Nightly News | April 18, 2011
>>> now to what brings us here to louisiana . it is hard to believe it's been a year since those first sketchy reports of some sort of big blowout on an offshore rig off the coast of louisiana . the bp disaster as it later become known went on for months, so did the relentlessly depressing underwater pictures. in all 4.9 million barrels of oil discharged over the long 87 days. to this day 66 miles of coastline remain moderately or severely oiled. so how is this area doing now? that is a big question. our chief environmental affairs correspondent anne thompson is back here with answers. here we are again, anne.
>> hi, brian. things are tough down here in part because of the losses you can't quantify and promises that a year later have yet to be delivered. along louisiana 's coast al bayous, breeding grounds. air canons scare birds from sandbars and marshes where the mississippi river meets the gulf of mexico , and oil lies just beneath the surface. a reminder of the deadly explosion that sank the deep water horizon killing 11 men including shelley andz son's husband jason. for her family life can't be the same.
>> i do the best i can. one day at a time. i don't normally plan past a week or two. we just keep moving forward as best we can.
>> reporter: across the gulf folks try to recover and cope. oil production is still down 160,000 barrels a day, tourism losses will reach $22 billion by 2013 .
>> we're not certain about the future of the gulf.
>> reporter: the number on most people's mind is 20 million, the amount of the claims fund established to make victims cole administered by ken fineberg.
>> there have been mistakes.
>> reporter: he said the numbers reveal some success. 300,000 claims paid for a total of almost $4 billion. most were emergency payments.
>> why don't you have people helping with the claims processing.
>> reporter: today's frustration is over his calculation of final payments, a process some say is slow and doesn't cover all they've lost. can you make people whole? will you make people whole?
>> i can't give you back your heritage. i can't restore the gulf the way it was 100 years ago. i can only do what small role i can play in providing you compensation for your current damage.
>> reporter: mitch is harvesting oysters again, but seams are slow.
>> if we can get back to 30% of what we normally did, we'll be -- i know it's crazy to say this. somewhat satisfied, because at least we can do something and pay the bills.
>> these are the tar balls they're talking about.
>> reporter: he met with president obama on his first trip to the gulf and listened to his promises.
>> you will not be abandoned.
>> just getting our share of it back.
>> reporter: now?
>> i don't think that there's much he can do. kick fineberg in the butt and tell him to get off your butt.
>> reporter: among the many questions, what's behind the fourfold increase in dolphin deaths. this doctor tracks the strandings in mississippi and alabama, 86 so far this year, 67 babies.
>> it is very unusual. it was very concerning.
>> reporter: but there are no answers yet. the government won't reveal any results because of the ongoing criminal investigation into the spill. dr. samantha joy of the university of georgia is looking at the effects of a layer of oil her team found on the bottom of the gulf, suffocating the first links in the food web .
>> you cannot expect those kinds of impacts to be clear and apparent.
>> reporter: though much is unknown and yet there still is hope.
>> there's no doubt that it will come back and be as robust as it was before. it's going to take time.
>> reporter: now, despite that optimism, the people down here who have generations invested in these waters say they need fast financial help so they can stay afloat and give this to the next generation. brian.
>> i want to talk a little bit more about this later on the broadcast, specifically the oil that remains here. anne thompson with us here