Published: Jun 07, 2010 1:29 PM EDT
Updated: Jun 07, 2010 10:31 AM EDT

GULF SHORES, Ala. (AP) - A wellhead cap at the bottom of the

Gulf of Mexico is slowly pinching off a geyser of oil spewing from

the earth, but there's no containing much of the crude that's

already escaped, a reality becoming increasingly evident on the

region's beaches.

The battle to contain the oil is likely to stretch into the

fall, the government's point man on the spill warned. The cap will

trap only so much of the oil, and relief wells being drilled won't

be completed until August. Meanwhile, oil will continue to shoot

out.

To Kelcey Forrestier, a 23-year-old biology graduate visiting

Okaloosa Island, Fla., it was already clear Sunday that the spill

and its damage will last long into the future.

"Oil just doesn't go away. Oil doesn't disappear," said

Forrestier, of New Orleans. "It has to go somewhere and it's going

to come to the Gulf beaches."

Lifeguards found a "very minor" set of fingernail-size tar

balls over the weekend on the western edge of the island about 35

miles east of Pensacola, marking the easternmost point oil has been

discovered ashore.

The spill's harmful environmental effects also appear to have

spread to Texas, with the government saying Sunday that dead, oiled

birds were reported for the first time in that state. A wildlife

report issued Sunday by the government command center in Robert,

La., says two dead birds with oil on them were found in Texas, but

didn't elaborate on the circumstances. Dozens of dead, oiled birds

have been found in other Gulf states, the majority of them in

Louisiana.

Jim Suydam, a spokesman for the Texas General Land Office, which

has been monitoring spill, said he hadn't heard about the birds and

that the oil was still 100 miles from the Texas-Louisiana border.

Officials reported Sunday afternoon that a sheen of oil was

spotted about 150 miles west of Tampa, though they did not expect

the slick to reach the western Florida peninsula in the near

future.

BP said Monday that the cost of the response has reached about

$1.25 billion. The company said the figure does not include $360

million for a project to build six sand berms meant to protect

Louisiana's wetlands from spreading oil.

The prospect that the crisis could stretch beyond summer

devastated residents along the Gulf, who are seeing more and

thicker globs of oil appear all along the coast.

The floors in Ruth Dailey's condominium in Gulf Shores, Ala.,

are already smeared with dark blotches of oil, she said, and things

are only going to get worse.

"This is just the beginning," she said. "I have a beachfront

condo for a reason. With this, no one will want to come."

A couple miles away, workers cleaning sand at a state park

finished their work and left their refuse on the beach in the way

of the incoming tide.

"Waves are washing over plastic bags filled with tar and oil.

It's crazy," said Mike Reynolds, a real estate agent and director

of Share The Beach, a turtle conservation group.

Environmental and consumer advocate Erin Brockovich planned to

visit southern Louisiana on Monday to speak to people who say

they've been sickened by dispersants used to break up the oil

spill.

At Pensacola Beach, Fla., the turquoise waves also were flecked

with floating balls of tar. Buck Langston, who has been coming to

the beach to collect shells for 38 years, watched as his family

used improvised chopsticks to collect the tar in plastic

containers.

"Yesterday it wasn't like this, this heavy," Langston, of

Baton Rouge, La., said Sunday. "I don't know why cleanup crews

aren't out here."

Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, overseeing the government's

response to the spill, has expressed similar frustration, ordering

cleanup crews to the Alabama coastline after surveying the scene

from the air. But he acknowledged the relative futility of their

efforts.

"It's so widespread, and it's intermittent," he told The

Associated Press on Saturday. "That's what's so challenging about

this. Everyone wants certainty. With an oil spill like this, there

isn't any."

Since it was placed over the busted well on Thursday, the cap

has been siphoning an increasing amount of oil. On Saturday, it

funneled about 441,000 gallons to a tanker on the surface, up from

about 250,000 gallons it captured Friday.

But it's not clear how much is still escaping from the well,

which federal authorities have estimated was leaking between

500,000 gallons and 1 million gallons a day. Since the spill began

nearly seven weeks ago, roughly 23 million to 50 million gallons of

oil have leaked into the Gulf.

The inverted funnel-like cap is being closely watched for

whether it can make a serious dent in the flow of new oil. Allen

reserved judgment, saying he didn't want to risk offering false

encouragement.

"This will be well into the fall," he said Sunday on CBS'

"Face the Nation." "This is a siege across the entire Gulf. This

spill is holding everybody hostage, not only economically but

physically. And it has to be attacked on all fronts."