Poo at Fairhope Public Beach

Poo!

I wrote earlier this summer about poo at the Fairhope Beach;  what I didn’t know is that the City of Fairhope started source tracking testing about the same time (after waiting on the State for seven years).  I like that the City stopped waiting and funded the testing themselves, after all, it is their poo and their park. 

 

Enterococcus faecalis

Enterococcus faecalis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Russ Henderson at the Mobile Press-Register wrote “Swimming advisory again issued for Fairhope public beach”:

The Baldwin County Health Department issued a public swimming advisory on Tuesday for the waters of Mobile Bay at the Fairhope Public Beach.

It is the sixth time this year that such an advisory has been issued for the Fairhope beach. Their cause is unclear.

The city has been conducting weekly tests of local waterways this summer in an effort to find out — after many years of speculation — what causes the periodic high bacterial readings found at the municipal park’s beach and duck pond.

Continue reading

Alabama Sharks

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…

Atlantic Sharpnose Shark

Atlantic Sharpnose Shark

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marcus Drymon of the Dauphin Island Sea Lab published “Distributions of Sharks across a Continental Shelf in the Northern Gulf of Mexico” (11 page PDF – pretty fascinating reading), which found that the most abundant taxa are the Atlantic Sharpnose Shark Rhizoprionodon terraenovae, Blacknose shark Carcharhinus acronotus, and Blacktip Shark C. limbatus.  By my rough calculations based on their data, these three species accounted for more than 75% of the 22 species of sharks identified in the study. 

Continue reading

Pre-Beach Report

The Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) monitors water quality from 25 sites at Alabama beaches.   According to the ADEM Coastal Alabama Beach Monitoring Program,  -all- of the most recent samples are below the enterococci threshold concentration (104 colonies per 100 ml of water).  Enterococci is an “indicator bacteria” that is not harmful to humans but may indicate the presence of “potential human pathogens”.  To aid in my understanding, I just call it poo.

The Cotton Bayou Beach monitoring site is of immediate interest to me.  The enterococci level is less than 1 colony per 100 ml of water.  No poo!  However, the Fairhope Public Beach has been closed several times over the past few years because of high levels.  I’m digging into that issue…

UPDATE:  I spoke with a nice person from ADEM – the beach monitoring program is funded by the EPA and the funds cover monitoring, not source tracking.  ADEM has applied for EPA microbial source tracking grant funding which might identify the source of the poo, but no luck so far.  Source Molecular offers microbial source tracking for human, cattle, swine, bird, chicken, dog, deer, and horse fecal contamination.  Looking at their price list,  this seems like an affordable option that doesn’t need to wait on a federal grant.  Most beach monitoring sites have no poo issues, so identifying the source (even just human or not) on an as needed basis could give some insight into the problem.  

ADEM said that stormwater runoff sometimes contributed to higher than desired enterococci levels, but Baldwin County is in a drought.  Fairhope has a sewage treatment plant nearby, but the effluent of the plant is monitored so it may not be the source.  It’s a mystery…

Sharks!

Continue reading

Aquatic Plant Management Forum

State Representative Wes Long (R-27) is leading an Aquatic Plant Management Forum in Guntersville, focusing on Lake Weeds.  Invasive aquatic weeds can hinder native aquatic weed growth, interfere with navigation / recreation / flood control, and adversely affect fish and wildlife habitat.

Aquatic Plant Management Forum
March 12, 2011
9 am – 12:30 pm

Guntersville City Senior Center
1500 Sunset Drive
Guntersville, Alabama  35976

You are invited and encouraged to attend a free forum open to the public that is scheduled for Saturday, March 12, 2011. This meeting has been organized in order to provide factual and educational information about major aquatic resource issues, and it is also intended to promote and facilitate dialog regarding proposals to return aquatic plant management in Marshall and Jackson Counties to an institutional program. 

Hopefully, these discussions will to lead to near-term and long-term solutions for aquatic resource issues that affect the citizens and property owners of our area. 

Grab a bite at Wintzell’s Oyster House after the forum – the words of wisdom on the walls ensure that it’s always a learning experience:

The most important things in life aren’t things.

