Governor Jindal: We Need Federal Government to Join Us in the Fight to Protect Our Way of Life

June 18, 2010

Frustration of Federal Interference in Clean Up Mounts

BURAS (June 17, 2010) – Today, Governor Bobby Jindal went to Delta Marina in Plaquemines Parish to check on the status of eight barges that had been held at dock for over 24 hours because the Coast Guard shut down all 16 oil-fighting vacuum barges early yesterday, claiming their operations needed to be halted until inspections and certifications could be done. The Governor also viewed the heavy oil impact in Barataria Bay and around Bay Jimmy and East Grand Terre – where vacuum operations were underway earlier this week, before being shut down yesterday under the Coast Guard’s orders.

Governor Jindal said, “We were told Wednesday morning that the Coast Guard was shutting down our vacuum barge operations so they could inspect and certify all the vessels we are using in our fight against this oil spill. We asked them to do these inspections quickly and if they could do them without shutting down ongoing operations that are cleaning up the oil that is killing our marsh. Before the shut down yesterday, oil suction operations using military and civilian vacuum barges had suctioned thousands of gallons of oil out of the marsh already and thousands more could have been removed yesterday if these operations wouldn’t have been shut down.

“We currently have operational vacuum barges – either military or civilian – in Bay Jimmy, Red Fish Bay, Pass A Loutre, Blind Bay, Four Bay Pass, Barataria Bay and two in Cat Island. All these barges had to stop their operations yesterday under the Coast Guard’s orders. Another eight vacuum barges were staged in Empire and awaiting deployment. Those eight were also awaiting Coast Guard inspection as of this morning until they were told the barges no longer needed to be inspected.

“On our way to Buras this morning, we received word from the Coast Guard that they no longer needed to do inspections and that vacuum barge operations could continue. The frustration here is that we spent weeks talking to the Coast Guard about this new, common sense idea for cleaning out the marsh. At first, we were only allowed to produce a prototype – and once that was seen to be successful, as we knew it would be, we asked for many more of these suction barges to be deployed to coastal communities across the state. Then, after about a week of use, they were shut down because the Coast Guard wanted to inspect them. Now, they have been told they don’t need these inspections.

“It is frustrating because it doesn’t seem like the left hand knows what the right hand is doing. There is no streamlined system here. This is why we keep stressing that we need to see more of a sense of urgency from the Coast Guard, federal officials and BP. We are in a war here – we are in a war against this oil that absolutely threatens our way of life.

“When we asked the Coast Guard to do their checks quickly yesterday they said they were facing some delays because they couldn’t get in touch with a contractor. They then asked the National Guard for contact information and the National Guard agreed to send it to them but said that the contractor was under the Coast Guard and BP. The Coast Guard official who asked apparently did not know how to even get a phone number for the BP contractor. That type of disorganization is delaying our efforts in fighting this war.

“The Coast Guard is the agency that approved all of these vacuum barges to be deployed into the marsh. It is not only frustrating that they later decided to take them offline and inspect them, it cost us more than 24 we in our fight against the heavy oil we saw sitting around these barges, hurting our fragile marsh. We are in a war to save our coast from this oil and we need the federal government to join with us in this fight to protect our way of life.”

Governor Jindal also gave an update on the sand boom/dredging operations in the northern Chandeleurs. The Governor said, “We have hopper dredges operating west of the river and one cutterhead dredge operating east of the river. Dredge California continues to deposit material on the Chandeleurs. Machinery to shape the placed material into the berm there is expected to be in place today. The California is dredging and moving an average of 54,000 cubic yards of dirt a day.”

Thus far, around 162,000 cubic yards of material have been placed as the beginning base for the barrier berm. Under our implementation plan, over 150 vessels will be working on the six segments concurrently. Each segment will be treated as a separate project with dredges and other equipment working simultaneously. We expect ten dredges to be working on these projects, making this is one of the largest and most intense dredging projects in our nation’s history. Once completed, the roughly 40 miles of sand berms will benefit and protect 2,000-3,000 miles of tidal shoreline.

Governor Jindal also said that Grand Isle Mayor David Camardelle had another meeting today with the Coast Guard on his plan to narrow the passes to the east and west of Grand Isle. Governor Jindal and the Mayor have been pushing to get the rock and barge plan finalized for weeks. The Mayor and the Governor met with President Obama almost two weeks ago about this and stressed the importance of the Coast Guard approving the use of the rocks and barge plan quickly in order to help block oil coming into the passes to Barataria Bay. The Governor noted the state needed multiple lines of defense to keep oil out of its wetlands and off of the coast. The Governor and the Mayor have been pushing for more high sea boom and skimmers for weeks to protect the passes, and since the promised resources have not arrived, the state is now pushing for a combination of barges, rocks, and vacuum barges.

Governor Jindal said, “We saw the oil coming into Barataria Bay again today. It looks even worse than it did two days ago. The Barataria Bay’s fragile marsh ecosystem supports much of our shrimping and fishing – which is part of one of the richest estuaries in the world. This is another reason why we cannot afford to lose any time vacuuming up these areas and getting this oil out of the marsh.”

Update on Continued State Action In War Against Oil

•East Grand Terre Dredging: The state is continuing dredging at East Grande Terre.
•Protecting Marshes: In Orleans, Terrebonne and St. Bernard parishes the state is working with parish officials to establish a Marsh Fringe Barrier – a combination of plugs and berms.
•HESCO Baskets: The Louisiana National Guard has deployed two and a half miles of Hesco baskets in Fourchon. In Cameron Parish, the National Guard has deployed more than 1 ¼ mile out of 8 miles needed.
•Landbridges: Louisiana National Guard engineers are maintaining the landbridges at Elmer’s Island and Thunder Bayou – where they have already filled five gaps in the vicinity of Thunder Bayou in Port Fourchon.
•Tigers Dams: Louisiana National Guard engineers have FINISHED the 7.1 miles of Tiger Dam needed in Southwest Pass. In support of Jefferson Parish and Grand Isle, National Guard engineers have POSITIONED approximately 7.8 miles of double layer barrier and 4 ¾ miles of top layer. On Elmer’s Island, the National Guard placed around 2,000 feet of Tiger Dam needed to protect the low-lying areas there.
•Sand-Fill Operations: On Pelican Island, the Louisiana National Guard has dropped over 3,300 sandbags to date – completing all eight gaps there. They are also working the remaining four of six gaps on Scofield Island and have filled in more than 6,540 sandbags to date. In Plaquemines Parish, Guardsmen completed the reinforcement of the retention levee with 4,900 sandbags.
•Freshwater Diversions: The state is currently operating all state freshwater diversions.

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