Friday, June 25, 2010

Feds Stop Sand Berms In LA

Yes, you read that right. The Department of the Interior under Ken Salazar has stopped the creation of sand berms to protect Louisiana. Honestly, is the complete and utter absurdity of how Obama is handling this grave, devastating issue ever going to stop?

Sure doesn't seem like it, according to this article, "Federal Gov't Halts Sand Berm Dredging; Nungesser Pleads With President To Allow Work To Continue." It pains me to even consider the implications of this decision. What is wrong with these people? Here is the rationale:
The federal government has shut down the dredging that was being done to create protective sand berms in the Gulf of Mexico.

The berms are meant to protect the Louisiana coastline from oil. But the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department has concerns about where the dredging is being done. The department says one area where sand is being dredged is a sensitive section of the Chandeleur Islands, and the state failed to meet an extended deadline to install pipe that would draw sand from a less-endangered area.

And there is the justification, but is it a valid one? That is addressed more fully below, but suffice it to say, this is not the whole picture. I know, what a surprise. Still, how can this work be stopped at this critical juncture? I'm not the only one who wants to know:
Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser, who was one of the most vocal advocates of the dredging plan, has sent a letter to President Barack Obama, pleading for the work to continue.

Nungesser said the government has asked crews to move the dredging site two more miles farther off the coastline.

"Once again, our government resource agencies, which are intended to protect us, are now leaving us vulnerable to the destruction of our coastline and marshes by the impending oil," Nungesser wrote to Obama. "Furthermore, with the threat of hurricanes or tropical storms, we are being put at an increased risk for devastation to our area from the intrusion of oil.

Nungesser has asked for the dredging to continue for the next seven days, the amount of time it would take to move the dredging operations two miles and out resume work. Gov. Bobby Jindal on Wednesday also joined Nungesser in asking for an extension.

Work halted at midnight Wednesday.

The California dredge located off the Chandelier Islands has pumped more than 50,000 cubic yards of material daily to create a sand berm, according to Plaquemines Parish officials.

Nungesser's letter includes an emotional plea to the president.

"Please don't let them shut this dredge down," he wrote. "This requires your immediate attention!"

Can you just feel the immense frustration of the people in this area trying desperately to keep this oil from getting to sensitive areas, and having their own government impede their efforts time and time again? It is palpable - and I don't blame them one damn bit:

And here is what Gov. Bobby Jindal had to say about this decision:
[snip]“We got word yesterday that federal officials were going to shut down our dredging operations on the North Chandeleur Islands and those operations were indeed stopped under the federal government’s command at 6PM last night.

“Our request here today is simple,” said the governor. “We are again calling on the federal government to allow us to continue these dredging operations as we mobilize pipe for another two miles – which will take around just seven more days. Getting this pipe in place without stopping the dredging operations will allow us a seamless transition as we move the dredge to a new borrow site. After this pipe is in place, our dredger can disconnect and move to the next site where it can then resume dredging operations in just one day.

“We have told Col. Lee of the Army Corps of Engineers and every federal agency that we are in an emergency situation here. This is a disaster for our state. Days count. Hours count. We cannot wait for more conference calls and meetings for discussions. We need to adapt to the situation on the ground and continue our dredging operations for as long as possible until we can move to the next borrow site and continue to create sand boom.”

Over 5,000 feet of sand berm has been created in the Chandeleurs, in addition to 2.5 miles at East Grand Terre. Jindal has previously noted that sand berm can be highly effective in trapping oil, thus keeping it from coming inland into Louisiana’s estuaries and marshes.

“We have jumped through every hoop that the federal government has placed in front of us since this spill started,” he seethed. “On May 2, we submitted our initial boom plan to the Incident Command Post since there was not a plan. When BP and the Coast Guard were unable to provide the appropriate boom resources, we began developing innovative solutions like Tiger Dams, air-dropping sand bags, Hesco baskets, opening all freshwater diversions, vacuum barges and many other alternatives.

“On May 11th, we submitted a proposal to the regulatory agencies, BP and the Coast Guard to approve our sand berms. It took almost a month for the federal government to approve the plan and make BP pay for the work. Meanwhile, we had millions of gallons of oil covering our wetlands, killing our wildlife and forcing our people out of work.”

I don't think anyone can blame Jindal for his level of frustration. I'm frustrated by the stupidity with which this has been handled by the government, especially the ridiculous delay in granting emergency permits in the first place. I can only imagine what Jindal, and the other officials in LA, MS, AL, and FL are feeling. But Jindal wasn't done:
Jindal then took aim at the U.S. Fish And Wildlife Service, which controls the Chandeleurs as a wildlife refuge. He showed a map of the erosion of the chain from 2001 to 2005 and delved into a short history of the disappearing islands.

“People used to live on these islands,” he noted. “It was a fishing community and even had some farming. From the mid-90’s until recently, the islands lost up to 300 feet per year under U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service management.

“Now, this same agency has concerns that we are not being sensitive to the islands by wanting to continue to dredge for seven more days to ensure a smooth transition?

“They have not invested a penny in this area and are allowing it to erode at extraordinary rates. Meanwhile, they invest millions in other refuges in other parts of the country.

“Louisiana’s coast is one our most important resources. That is why we are fighting so hard to protect our wetlands, protect our fisheries and birds and to protect our way of life from this oil spill – with these sand booms. {snip}

“We have said from the beginning that we would backfill any dredging that would adversely affect these islands. That commitment still stands. Shutting down dredging operations while oil continues to hit our shores and the oil continues to flow into the Gulf is absolutely absurd. We need to act now.