Forever Wild Program Aquisitions

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources maintains detailed information about the Forever Wild program.  While this information in itself is not sufficient for an informed vote by a legislator, it does provide insight into the acquisition process and rationale for aquiring certain properties.  Let’s look at a few properties listed by the DCNR:

THE PERIWINKLE SPRING ADDITION TRACT in Madison County consists of 40 acres that serve as an addition to Monte Sano State Park. The tract has one of the only permanent springs in that portion of the mountain, and also supports a small population of federally listed wildflowers. Objectives: habitat conservation, outdoor recreation, scientific research and education Date Acquired: February 20, 2004 Property Value: $100,000

THE BLOWING SPRINGS CAVE TRACT in Lauderdale County has cave habitat that is vital to the threatened gray bat. This 60 acre property will be preserved primarily to protect the existing and future population of this species at this location.  Objectives: Habitat conservation (Contribute to the recovery of the threatened gray bat in the southeastern United States), outdoor recreation, scientific research and education Date Acquired: April 15, 1998  Property Value: approximately $122,000

THE WEHLE TRACT in Bullock County consists of 1,505 acres of rolling pine hills and hardwood branch bottoms that will be used for public recreation and a nature preserve. Approximately 640 acres are included in the adjacent Barbour County Wildlife Management Area. This purchase involved a discounted sale, whereby the landowner voluntarily sold the tract for 50% of the appraised value. Objectives: Habitat conservation, outdoor recreation, scientific research and education  Date Acquired: October 28, 1994  Property Value: approximately $2,000,000

THE COLDWATER MOUNTAIN (Dedicated by Forever Wild Resolution as the Doug Ghee Nature Preserve and Recreation Area) TRACT in Calhoun County consists of 3,924 acres of a high, pine-hardwood covered mountain along Interstate Highway 20 that casts its shadow onto portions of Anniston and Oxford. The tract secures a large portion of the local watershed for Coldwater Spring, a unique ecological environment and source of drinking water for local municipalities. Objectives: Habitat conservation, outdoor recreation, scientific research and education  Date Acquired: October 2, 1998  Property Value: approximately $2,530,000

THE MONSANTO TRACT in Marshall County consists of 209 acres of a mountainous, pine-hardwood covered peninsula on Lake Guntersville that is being managed as both an extension of Guntersville State Park and to provide nesting habitat for the growing local population of Bald Eagles. Objectives: Habitat conservation (Bald Eagle habitat), outdoor recreation, scientific research and education Date Acquired: September 13, 1994 Property Value: approximately $141,000.

Alabama must keep Forever Wild

Alabama State Representative Randy Davis (Republican-96) wrote an editorial for The Huntsville Times “Alabama must keep its Forever Wild law” (no link available yet):

…there is one piece of legislation that all Republicans and Democrats alike should commit to pass early this session.  The Forever Wild program was approved in 1992 with an overwhelming majority of 84 percent of Alabamians voting in support of its creation.  It’s even more popular today, but… the funding will sunset in 2012 unless reauthorized by the Legislature.

…These lands not only provide opportunities for all Alabamians to enjoy our great outdoors, but also create a significant impact on the local economies where these lands are located.

…This program generates significant economic development and tourism in Alabama that results in new jobs and increased revenue…  This makes Forever Wild, by far, a net positive when it comes to our state budget and the creation of new jobs for Alabamians.

Davis is sponsoring the Forever Wild law in its current form (“as is”) in the State House, joined by State Senator Scott Beason (Republican-17) in the Senate.  The “as is” part is important – last year some legislators wanted to raid the fund for road construction.

Protect Forever Wild is an organization working to pass the Forever Wild law:

Created in 1992 by a constitutional referendum that garnered 83 percent of the vote, Forever Wild is a program dedicated to preserving Alabama’s most beautiful and environmentally sensitive land, all while expanding the recreational opportunities available to the public.
 
Forever Wild keeps our water and air clean, protects our wildlife, and helps ensure that our children will have the opportunity to experience the natural wonders of our beautiful state.

