By Scott Moore
|TRIUMPH, LOUISIANA — Just north of the port town of Venice stands the remains of Fort Jackson, a military fort built between 1822 and 1832 to protect the United States from attacks on the Mississippi River. Only months ago, however, the fort’s grounds were revived as an operating base for helping the local bird population recover from the Deepwater Horizon blowout and oil spill.
The rehabilitation center, though, has already been closed and moved to Hammond, La., a town just north of Lake Pontchartrain and almost 100 miles from Fort Jackson and the gulf coast. The facility in Triumph was set up on the grounds of the fort within a week of the blowout. However, all that remains are a few trailers on the site and a open field.
“I’m not sure exactly the reason,” said Kurt Fromholz, a media specialist for the Plaquemines Parish government. “But [the federal government] said that it was ’cause of one of the tropical storms that didn’t really do anything.” Fromholz pointed out that the change of location added on two hours of travel time for the oiled birds.
According to a July 4, 2010 press release , the “facility has more than met the needs of the Deepwater Horizon Response efforts and the wildlife that has come into its care.” The release also stated the center was moved due to its location in a hurricane evacuation zone.
“To minimize harm and stress on the animals in rehabilitation during the storm season, an alternate facility located north of the hurricane evacuation zone has been selected,” the statement continued. With that, the facility moved and the fort’s area returned to relative normalcy.
The fort, along with Fort St. Phillip directly across the river, was the first line of defense that the country had against maritime attacks on the river. During the Civil War, Fort Jackson defended the Confederacy from Union attacks on the Mississippi, but was eventually bombarded into submission on April 28, 1962 . That lead to the eventual surrender of New Orleans.
The National Park Service says the fort was under water for nearly a month after Louisiana was hit by Hurricane Katrina in late August 2005 and Hurricane Rita in late September. The combination of trees blown down during the storm and flood waters destabilized the fort’s walls, leading to further destruction.
There are currently no plans to reopen Fort Jackson to public at this time.