“The area where the state was dredging remains within the area permitted by the federal government. When the dredging contractor began operations, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service voiced objections to the location of the dredge. In an effort to prevent delay to the project, we worked out an agreement that would provide for backfilling the dredge site and the movement of the dredge vessel to a new location. The state remains committed to moving the dredge to another location within the permitted area and backfilling the first dredge site.”

Kinda makes you wonder just what in the sam hill the problem is, doesn't it? What is Obama really trying to gain from this? No doubt, there is something afoot:
The Governor then launched into a long riff on the Obamoratorium and the federal government’s attempts to stand it back up after U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman dismantled it with a preliminary injunction yesterday.

The federal judge’s ruling yesterday to grant an immediate injunction on President Obama’s deepwater drilling moratorium was welcome news. We absolutely agree with the judge’s conclusion that the Administration’s six-month, or longer, shut down of deepwater drilling was ‘arbitrary and capricious.’

“Not only does the moratorium threaten thousands of direct jobs in our state, it also jeopardizes many other industries that supply our oil and gas industry and the entire communities that depend on them. It is also deeply concerning that the President’s moratorium was enacted against the judgment of the Department of the Interior’s own expert advisors and scientists.

“The Administration now says that they will immediately appeal the ruling. They just don’t seem to understand that you can’t just turn a switch on and off with these rigs. When they leave our coast to produce oil in other parts of the country or the world, the jobs that support them go too. We absolutely do not want another spill or one more drop of oil on our coast or in our water, but thousands of Louisianians should not have to lose their jobs because the federal government can’t adequately do their job of ensuring drilling is done safely.

“The federal government has an entire agency dedicated to monitoring safe drilling. It shouldn’t take them six-months or longer to ensure safety measures are in place and their laws and regulations are being followed. Instead of an arbitrary moratorium, the Administration should listen to their own experts and enact the specific recommended steps from their own experts to ensure proper oversight and safe drilling.

“As Judge Feldman stated in his preliminary injunction ruling yesterday, ‘…the Secretary’s determination that a six-month moratorium on issuance of new permits and on drilling by the thirty-three rigs is necessary does not seem to be fact-specific and refuses to take into measure the safety records of those others in the Gulf. There is no evidence presented indicating that the Secretary balanced the concern for environmental safety with the policy of making leases available for development. There is no suggestion that the Secretary considered any alternatives: for example, an individualized suspension of activities on target rigs until they reached compliance with the new federal regulations said to be recommended for immediate implementation.’”

The Governor added, “The Commission that was supposed to study the moratorium for the President for six months now says they won’t have their first meeting until mid-July and they won’t finish their report until next year.

“I want to be very clear on this point. Each month that the work of the Commission is delayed means another month that thousands of Louisiana people won’t be able to work. Each month that the work of the Commission is delayed, we expect additional energy companies to move existing deepwater rigs to other parts of the world and/or to plan new deepwater drilling capacity for other parts of the world in lieu of the Gulf – further extending and expanding job losses in Louisiana. Each month that the work of the Commission is delayed will result in the loss of approximately $65 to 135 million in Louisiana wages. [snip]

“Moreover, the $100 million set aside by BP to offset the wage losses of deepwater rig workers will cover only a few weeks of lost wages for those workers – and these funds will do nothing to offset the hundreds of millions in wage losses for workers in support industries that count on deepwater drilling activity for their livelihood. Today, BP told us for the first time that they will not pay for moratorium-related losses above the $100 million.”

I don't recall ever seeing the Federal Government working so hard against its own citizens, or the land it is obligated to protect, as I have with this administration. Have you? The list of actions this Administration has taken since January, 2009, against its own citizens is staggering (feel free to list some, in addition to this debacle, suing one of the fifty states for trying to protect itself, and on and on). We knew it was going to be bad with Obama, but I don't think any of us expected it to be THIS bad, did we? And the hits keep coming...


Anonymous said...

Gosh, I've been trying to read this post all day yesterday and kept getting pulled away from my computer before I finished it. I need to take my laptop and hide in a closet somewhere...a closet blogger.

I don't know, Rev.Amy, it seems for some reason that the government has gone out of their way to hurt Louisiana. It happened during Katrina, and with the Katrina recovery. To this day, years after the hurricane, their is still homes that have not been rebuilt and communities in a mess. And now this mess.

I don't know what to think, all I know is that the word "federal emergency" to this administration refers to dropping poll numbers and nothing more. Obama talked about how he would not rest until this was taken care of, and where was he this week? Eating burgers with the Russian President for a photo-op and giving speeches in Canada about what a great job he thinks he's doing. The one thing he's NOT doing is "kicking somebody's ass". He might want to start with the head of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department.


Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy said...

Nunly, I have to say, I think you are being very unfair to Obama. He was also going to the Sox/Nats game, and playing a full round of golf, so he wasn't JUST hanging out and eating burgers. Sheesh! Ahem.

It does seem like LA is getting smacked harder than others. It makes me wonder why. Is it because it is a big oil producing state, and Obama wants to take that over, too? I don't know - I don't know if it's because Jindal's a Rep., or what (though there is Mary Landrieu). But you are so right abt what constitutes an "emergency" to Obama - anything related to him.

LOL abt being a "closet blogger" - Iknow what you mean, especially having this almost 6 yr old boy running around all week! Wouldn't train it for anything, though!

SFIndie said...

He was also going to the Sox/Nats game, and playing a full round of golf, so he wasn't JUST hanging out and eating burgers. Sheesh!


Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy said...

Teehee - glad you liked that one, SF! I mean, c'mon - the man has his priorities, after all!