I urge every member the Republican caucus to vote to reauthorize the Forever Wild law “as is”.  It’s the right thing to do…

Forever Wild new land purchases

Thomas Spencer of The Birmingham News wrote “Forever Wild pursuing three land purchases”:

Trustees approved buying more than 2,500 acres at the Barbour Wildlife Management Area, one of the largest and oldest state-owned public hunting areas. They also authorized pursuing 2,125 acres in Jackson County, which would add land adjacent to Forever Wild’s Wall of Jericho, a popular destination for hikers and horseback riders. They also voted to buy 30 more acres on Baldwin County’s Weeks Bay.

Forever Wild is a wildly popular conservation program done the right way – Forever Wild buys property to preserve for future generations – we get to enjoy it in the meantime.  I love me some Alabama.

I haven’t been to the Barbour WMA but I know the Walls of Jericho and Weeks Bay. 

Today’s meeting was the first presided over by Gunter Guy Jr., Gov. Robert Bentley’s new director of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Governor Dr. Bentley is a supporter of Forever Wild – as are many Republicans – I asked Huntsville area GOP candidates (except Jim Patterson, my own Rep – we talked about other things) two questions during the primary – do you support Forever Wild and Free the Hops – IMO the future looks bright for both issues.

More good news:

Madison County’s curbiside recycling program is getting its first major overhaul since 1991.

This afternoon, officials from the local Solid Waste Disposal Authority and Allied Waste announced that junk mail, cereal boxes, small cardboard boxes, paper bags, office paper, envelopes, newspaper inserts, paperback books and comic books can be recycled curbside starting Feb. 21.

OK, so I missed putting out the recyclables this morning, it’ll be there next week.  In other news, my compost pile is growing nicely.

***

I’m looking forward to the results of the Beason & Nalley audit of the City of Huntsville, if only because that’s a normal part of doing business.  Huntsville Finance Director Randy Taylor does a fine job, but someone needs to watch him ;)

Deepwater Horizon – Top Kill Update

Or to be more accurate – no update.

“Operations continue,” BP spokesman Jon Pack told UpstreamOnline.  “There are no further updates. It is difficult to say when there will be…it could take up to two days.”

It does not appear the drilling mud has eroded the riser or increased the flow rate so far, but in a worst-case scenario flow could increase 15%…

The Transocean semi-submersible rig Development Driller III… was continuing down hole at 11,000 feet below the drilling floor Wednesday on the first of two relief wells.  Suttles said on Friday that the rig was “slightly ahead of schedule.” 

Transocean semi-sub Development Driller II is drilling… at 8650 feet…  Both rigs spud their wells about 3000 feet from the original Macondo bore.  They will drill vertically to about 10,000 feet before directionally drilling to intercept Macondo at roughly 18,000 feet…

Once either well intercepts the Macondo bore, BP can pump cement and plug the producing zone.  Suttles said the company has no plans to ever produce from the Macondo well because it has been damaged beyond repair.

The Oil Drum has details about the Top Kill attempt complete with pictures and animations.  Read it to get a feel for the complexity of the situation and to see the tools and processes used in the procedure.

Our friends at ALFIN also make some good observations:

The range of 12,000 to 19,000 bpd is higher than the earlier USCG / NOAA estimate of 5,000 barrels per day, but is far lower than the fantastical estimates by academics from Purdue, UCB, and other universities who estimated flow rates to 100,000 barrels per day and higher. The higher spill rate would put the Deepwater Horizon spill above the Exxon Valdez in total volume spilled — although that is not taking evaporation into account.

Journalists and Obama — who are looking for “an unprecedented disaster — want to compare the spill to the Exxon Valdez in order to prove that the apocalypse has come. But the Deepwater Horizon spill is not comparable to the Exxon Valdez spill for many reasons: a deep undersea leak far offshore vs. a surface container spill close to shore; a lighter crude with high proportions of gas vs. a heavier crude; the warm fertile waters of the Gulf of Mexico vs. the frigid waters of Prince William Sound; the active Gulf Loop Current into open seas vs. the relatively closed waters of the Sound . . . and so on.

