Oil Spill Impressions from the Alabama Bayou

Yesterday, Simone Lipscomb and I visited Coden, Alabama to reconnect with the community that was such a focal point of our efforts last Summer.  Lori Bosarge, a key individual in our film had set up a couple of interviews for us with affected members of the community.

The docks along Portersville Bay were a big part of the cleanup operations last Summer, and this area continues to be a point of focus for us today. Today, locals are down in the area fishing, playing in the sand, but also sharing stories of uncertainty and concern about the safety of the area. The spill is still fresh in their minds and they are willing to open up and tell their stories to whoever will listen.

Portersville Bay State Dock

We visited with Dale, who owns a shipyard on the bayou. When I asked Dale if people still talked about the oil spill, he immediately said yes, every day. Despite the perception that things are back to normal and everything is fine, people are still suffering in this small coastal community. The rising cost of fuel has put a tremendous strain on the customers that Dale relies on to stay in business.  One of the boats that he is getting ready to launch costs between $60,000 and $70,000 to fill up.  As fuel costs continue to rise, there is concern that his customers might not be able to build more boats.

Dale Coden Alabama

Minh Le, a local shrimper, described the impact on his ability to put people in the community to work. He operates 2 shrimp boats, and both have been docked since the oil spill began, with the exception of a couple of months of work during the Vessels Of Opportunity (VOO) program last Summer during the cleanup effort. He hopes to be able to take 1 of the boats out at the end of the month, but the economic realities of shrimping make it very difficult for him and his workers to make a living.  Between the price of fuel and the lack of trust in the safety of the seafood (which keeps prices lower than normal), there is tremendous uncertainty in the viability of his business.

Minh Le on Portersville Bay

However, in light of this disaster, there are rays of light shining through.  We talked last Summer about the resilience of these communities and the individuals that live in them, and there seems to be a real coming together now with people sharing information, stories, and support with each other. Lori, Dale, and Minh have come together through the South Bay Community Alliance, which is a community group that seeks to bring the local community together and help each other in the face of adversity.

Lori & Minh Le Portersville Bay

See a couple of clips from our interviews in Coden Alabama in the short video below.

Thank you for following along. More stories from the coast to come soon.

Photos: Simone Lipscomb

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04 2011