Letter from Bayou Texar Foundation

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

I received the following letter from the Bayou Texar Foundation concerning the idea of closing Bayou Texar boat ramps:

Dear Mayor Wiggins and Council members,

I am writing to you as the Secretary of the Bayou Texar Foundation as well as a representative for several of my waterfront neighbors. We are all gravely concerned about the possibility of oil in the waters of Bayou Texar, threatening the healthy estuary and the wildlife/sea life that is present. Over the last few years, we have seen our waterfront habitat increase in productivity. Rarely do you look out that you do not see osprey, herons, pelicans, kingfishers, and hundreds of bait fish and mullet. That being said, we need smart decisions about the protection and use of the bayou.

At a recent meeting, a discussion about oil on pleasure boats returning to port prompted a suggestion to close the City-owned boat ramps - two inside the bayou, the third just outside the mouth at the 17th Ave. viaduct. This seems akin to throwing the baby out with the bathwater, and I don't think that we should punish the many for the sins of the few. A better approach might be to educate our citizens, many of whom are very responsible, with a campaign about the sensibility of boating through oil. Signage at the ramps, an "Oil Spill 101" if you will, might inform boaters that going outside Pensacola Pass when oil has been seen offshore is not good for the boat or for the inshore environment. Numbers could be provided for the vessel cleanup station, as well as for the boom movement during incoming tide. As we enter hurricane season (with a storm brewing at this moment), our residents need access to those ramps to be able to pull boats out and take them to safe harbor. We also need them regularly for boat maintenance, and many of us have paid the annual $25 fee for boat ramp access. It is also doubtful that the small pleasure boats launching at these ramps go as far as the Gulf of Mexico.

In addition, perhaps the Coast Guard could issue "small and medium craft advisories" when oil is close to Pensacola Pass, discouraging boating in the Gulf of Mexico. Yes, there are some selfish boaters on the water, but I think most people are open to information about why it is a bad idea. We at least owe that chance to the good boaters of the area, but need to get the details about the boat cleaning need and facilities out to as many local residents as possible. This can be a joint City/County effort, as not all those using our ramps are City residents. I have spoken with Mayor Wiggins and my councilman, Larry Johnson, about further protection of the bayou, to supplement the boom strategy. The possibility of submerged oil floating under those booms is a valid concern, and it seems more and more that the best strategy is skimming both in the Gulf and in Pensacola Bay, long before any oil reaches the bayou. Please help keep the pressure on to provide more skimmers and better coordination between the eye in the sky and the skimmers on the water.

Thank you for your attention. I will be happy to discuss these ideas with any of you, or to work with Staff to design signage for the boat ramps. The Bayou Texar Foundation stands ready to assist in any way we can to protect our valuable waterway.


Eleanor Godwin
Secretary, Bayou Texar Foundation


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