***

Obama fired (or she resigned)  Minerals and Management Service boss Elizabeth Birnbaum.  Birnbaum was a Congressional lawyer, Clinton functionary, and environmental activist before her appointment to MMS in July 2009.  Praise Obama for firing her, but he just fixed his prior error in her appointment (thank goodness it wasn’t a lifetime appointment – see Sotomayor or soon Kagan).

Our Congressman Parker Griffith (who is originally from Louisiana) sent the following email:

This morning, Elizabeth Birnbaum, the director of the Minerals Management Service agency that oversees drilling operations, was fired. She was supposed to testify as a witness this afternoon in a Energy and Commerce Committee hearing about “Combating the BP Oil Spill”. Parker will be questioning witnesses at this hearing and will propose the question to the witnesses that if the Administration has done everything correctly – as it says it has – then why are heads rolling on their end?

To watch the full committee hearing, please visit this link – http://energycommerce.house.gov/ (click the box on the right side of the page titled “Live Webcasts”)

Note – I bolded the good part.

***

BP is investigating the cause of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion:

In a statement, BP said: “The investigation team’s work thus far shows that this accident was brought about by the failure of a number of processes, systems and equipment.

“There were multiple control mechanisms – procedures and equipment – in place that should have prevented this accident or reduced the impact of the spill.”

The company also said there is much the inquiry still needs to do – as well as carrying out further interviews, full forensic examinations of the blowout preventer (BOP), wellhead, and the rig itself – all of which are still currently on the sea bed – need to be done.

BP said: “The investigation is focused on the following seven mechanisms.

1. The cement that seals the reservoir from the well;
2. The casing system, which seals the well bore;
3. The pressure tests to confirm the well is sealed;
4. The execution of procedures to detect and control hydrocarbons in the well, including the use of the BOP;
5. The BOP emergency disconnect system, which can be activated by pushing a button at multiple locations on the rig;
6. The automatic closure of the BOP after its connection is lost with the rig; and
7. Features in the BOP to allow remotely operated vehicles to close the BOP and thereby seal the well at the seabed after a blow out.”

Chief executive Tony Hayward said: “I understand people want a simple answer about why this happened and who is to blame.

“The honest truth is that this is a complex accident, caused by an unprecedented combination of failures.

So much in life is “unprecented” nowadays…  Or could it be that the term is overused?

***

Here’s a good editorial from Upstream Online Editor Erik Means:

Could there be any worse remedy to the precarious situation at Macondo than having it taken over by government?

Truth be told, Salazar and his boss President Barack Obama are under no illusion that their administration holds expansive knowledge of oilfield operations and reservoir management. But they are struggling to appear in public to be doing something assertive about a horrible spill that in reality is entirely out of their control.

On a scale of one to 10, the Macondo debacle is a 12 for BP. The stained shoreline in Gulf states is an equally huge stain on the reputation of the UK supermajor. The 11 lost lives will haunt the company for years to come.

If anyone seriously thinks that BP is not doing everything in its power to cap that rogue well and clean up the spill, then their vision has been clouded by tears of rage.

This is not to say that BP did not mess up badly in the events that led to the blow-out and blast that triggered the catastrophe. Evidence suggests increasingly that it did.

But in the given circumstances, I would have a hard time pointing to a company other than BP that I would rather have in charge of regaining control of the well. ExxonMobil, perhaps, but one would hope that those two supermajors – now respectively responsible for the two worst spills in US history – have had an open line of communication on how to deal with the out-of-control well.

***

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (R) is out in front on the oil spill (in what is an unfortunate but instructive test of his leadership).  From the DHIJIC:

The National Incident Commander for the BP oil spill, Admiral Thad Allen, today approved the implementation of a section of Louisiana’s barrier island project proposal that could help stop oil from coming ashore and where work could be completed the fastest—as an integrated part of the federal response to the BP oil spill.

This step will save Louisiana the cost of construction for this section by integrating it with the federal government’s ongoing oil spill response—thus paving the road for payment by BP, as a responsible party, or the federal Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.

There’s an old adage that it’s easier to get forgiveness than approval.  Governor Jindal was moving ahead with the constructi0n of ‘barrier islands’ without Army Corps of Engineers approval, so they went ahead and gave their ‘approval’:

The Army Corps of Engineers has granted partial approval for Louisiana’s barrier island project proposal, covering approximately half of the state’s original request and including six sections.

