Ala., to protect the shore from oil (May 4, 2010, WBRC photo)

By Dennis Washington

DAUPHIN ISLAND, AL (WBRC) - Soldiers from the Alabama National Guard raced against the clock Tuesday to extend sand barriers before oil spilling from a leaking well reached the shoreline.

More than 100 soldiers were spread out across the western end of Dauphin Island Tuesday morning, building sand barriers in the shoreline.  The barriers were anchored in place with rebar to keep the tides from washing the barrier away.

Dozens of dump trucks were bringing sand to the island, where crews were creating walls of sand in areas of the island that tends to easily flood.

The crews are working to build the barriers before Thursday, when federal officials estimate oil leaking from the collapsed oil drill in the Gulf of Mexico could reach the Alabama shoreline. Officials cautioned the timeline could change depending on weather conditions and sea currents.  BP and federal officials reported Tuesday morning the oil slick was now 130 miles wide and 70 miles long, forcing officials to close 7,000 square miles of Gulf water to fishing.

Tuesday's satellite image of the oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico indicated it had shrunk since last week. but scientists say it only means some of the oil has gone underwater. The new image also shows patches of oil have begun to break away.

Dave Wesley with the NOAA actually credits the strong winds and rough seas with helping to create some of that breakage. Despite all of the talk about the big waves hampering containment efforts, he said they are not always a bad thing.

"Definitely, the strong seas that we've seen recently are good," he said. "Wave energy helps to break up the oil."

BP continued Tuesday efforts to build a funnel-like structure to contain the oil leaking from the well. Officials said it could capture up to 85 percent of the oil and hope to have it in place on the ocean floor in about a week.

BP also said Monday it will pay "all necessary and appropriate clean-up costs" resulting from the blown-out oil well that has caused the massive slick that continues to swell in the Gulf.

In a fact sheet posted to the company's website on Monday, BP said it took responsibility for the response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and says, "We will clean it up." The document added, "BP will pay all necessary and appropriate clean-up costs."

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