Along Louisiana's bayous, more worry about future than relief over well kill

BP, the government and an army of volunteers are fighting to contain and clean the millions of gallons of oil spewing from the site of the Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico.
By Krissah Thompson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 4, 2010; 6:47 PM

HOUMA, LA. -- There was no collective sigh of relief along Louisiana's bayous.

"It ain't over. It's only the beginning. This is just the beginning of a nightmare," Mike Dupre said from behind the counter at Captain Allen's Bait and Tackle on Highway 56 in Houma. Fishermen were coming in to buy minnows and other live bait, and almost all of the bayous nearby have reopened. But they don't believe that a sealed well means the end of the crisis the oil has dumped on Gulf of Mexico residents.

"I'm telling you, if that seal is man-made, it can break," Dupre said to Gary Molinere, a retired trawler and former oil rig worker who lives out near Bayou Terrebonne.

"Whenever you have a storm that roughs up the bottom of the gulf, it's coming up," Molinere said. "I just hope we don't have no major hurricanes."

Only three sacks of crawfish came through the doors Wednesday, but the store has been shipping in shrimp from farther east to compensate for the slowdown close to home. Local fishing boats are back out, but so many questions about the future remain.

"We always have dead zones in the gulf, but I wonder how much those dead zones are going to be now," said Dupre, who saw the thick oil coating a friend's trawling net a few weeks back. "They're cleaning up what they can see. It's what they can't see."

There's worry about the health risks -- not so much in the seafood, which no one they know has stopped eating -- but in the wetlands cleanup. "This fella who came in here the other day was working out there," Dupre said. "He was sick as a dog."

Tackle sales were down 30 percent at Captain Allen's last month, but the Dupres have no complaints -- BP has paid the family for the money lost in sales plus 10 percent -- and will keep supplementing its loss.

Now, Molinere and Dupre want to see the drilling moratorium lifted.

"People still have to work. You have an accident on the road, you don't stop driving," Molinere said.

"I've hit my finger with a hammer before while trying to nail something. I didn't stop hammering," Dupre said.

"I cut my foot while moving the grass one time, I didn't stop mowing the lawn," Molinere said. "Once you stop drilling over there, everything stops here."

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