Under this permit, but without coordination with Admiral Allen and the Unified Command, Louisiana is authorized to construct the barrier islands at its own expense, so long as construction meets the terms and conditions established by the Army Corps of Engineers and any other required permits are obtained. If Louisiana moves forward, they will need to address all potential costs and environmental impacts.

Barrier islands get moved around alot and wash away (look at Dauphin Island – did you know that it used to be the biggest French colonial port in the US until a hurricane filled in the harbor).   This action is a risk for Jindal but he is well on the way to proving himself capable of handling a crisis (just in time for the 2012 Presidential election).  Compare that to Obama who uses a crisis to advance his political agenda.

Young Republicans discuss oil drilling

The Madison County Young Republicans had about 60 people attend their  meeting Tuesday night – the topic of discussion was the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the effect on future energy policy.  Several people spoke in support of  ”drill, baby, drill” and there were just a couple who had second thoughts about the technology.  Increasing U.S. nuclear energy capacity was also mentioned a lot.  The consensus seemed to support doing both (drilling and nukes) and then more (biofuels from soybeans, peanuts, and switchgrass).

Points:  land drilling is safest, coastal drilling next safe, deepwater drilling risky.  As we improve our techniques for responsibly exploiting deepwater oil we can help make the industry safer.  No non-Western country cares as much about pollution as US.  Keep in mind that there are areas of Nigeria (and Colombia and Yemen)  that are awash in spilled oil, as much from terrorist (er, militant, er, activist) man-caused disasters as from accidents.  Do you think that India or China or Indonesia have the capability or the will to clean up a spill like Deepwater Horizon?

Another (and greater) source of oil spillage is from tankers.  US coastal shipping is regulated by the Jones Act, which has been used to require double hull tankers (note that the Exxon Valdez had a ‘partial’ double hull).  There is an international plan (MARPOL – International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution From Ships) to require all oil tankers to be double-hulled by 2026.  Good luck with that…

The point is that Western countries are better stewards of the Earth and that we can only control our piece of it – we can influence the others but we can’t do it for them.  Still we try.  Did you know that the US is paying for Brazil to develop Brazilian deepwater oil fields?  The rationale is that Brazil would be a more stable and safer trading partner than Middle Eastern countries.    

On Topic Update – here’s the photo release of the Macondo scene:

100518-G-8744K-004

GULF OF MEXICO – The mobile offshore drilling unit Development Driller III (near) is prepared to drill a relief well at the Deepwater Horizon site May 18, 2010, as the MODU Q4000 holds position directly over the damaged blowout preventer. While the drillship Discover Enterprise (far) continues to capture oil from the ruptured riser, preparations for the possible utilization of  the “top kill” method are being made aboard the Q4000. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Patrick Kelley.

Look at the ship in the top center (Enterprise), burning off excess gas in a process known as flaring.  The containment riser feeds into that ship.  The nearest (yellow) rig is the Developmental Driller III, ready to spud the second relief well.  The middle (orange) rig Q4000 is preparing for the top kill method of high speed pumping  concrete mud into the well.

***

Florida Keys tar balls not linked to Deepwater Horizon – from the Joint Information Center:

The Coast Guard Marine Safety Laboratory in New London, Conn. analyzed a sampling of tar balls discovered on Florida Keys shoreline Tuesday and determined that none of the collected samples are from the Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill.

A sampling of tar balls discovered on beaches at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park, Fla., Smathers Beach in Key West, Big Pine Key, Fla., and Loggerhead Key in the Dry Tortugas National Park, Fla. were flown by a Coast Guard HU-25 Falcon jet based in Miami, Fla., to New London, Conn. Tuesday for testing and analysis.

The results of those tests conclusively show that the tar balls collected from Florida Keys beaches do not match the type of oil from the Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The source of the tar balls remains unknown at this time.

 ***

If that wasn’t enough for a Young Republican meeting, Congressional candidate Les Phillip and Ag Commission candidates John McMillan and Dorman Grace gave brief campaign speeches.

