TODAY   |  April 30, 2010

Oil slick reaches Gulf Coast

As BP continues to try to plug leaks in a blown-out well, Louisiana’s fragile coastline and ecosystems are threatened by the oil slick washing ashore. NBC’s Anne Thompson reports.

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>>> 30th, 2010 .

>>> and welcome to "today" on this very busy friday morning. i'm meredith vieira .

>> i'm ann curry in for matt this morning. as you know, this morning long thin lines of oil leaking into the gulf now lapping up on the shore of louisiana 's ecologically sensitive shorelines.

>> much thicker oil is now just a few miles from shore. on thursday homeland security secretary janet that pa that know says it is now a spill of national significance. she'll head to the region today. an official at the oceanic and atmospheric association calls the situation a very, very big thing. did the obama administration wait too long to respond? we'll ask the woman overseeing the government 's response to the disaster in a moment.

>>> first, we've got nbc's anne thompson in venice , louisiana where the spill has now reached land. anne, good morning.

>> reporter: good morning, ann. the oil came ashower during the night. this morning there are reports the oil hit an area at the mouth of the mississippi in louisiana . here in venice , bp and local officials have put together a team of some 150 people who are poised to go out and search for that oil in an effort to fend off what could be a potentially catastrophic invasion. on louisiana 's fragile coastline, these plastic barriers called booms are the last line of defense. the well 40 miles out to sea is pouring five times more oil into the gulf than first thought. now some 5,000 barrels a day. despite efforts with underwater robots like this ten days after the explosion, bp is no closer to plugging the leak.

>> absolutely nobody wants to get this oil flow stopped more than i do. and we have people working 24 hours a day in four different locations to both stop the flow to actually fight this thing offshore an protect the shorelines.

>> reporter: thursday's weather did not allow any more controlled burns. those fires can consume as many as 1,000 barrels of oil at a time. but bp is getting help from the highest level . president obama mobilized a team of cabinet secretaries to monitor the investigation and the cleanup.

>> my administration will continue to use every single available resource at our disposal, including potentially the department of defense to address the incident.

>> reporter: louisiana 's governor bobby jindal declared a state of emergency and asked the homeland security department to respond to the slick. u.s. security officials tell nbc news a list of options are being put together that could include sending additional planes, boats, skimmers and booms. state officials opened the shrimp season early to try and beat the oil. in the small fishing town , 69-year-old walter has an uneasy feeling of deja vu .

>> it's going to do the same thing katrina did.

>> reporter: the spill could do serious damage to louisiana 's wetlands. at this time of year, the marshes are breeding grounds for hundreds of different kinds of wildlife. an ecological marvel threatened by a slow- motion invasion. these floodwaters behind me are home to one-third of the nation's seafood production. now all of this clean-up comes with a very high price tag estimated at $6 million a day. since bp owns the well and the oil, it is responsible for paying that bill. something federal officials have been quick to point out in recent days as frustration has grown with bp 's inability to stop the leak.

>> anne thompson , thank you so much. rear admiral sally o'hara