Governor Jindal Meets with Federal Officials, Stresses Need for Better Coordination of Response Efforts
PORT FOURCHON (May 24, 2010) - Today, Governor Bobby Jindal met with U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Coast Guard Admiral Mary Landry, BP COO Doug Suttles, congressional leaders and local officials to emphasize the substantial oil impact on Louisiana’s coast and why it’s critical for resources to be quickly and effectively deployed to mitigate the impact of the oil spill. Governor Jindal also outlined the strategies he is pursuing with coastal parish leaders in order to fill the void they are seeing in response efforts to the oil spill. The Governor called the response effort disjointed and said that has meant too little too late for the oil hitting the coast.
Governor Jindal said, “Over the past weeks, I have visited a different parish and city each day and met with local officials. We have often met to discuss resources we would need to protect the coast, and unfortunately, now our visits also include an on-the-ground assessment of the damage caused by this oil spill. For anyone who has seen this damage and the impact of the oil first-hand you cannot escape the fact that this spill fundamentally threatens our way of life in Louisiana.
“Yesterday, we went out on a boat to Cat Island in Plaquemines Parish and we saw islands covered in oil where our Brown Pelicans nest. Many of the birds we could see were oiled, some to the point where they could not fly. Wildlife and Fisheries tells us the most severely oil birds are likely not even visible because they will move to the inside center of the island. The Brown Pelican, of course, is our Louisiana state bird – and it was just recently removed from the Endangered Species List. The oil on those islands yesterday may kill off much of the island – in addition to damaging the bird population.
“Just a few days ago, we took a boat out to Pass a L’Outre and saw thick black and brown colored oil covering much of the perimeter of the marsh out there. Again – wildlife experts tell us this marsh may die in 5 to 7 days after the oil hits it.
“It is clear that the resources needed to protect our coast are not here. Boom, skimmers, vacuums, and jack up barges are all in short supply. Every day oil sits and waits for clean up more of our marsh dies.
“Yesterday, we met again with coastal parish leaders – just like we did when we formed our own detailed parish protection plans – because we know we have to take action and take matters into our own hands if we are going to win this fight to protect our coast.
“We met with parish leaders, emergency professionals and levee district officials to discuss strategies to fill the void we are currently seeing in response efforts to stop this oil. To be clear – our goal is to stop this oil before it gets into our marshes. The marsh is not a sandy beach. It is very difficult to clean up and environmental experts say trying to clean it up in some places could do even more harm than good.
“This means we have to stop this oil before it comes into our marsh. We have already initiated a number of strategies to do this, including: Tiger Dams, Hesco baskets, sand-bag drop operations, fresh-water diversions, sand-fill operations, and the proposal of our sand-boom plan. Because we cannot simply wait for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to approve the sand-booming plan, we redirected a dredge conducting restoration work on East Grand Terre – which is east of Grand Isle – to immediately begin constructing a sand berm as called for in the state’s barrier island plan.”
Dredging was already underway to restore the barrier island in East Grand Terre under the state’s coastal restoration program. This will help to remove oil offshore Louisiana’s mainland before it reaches Louisiana’s intricate coastal wetlands and estuary.
The Governor outlined the strategy he announced yesterday with coastal parish leaders.
Governor Jindal said, “Working with parish leaders yesterday, we came up with new, additional strategies designed to fill the current void in response efforts. We developed a strategy for state and parish officials to have better situational awareness of the oil’s movement within Louisiana’s coast and offshore areas.
“Wildlife and Fisheries has divided the coast into sections and will be patrolling these sectors continuously so that containment and cleanup efforts can be operationalized quickly. Their efforts will be supported by the National Guard and parish officials. We will communicate our findings to the Coast Guard and BP on a daily basis to ensure our coast is continuously monitored and quickly cleaned. We will report these findings publicly each day so media and the public can keep updated and BP is held accountable for their cleanup efforts.
“We also asked that the Coast Guard refocus their efforts so that they have greater command and control on the ground where action needs to be taken quickly to save our coast. We asked for the Coast Guard to forward-deploy personnel with decision-making authority in every basin area of the coast so they can work closely with parish officials there and see the impact of the oil first-hand so they are better able to have eyes on the problem and respond quickly.”
“We have been frustrated with the disjointed effort to date that has too often meant too little too late to stop the oil from hitting our coast. We need folks in each basin that can mobilize resources quickly to contain oil when it arrives, not wait 24 hours or 48 hours. BP is the Responsible Party but we need the federal government to make sure they are held accountable and that they are indeed responsible. Our way of life depends on it. The actions taken to respond to this oil today are determining the future of our state.”
The Governor noted that part of the strategy includes identifying additional resources to enable the state to continue to lean forward and protect the coast.
Governor Jindal said, “We have also identified additional equipment and personnel available from parishes, state agencies and levee districts that will help us take our own proactive measures to keep oil out of our of marshes. We plan to use this equipment to expand ongoing efforts by the National Guard to close gaps in our coastal areas. We already have 40 cuts identified and 14 prioritized. We are identifying additional cuts and we will work to expedite fill-in efforts wherever we can with equipment from the state and parishes pooled together. The National Guard is requesting Chinooks to help expedite these operations.”
The Governor also outlined the resources requested from the Coast Guard and BP to effectively respond to the oil spill.
Governor Jindal said, “On May 2nd we leaned forward and requested the resources that our parishes would need under a worst-case scenario response to this oil spill. In fact, the very next day, we announced all of our coastal parish detailed protection plans and detailed that we had formally requested three million feet of absorbent boom, five million feet of hard boom and 30 ‘jack up’ barges.
“Today is May 24th and we have received a total of 815,569 feet of hard boom to date. Not even a million feet. 680,249 feet of this total has been deployed and 135,320 feet of hard boom sits and waits to be deployed. In the last 24 hours, we have received only 5,040 feet of hard boom. We need more boom, we need more resources, we need the materials we have requested to fight this oil and keep it out of our marsh and off of our coast.
“We continue to wait on a decision on our dredging/sand-boom plan from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. We made modifications suggested by the Corps and answered every question they submitted in the same day. We have showed pictures of sand-boom in Fourchon actively holding oil back from traveling into the marsh. We know this strategy works and that is why we took matters into our own hands yesterday to do more of these sand-fills ourselves, while we wait on approval to dredge the larger areas.
“To date – just under 70 miles of our coast has been hit by oil. This is more than the sea shoreline of Maryland and Delaware combined. To be clear – We have only two options: we can stop the oil 15 to 20 miles off of our coast at sand booms or we can fight the battle of removing oil in our thousands of miles of fragmented wetlands that serve as a critical nursery for wildlife. Every day we are not given the authorization to move forward and create more of these sand-booms with dredging is another day where that choice is made for us and more and more miles of our shore are hit by oil.”