I enjoy hearing Les speak – as I’ve said before – it’s like he’s in my head and I hear my thoughts coming out of his mouth (or thoughts I wish I had).  Phillip said that the US needs nuclear power - noting that the Navy safely runs the largest number of reactors in the world – also noting that France gets 80% (IIRC) of it’s power from nukes.  Phillip said that the most important task before the next Congress was to kill Obamacare, because it is the camel’s nose under the tent to socialism.  Phillip cited the Federal takeover of the student loan industry as an example – originally the feds said that they were just providing competition to the banks – now the Feds control the entire business.   This illustrates what I like about Les, he knows not only that a policy is good or bad, he knows why because he knows the history (NOTE: Mo Brooks is much the same in that respect – I enjoy learning from both of them). 

Google Clement Attlee to see how a socialist didn’t let a crisis (WW2) go to waste and how Britain became a socialist country (hint: national health care).

Ag Commission candidate Dale Peterson might as well have been there – his video, now known nationally as “The greatest political as ever”, certainly had a presence there.  From the comments:

Dale Peterson doesn’t get out of bed in the mornings; he pushes the earth away from him a little.

Dorman Grace and John McMillan both addressed a point made in Peterson’s ad (Grace tried to play it off, saying he’s focused on issues; McMillan reiterated the Ethics claim).  Here’s some background from commenter “Nick”:

Dorman Grace, GOP candidate for the office of Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries, has had at least two ethics complaints filed against him…

When contacted, Grace did not deny having received the contributions in question, but said he had just received the letter on Friday from the Ethics Commission informing him of the allegations against him. “We received the letter late Friday,” Grace said. “We’re going through it looking at the situation. I’ve never been in politics before, so we need to go through this. We
will be transparent,” Grace said. When asked if he would return the contributions if they are found to be illegal,
Grace said: “That’s possible. They (the commission) haven’t told us what to do. “Right now, it’s just an allegation. At this point I don’t have enough information. We have a week to respond, which we will do. “We’ve raised money all over the state. We’ll go back now and look at everybody,” Grace said.

More candidates:

Representative (and Marine) Howard Sanderford (incumbent candidate House 20),  Senate 8 candidate Shad McGill, Senate 2 candidate (and Marine) Bill Holtzclaw, House 20 candidate David Pinkleton, HSV City Council candidate Jon Hitt, and HSV City Council candidate James Lomax.

Deepwater Horizon – Riser Insertion Tube

Good news from the Deepwater Horizon Incident Joint Information Center:

Overnight the Riser Insertion Tube Tool was successfully tested and inserted into the leaking riser, capturing some amounts of oil and gas. The oil was stored on board the Discoverer Enterprise drill ship 5,000 feet above on the water’s surface, and natural gas was burned through a flare system on board the ship. 

The test was halted temporarily when the tube was dislodged.  While this is disappointing, it is not unexpected given the challenging operating environment.

Technicians have fully inspected the system and have re-inserted the tool.

The tool is fashioned from a 4-inch pipe and is inserted into the leaking riser, from which the majority of the flow is coming. While not collecting all of the leaking oil, this tool is an important step in reducing the amount of oil being released into Gulf waters.

The procedure – never attempted before at such depths – involves inserting a 5-foot length of the specifically-designed tool into the end of the existing, damaged riser from where the oil and gas is leaking. In a procedure approved by federal agencies and the Federal On Scene Coordinator, methanol will also be flowed into the riser to help prevent the formation of gas crystals, known as hydrates.  Gas and oil will then flow to the surface to the Discoverer Enterprise drillship.

The Enterprise has the capability to separate the oil, gas and water mixture safely and eventually store or offload the recovered oil onto another vessel.

More good news – the second relief well is set to spud today:

Transocean’s semi-submersible rig Development Driller II is on location and has been inspected by Coast Guard officials.

The US Minerals Management Service is reviewing the drilling permit for the second well and expects to approve the request by Saturday, MMS Gulf of Mexico boss Lars Herbst said at a press conference Friday.

