Gulf Coast oil spill affects local property owners

Published 2:25 pm Friday, April 30, 2010

Although Shelby County sits about 250 miles from the Gulf Coast, local residents still feel the effect of the massive oil spill occurring in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, leased by the BP oil company, exploded April 20 and subsequently sank April 22, approximately 130 miles southeast of New Orleans. The sunken rig has released up to 5,000 barrels of oil, or about 210,000 gallons, per day.

The threat resulting from the oil spill means many Alabama citizens are choosing to hold off on planned vacations to the beach.

For beach property owners in Shelby County, such as Corley Ellis, that means a possible loss of income from rental properties.

Ellis said renters are lined up for his Gulf Shores condo, but his rental management company, Meyer Real Estate, is keeping an eye on the oil spill.

“They’ve been monitoring it real close,” he said. “It’s not scheduled to be any danger to us for three days. Beyond that, we really don’t know. It’s a concern to us because people are concerned it’ll hit the coast on the days they’re supposed to be down there.”

Meyer is attempting to encourage renters to keep their reservations by allowing cancellations at the last minute, instead of 24-48 hours in advance as usual, Ellis said.

However, Ellis said losing income from his rental property was a secondary concern to the possible effect the oil spill could have on the Gulf environment and wildlife.

“I’m growing more and more concerned. My understanding is that they haven’t stopped it yet,” he said. “A mild shift in the current could send it our way, and it could be bad, not just for the rental property owners like me, but if it gets into Mobile Bay it could be catastrophic. There’s so much wildlife down there, and it could be bad.”

However, Ellis said he and his wife, Julie, still plan to go down to their condo in a few weeks for a vacation — even if the oil hasn’t been cleaned up.

“The beach is such a small part of what we enjoy, so we’ll go regardless,” he said. “We really enjoy the nature and hiking. We do enjoy the scenery, and it just won’t be the same if there’s an oil slick.”

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, surface oil may hit Alabama’s shores Sunday, May 2 or Monday, May 3. The impact such oil may have is unknown at this time.

To find out more about the oil spill or volunteer opportunities to help with an environmental clean-up, call 1-888-421-1266. Volunteers are not needed at this time, but may leave information to be contacted at a later date.