Governor Jindal and Coastal Officials View Oil Impact at Grand Isle, Thunder Bayou, Fourchon Beach & Stress Effectiveness of Sand Booming in Fight against Oil
GRAND ISLE (May 20, 2010) -
Governor Jindal along with coastal parish officials viewed the impact of the oil along the coast today in Grand Isle, Thunder Bayou and Fourchon Beach. The Governor and local officials saw miles of tar balls along Fourchon beach that washed up late last night and gobs of oil pooled at the land bridge which the National Guard just completed days ago at Thunder Bayou.
Governor Jindal was joined by Lafourche Parish President Charlotte Randolph, Terrebonne Parish President Michel Claudet, Jefferson Parish President Steve Theriot, Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand, Grand Isle Mayor David Carmardelle, State Sen. John Alario, State Rep. Pat Connick, Jean Lafitte Mayor Tim Kerner, Jefferson Parish Councilmen Chris Roberts and Tom Capella and other local officials.
Governor Jindal said, “It is clear from what we saw on Fourchon Beach and Thunder Bayou today that the oil is here. It is in our marsh – like we saw yesterday in Pass a Loutre – and it is on our shores. To put this in perspective, Fourchon Beach – where we saw tarballs today – is about 110 miles from the source of the spill. This oil has travelled 110 miles to land on our coast and we are very concerned that this is just the beginning. We didn’t see this oil come in on top of the water. According to locals, this tar ball material floated beneath the surface to land on the beach here.
“Grand Isle supports a multi-billion dollar fishing industry, not to mention the many families whose very livelihoods comes from this water. LDWF estimates that this spill could cost us hundreds of millions of dollars in losses. Recreational and commercial fishing in Louisiana contribute over $3 billion a year to our economy annually and is responsible for more than 60,000 jobs in the state. Louisiana produces nearly one-third of the seafood for the continental US and 70 percent of the seafood production in the Gulf of Mexico comes from Louisiana fishers, shrimpers and oyster harvesters.
“This is why we have repeatedly said that this spill fundamentally threatens Louisiana’s way of life. The oil is here, but we are still waiting on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to approve our sand boom plan to help keep oil out of our marshes and off of our shores. We have already asked the Coast Guard to approve advancing the resources we will need to implement this plan, including barges and other dredging ships, so we can get to work quickly.
“Indeed, today, we saw first-hand how well our sand-booming plan works. The land bridge the National Guard built at Elmer’s Island is now actively trapping and containing oil.
“We saw the oil all along our shored today but we are still waiting on the U.S. Commerce Department to declare a Commercial Fisheries Failure in Louisiana to activate critical assistance to our fishermen and their communities. This oil has already caused a severe disruption in our fishing industry and the total shutdown of fisheries in some coastal communities.”
Governor Jindal also stressed the ongoing need for more boom in critical areas west of the river, including Lafourche, Terrebonne and St. Mary Parishes.
The Governor said, “We continue to be concerned about the shortage of boom in Lafourche, Terrebonne and St. Mary Parishes. We continue to call for more boom in these areas. Terrebonne, especially, needs more boom given the unconfirmed reports of oil moving into Timbalier Bay today. This oil would be very difficult to clean out, if not impossible. We also asked BP and the Coast Guard to ramp up their Vessels of Opportunity Program in Terrebonne to help employ our fishermen in the fight to protect the coast.
“It is important to point out that Lafourche, Terrebonne, and St. Mary Parish have received only a minimal amount of boom in the last 24 hours. Today, booming operations are continuing in the Chandeleur Islands, Raccoon and Trinity islands, the Timbaliers, Breton Island, Grand Isle and Venice.
PURSUING MULTIPLE AVENUES IN FIGHT TO PROTECT COAST
Governor Jindal also stressed that the state continues to pursue multiple avenues in the fight to protect the coast, noting that boom is only one tool. The Governor gave an update on the many tactics the state is using:
Elmer’s Island at Grand Isle: National Guard engineers continue to conduct maintenance in the vicinity of Elmer’s Island where they closed a 785-foot gap last week. This area is actively containing oil.
Port Fourchon Sandbag Drop Operations: About 30 engineers from the 928th Engineer Company are filling five total gaps in the vicinity of Thunder Bayou in Port Fourchon. Teams are currently working simultaneously in the vicinity of Thunder Bayou and also on the western side of Elmer’s Island. Engineers are working from each end to the center to backfill five cuts on the island. Gap 1 on the east end is now 100 percent complete and Gap 5 on the west end is also now 100 percent complete as of this morning.
Tiger Dam Project at Southwest Pass: Around 90 engineers are working to secure 7.1 miles in Southwest Pass with Tiger Dams. Approximately two miles of the Tiger Dam is now completed and Guardsmen are currently assembling, laying out, and inflating additional sections. National Guardsmen have already positioned 92 pallets of Tiger Dam to Grand Isle for future deployment – which is around 7 miles of dam material.
Sand-Fill: CPRA and the National Guard have also leaned forward and identified approximately 40 total locations where gaps in barrier islands could be filled with sandbags or dump trucks of sand. This strategy would complement a more complete and extensive dredging/sand booming plan.
As of this morning, the National Guard has now dropped 300 sandbags on Pelican Island to completely fill the first gap there, which was around 200 feet, and work on the second gap. There are eight gaps total in the sand-fill plan for Pelican Island and another six gaps that need to be filled with sand bags on Scofield Island. The National Guard’s staging area in Buras is also now operational, which allows Blackhawks lifting the sandbags to make more trips more quickly and help speed up the work there.
Hesco Baskets: Hesco baskets have been approved for deployment on Elmer’s Island, Caminada, Lafourche and in Cameron parish to protect the shorelines there. Representatives from the National Guard, DNR and Lafourche parish are coordinating Hesco basket placement in Lafourche.
Freshwater Diversions: A variety of freshwater diversions are actively running to push freshwater out and protect the shore.
Dredging/Sand-Boom Plan: The state is moving forward on a dredge plan to build sand booms along the alignment of the historic barrier islands in the Chandeleurs, Barataria Bay and Timbalier Bay. CPRA filed for an emergency permit from the Army Corps of Engineers last week and the Governor and officials continue to stress the importance of its quick approval, which could begin creating sand-booms to catch oil in around 10 days.
The Governor also announced today that the state’s request for the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium’s (LUMCON) research vessel – the RV Pelican – to do more research missions has been approved. The RV Pelican vessel recently reported massive oil plumes over 30 square miles beneath the surface of the Gulf. Now that the request has been approved, the state asked LUMCON to work directly with the Coast Guard to deploy the RV Pelican as quickly as possible.
According to NOAA, the total shoreline impact of oil is 49 miles and the Governor said he expects this number to rise based on the coastal impact seen today.
DEQ has confirmed shoreline impacts to date on: the Chandeleur Islands, Whiskey Island, Raccoon Island, South Pass, East Fourchon, Grand Isle, Elmer's Island, Trinity Island, Brush Island, and the Pass a Loutre area. The Governor said that no amount of shoreline has been fully cleaned in accordance with DEQ standards and approval to date.
Cleanup operations scheduled for today include: South Pass, North Pass, Pilot Bayou, Red Fish Bay, Chandeleur Island and Trinity Island. Beach clean up is also scheduled at Fourchon today and Brush Island will also be cleaned after a SCAT team assessment.