BATON ROUGE – Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal this week issued a proclamation declaring June 27th as a “Statewide Day of Prayer” for perseverance through the oil spill crises.
Earlier in the week Governor Jindal called on the federal government to immediately restart dredging operations at the Chandeleur Islands after the federal government ordered the operations there to shut down last night. The Governor landed on the sand-berms today at the Chandeleur Islands today to highlight the progress already made in the state’s dredging project to block the oil from hitting Louisiana’s coast.
Jindal called the federal government’s decision to shut down dredging absurd and requested they immediately allow contractors to get back to work building sand-berms to protect the state’s coastline.
“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 6:00 p.m. last night,” Jindal said.
“Our request here today is simple,” he added. “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.”
Jindal said that Col. Lee of the Army Corps of Engineers and every federal agency was informed that Louisiana is in an emergency situation. He said that in this disaster every hour and every day counts and that the state 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,” he added.
According to the Governor’s office, more than 690,000 cubic yards of material has now been transported for the eastern and western reaches of the sand berm project on the North Chandeleur Islands. This includes approximately 90,000 cubic yards on the western side. A total of 5,000 feet of sand berm has been created at the site. The state has also dredged over 2.5 miles on East Grand Terre.
“We have jumped through every hoop that the federal government has placed in front of us since this spill started,” said Jindal. “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 11, the Governor submitted a proposal to the regulatory agencies, BP and the Coast Guard to approve the sand berms. He said it took nearly a month for the federal government to approve the plan and to 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,” Jindal added.
At a press conference following the tour of the dredging site, the Governor highlighted a picture of the Chandeleur Islands from 2001 to 2005 that shows the erosion of the area. He noted that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service own these islands and they are supposed to be a wildlife refuge.
“People used to live on these islands,” he said. “It was a fishing community and even had some farming. From the mid-90s until recently, the islands lost up to 300 feet per year under U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service management.”
He said this same agency now has concerns that Louisiana is not sensitive to the islands by wanting to continue to dredge for seven more days to ensure a smooth transition. He said the agency has not invested a penny and is allowing the island coastline to erode at extraordinary rates.
“Louisiana’s coast is one our most important resources,” he said. “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.
He said the state has been committed from the beginning to backfill any dredging that adversely affects the islands. He said that action is needed now and it means not shutting down dredging operations while oil continues to hit the shores and flow into the Gulf. He said they would relocate the dredge to meet any new requirements as changed by the demands of the cleanup.
The Governor reiterated his support for the court’s ruling this week to lift the oil drilling moratorium and also noted that for the first time BP said it would not be paying for any moratorium-related losses.
“The federal judge’s ruling yesterday to grant an immediate injunction on President Obama’s deepwater drilling moratorium was welcome news,” he said. “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’.”
Jindal said the moratorium would threaten thousands of jobs and would jeopardize other supplier industries and the communities that depend on them. He said moratorium was enacted against the judgment of the Department of the Interior’s own expert advisors and scientists.
The Governor announced that the Louisiana Secretary of Economic Development sent a letter to the Small Business Administration requesting they implement a policy change to allow repayment of business loans in the form of BP claims, if needed, in lieu of SBA’s normal process for assessing credit history and repayment ability.
“Louisiana has suffered severe economic and ecological damage from the BP oil spill,” said Jindal. “Our seafood industry is experiencing huge economic losses that have only been partially mitigated by a frustratingly slow and inadequate BP claims process.
“We have also begun to face the loss of thousands of jobs associated with the federally imposed deepwater drilling moratorium,” he added. “The moratorium will not only impact large oil and gas companies but it also will result in the closure of many small businesses that depend on the deepwater drilling industry. Likewise hundreds of small businesses are under severe strain due to other effects of the oil spill.”