The Development Driller II is expected to “race” the Transocean semi-submersible rig Development Driller III, which already spud the first relief probe, to reach the Macondo well bore on Mississippi Canyon Block 252 in the US Gulf of Mexico.

Bad news – first relief well stalled for BOP testing:

Development Driller III has been stalled briefly while crews perform a battery of tests on the rig’s blowout preventer (BOP).

The tests follow new protocols developed by the Minerals Management Service (MMS) in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster and apparent failure of the BOP on that rig, Suttles said.

He said the relief well drilling stalled just above 9000 feet, as measured from the surface of the water, which means the well has drilled about 4000 feet into the ground.

Look like the hysteria about flow rates is misguided:

Macondo is dumping an estimated 5000 barrels of oil per day into the Gulf after a blow-out on 20 April.

But that flow estimate has come under increasing scrutiny from academics, some of whom have estimated the flow to be as high as 100,000 barrels per day.

Analysts at Tudor, Pickering & Holt, however, said the new estimates, are highly improbable given the realites of deep-water wells in the Gulf.

In a report, the Houston investment bank pointed out that the best wells in the Gulf, including the BP-operated Thunder Horse development, only produce about 25,000 barrels per day.

***

Here’s a great write up from our new friends at AL FIN:

The siphon tube was initially filled with pressurised nitrogen gas, which was slowly released from the upper end of the tube — allowing the oil to be pulled to the surface for storage in a tanker, and storage barges. This was necessary to keep cold seawater from entering th pipe and creating methane hydrate ice crystals — which would clog the pipe if allowed to enter.

As long as the recovery effort can continue removing most of the oil spill directly to the surface storage vessels, surface remediation should be somewhat easier in the long run. Even so, the next logical step might seem to be the double assault on the blowout preventer (BOP) — the (1) “junk shot” of rubber junk and matting into the pipe below the BOP, followed by a (2) “top kill” rapid injection of concrete into the top of the pipe above the BOP.

The problem with that approach is that if it goes wrong, it could create an even worse leak than BP and the Coast Guard were dealing with at the beginning.

So, there will be an extended observation period of about 2 weeks, perhaps, while officials at the scene determine whether the siphon tube is successful enough to forgo any other assaults on the leak until the relief wells come in — between 6 and 10 weeks from now.

***
Meyer Real Estate in Gulf Shores changed their cancellation policy again (the previous change was probably too generous):

No Coastal Impact Now and None Expected
You will be happy to know that the beautiful beaches of our Alabama and Florida Gulf Coast remain untouched by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. In the beginning of the oil spill situation there was a brief time of uncertainty when, based on official predictions, landfall on our coast seemed imminent. However, neither that landfall nor any impact near our coast ever materialized.

During this uncertain time we temporarily relaxed our cancellation policy until further notice when coastal impact would be evident. This change was in response to the initial oil spill reports to allow time to assess any impact on our coastline. Thankfully that impact never came and with new official projections continuing to show a pattern of a westward movement of the oil sheen, the oil spill should not impact our shores.

“Peace of Mind Promise” for Your Vacation
Although we are confident your vacation to our coast will be a wonderfully memorable experience, we realize you may still have some concerns. We are providing our Peace of Mind Promise, which means you can plan your vacation with confidence. In the unlikely event your vacation experience is impacted by a government agency closing the beach or issuing a swimming advisory related to the oil spill, and you choose to leave, we will refund the remaining portion of your unused rent.

Cancellation Policy Changes Due to No Coastal Impact
What happens now? The original cancellation policy of a 30-day minimum notice for condos and a 60-day minimum notice for houses will once again apply to existing and new reservations. We will, however, honor the temporary relaxed policy, which allowed a cancellation with a full refund of rent, until Friday, May 14, 2010 at 5 p.m. (CST).

We urge you to keep your reservation in place, since our coast is not affected by the oil spill and we have instituted the Peace of Mind Promise stated above.

***

Ya know who I think could fix US energy policy?  Sarah Palin.  If she doesn’t run for President next time I hope that someone asks her to serve as Interior Secretary.  I think she could negotiate a better deal for oil and gas royalties, make effective and responsible changes to regulations, all while supporting the need to explore and exploit our natural resources. You betcha…