VENICE, Louisiana - Heavy oil from the massive spill in the Gulf of Mexico is now washing up on the shores. Environmental experts say it's only a matter of time before the oil spreads to Florida and up the East Coast.
Everything changed Tuesday when the Louisiana governor and other leaders broke the bad news that oil is coming ashore.
Captain Peter Young wanted us to see his favorite fishing areas. At 55 miles per hour, he took us to the barrier islands in the mouth of the Mississippi. They are clean and healthy, full of life, but the next turn in the marsh revealed what's coming.
There the menace in the Gulf has come ashore and in the worst place possible.
It is a protected wildlife area. It's so shallow that the boats can't even get there.
What just looks like reddish marsh grasses turned out to be grass coated with oil. Anything that touches it gets stuck.
A colorful dragonfly made its last flight. Soon it was stuck in oil, its wings stained and useless.
It is part of the immense web that feeds a universe of fish and wildlife, which feeds Peter Young's family.
I don't know what I'm going to do, he said.
Oil suffocates, poisons and burns its victims. It robs birds of thermal protection, it destroys the skin of fish and reptiles. Experts say the rugged reeds may survive being exposed just at the base, but heavily coated plants are doomed. Cleaning up seems to be nearly impossible. It took a solvent to get it off my skin.
The oil that came in here will go out with the tide, but it will leave the area stained with a persistent toxin that threatens all life there and will show up on other beaches as it moves along.