Tourism Officials Keep Close Eye on Gulf Oil Spill
Texas Beaches Currently Remain Clear
BAY AREA HOUSTON, Texas – Bay Area Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau has been working with the Office of the Governor, Economic Development and Tourism to closely monitor the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and its potential impact on Texas beaches.
“Unlike other states along the nation’s Gulf Coast, the Texas coastline has not yet been impacted by the oil spill,” stated Pam Summers, President of Bay Area Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau (BAHCVB). “As we enter the summer season, our state beaches play host to millions of visitors along our 624-mile coast; and officials are prepared to take action should deposits wash on to our shores.”
The Texas General Land Office (GLO) has sent specialized equipment to the Deepwater Horizon spill site off the Louisiana coast and stands ready to respond if tar balls land on Texas beaches. However, so far the few tar balls seen appear to be shell-encrusted lumps which result from natural seepage of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. “If beachcombers do encounter a tar ball, they are encouraged to contact the GLO oil spill reporting hotline at 1-800-832-8224,” said Summers.
Less than thirty miles from Galveston, and home to the newly re-nourished shoreline of Sylvan Beach in La Porte, the Bay Area Houston region is known for its myriad water activities and outdoor attractions. “We encourage visitors to come and visit the beaches and walkways of Sylvan Beach Park,” said Stacey Osborne, Economic Development Coordinator for the City of La Porte. “We are thrilled that the water and the beaches are clean and unsullied by the oil spill—the sand is just waiting for people to come and stick their toes in it.” The county-owned park includes 2,000 linear feet of shoreline access, a skate park, boat launch ramp, playground and picnic areas for families or large groups.
According to the GLO, if Texas experiences impacts from the spill, it will likely be in the form of weathered tar balls with neutral buoyancy, meaning that the objects will neither sink nor rise. Boom deployment will not keep the tar balls away from sensitive Texas habitats as the tar balls will pass under them. Plans are underway to deploy strings of snares off the Texas coast to detect tar balls drifting from the east. GLO has contractors surveying upper Texas coast shorelines by ground and air for oil impacts.
“Our visitors center has also received inquiries regarding fishing restrictions, Gulf water contamination and seafood safety,” stated Summers. Although reports indicate there are currently no public health risks or impacts to Texas Oyster beds, the Food and Drug Administration and the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) are monitoring seafood harvested from the Gulf of Mexico. Both organizations have issued statements affirming the health and safety of Texas seafood and shrimp. Advisories will be posted on the DSHS website at www.dshs.state.tx.us/seafood.
“Over the past five years, the GLO oil spill program has responded to only 53 reports of tar balls washing up on Texas beaches,” added Summers. “Although it is likely that Texas will experience some impact from the spill, we are encouraged by ongoing reports that our beaches currently remain clear.”
About the Bay Area Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau
The Bay Area Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau (BAHCVB) is the destination marketing management organization for the region surrounding Clear Lake and Galveston Bay. Launched in 2001, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization seeks to actively increase awareness of the region as a premier tourism destination for leisure, meetings and business. For more information on leisure destinations and/or meeting accommodations in Bay Area Houston, call (281) 474-9700 or visit www.visitbayareahouston.com.