Portion of Delta National Wildlife Refuge closed to public entry due to oil spill

NEW ORLEANS — Due to an oil spill in the Delta Bend area of the Delta National Wildlife Refuge, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Saturday closed the refuge, south of Main Pass, to public entry. The closure is important to assure public safety and for personnel conducting cleanup operations. It is also important to establish a clear work zone that allows for an efficient response.

The pipeline operator reports that approximately 18,000 gallons of crude oil has been released. An area of approximately 16 square miles has been impacted by the spill, located in Delta Bend and northeast of Delta Bend to Breton Islands.

More than 200 people and 50 vessels have been deployed to conduct and manage clean-up operations and environmental protection efforts, which include oil recovery and efforts to keep wildlife out of the impacted area.

Because wild animals under stress can be very dangerous, untrained people should not attempt to assist impacted wildlife. Instead, they should report the species and location of the animal to the toll free wildlife hotline at 877-424-5495.

The incident was first reported at approximately 1 a.m., Tuesday. At that time, Berry Brothers General Contractors were conducting dredging operations for ExxonMobil in the area of the spill. They notified the Coast Guard that oil was discharging into a canal located approximately 10 miles southeast of Venice.

Monitoring equipment detected the problem prior to notification by the Berry Brothers leading the pipeline operator to begin closing off the affected section of the pipeline. Emergency response actions and procedures were immediately initiated to minimize the environmental impact of the spill.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses over 540 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 63 Fish and Wildlife Management offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

The Coast Guard is working to find the cause of the spill.

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