According to plan, considering Tropical Storm Bonnie gets uncomfortably close. From Unified Incident Command:
The Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Buras, LA, which is providing medical care to oiled wildlife, will relocate to a larger facility in Hammond, LA early Friday morning. The transport will occur overnight in order to minimize stress on the animals.
The current Fort Jackson Bird Rehabilitation Facility is located in a hurricane evacuation zone and subject to damage from tropical storms and hurricanes. Moving the facility to the Hammond site eliminates the risk of evacuation in the event of a storm and reduces stress and potential loss of life of the birds.
Initially, the Hammond Bird Rehabilitation Facility will be capable of handling approximately 1,000 birds. Capacity could increase to as many as 2,000 to 3,000 birds.
Tom Buckley with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says he doesn't anticipate any problems relocating that far from the docks.
"It's obviously a little bit further away," he says. "Right now it's in the No. 1 top hurricane evacuation zone, so moving it to Hammond will get it out of that evacuation area, and it'll be a stable, more secure facility."
The new facility will have climate-controlled housing, more space for a larger volume of birds, and "state-of-the-art equipment," Buckley says, "rather than the rubber buckets and the other things (wildlife handlers) have been forced to use but which they've used excellently. But this'll be better and more efficient for them, and I'm sure for the birds, too."
Pickup sites in Plaquemines Parish, like the one at the marina in Port Sulphur, will remain in use. "Plaquemines Parish will continue to be an important location for receiving, stabilizing, and transporting animals from impacted areas," the Unified Command release said. Wildlife branch director Rhonda Murgatroyd said the branch "is grateful to Plaquemines Parish officials and residents for their assistance, and we appreciate their continued support as we move."
But that distance could mean rescued birds may sit in oil for several hours before getting cleaned. To Port Sulphur, VOO carrying oiled birds navigate a network of bayous and inlets bleeding into the Gulf a trip that already takes more than an hour.
On July 7, Plaquemines Parish president Billy Nungesser said moving the facility is "unthinkable." He doesn't understand why it's moving, and why there won't be any cleaning operations near the parish. "If they would embrace more volunteers and people from all over the country to help, a greater volume of these birds would be cleaned at a faster rate," Nungesser said.