Oil protection project shut down, CPRA chairman comments

June 23, 2010
June 23, 2010 -- CPRA Chairman Garret Graves issued a statement in reaction to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers shutting down the sand berm oil protection efforts off the coast of Louisiana...

June 23, 2010 -- The following is a statement from CPRA Chairman Garret Graves in reaction to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers shutting down the sand berm oil protection efforts off the coast of Louisiana.

"Tonight, the United States Army Corps of Engineers New Orleans District officially shut down the state's dredging operation to protect coastal Louisiana from the ongoing impact of millions of gallons of oil leaking into the Gulf from the BP oil spill.

"After conference calls and meetings throughout the day, reports from the Corps that they had not shut down our efforts, and a top federal official said he was not halting our dredging operation, we have now been notified that our efforts to help prevent the oil from hitting our coast are officially stopped. Interestingly, the Corps' press release tonight said this was done in 'close coordination' with the state, while we have actually been pleading with them to let our dredging operations continue.

"This decision was made only hours after BP reported that they had to remove the containment cap and we, once again, have an estimated 60,000 barrels of oil per day to destroy our fisheries, birds, wetlands and coastal communities -- mind-boggling."

"Indeed, the Corps' own permit indicates that we are currently operating within the allowed dredge area. Our operations on the Northern Chandeleurs have all been within our approved permitted area. We simply asked to continue dredging operations until we could ensure a seamless transition to the next sand borrow site. Reports today show that oil will hit our coast again next week and now we will lose thousands of feet of sand berm that we could have built up in that time to protect our marshes and our coast. Because of this fact, we made it clear to the Corps that their 'Option 1' was never an option for the state.

"All of the sudden, the Department of the Interior claims we were dredging outside of the permitted area, yet they agreed to this spot for seven to 10 days. If we were dredging outside the confines of the original permit - which we were not -- the agencies would have had to issue a new permit for dredging outside of the initial permit. A new permit was not issued because it was not needed. We were dredging within the permitted area.

"In fact, the Shaw Group project manager for the sand berms is a former top official within the Corps of Engineers. There are few folks in this world that are more familiar with the Corps' regulatory procedures. To suggest that the project manager would dredge outside of a permitted area is absurd.

"The Corps's statement also says they have concerns about the 'additional erosion issues and possible deterioration of the Chandeleur Islands.' While I certainly appreciate the Corps' and USFWS's new-found love for the Chandeleur Islands, if they were actually interested in preventing further erosion in this area surely they would have invested even one dollar from their budgets for coastal restoration projects in the many years they have owned and managed this area -- as they have done for other refuges and recreational areas.

"Communities used to live on these islands, today they are virtually gone. Additionally, the Department of the Interior's continued insistence that this dredge area is a bird rookery makes it clear that they are confused about what it is that they are protecting - and perhaps have never been to the Chandeleurs at all. There isn't a place for a bird to land for over a mile away.

"Additionally, one of the Department of the Interior's top political appointees told the Associated Press that we were dredging 'in between islands.' Mr. Strickland should probably consult a current map, because there is there is nothing north of where we were dredging on the Chandeluer Island chain. It is not 'in between' anything. Perhaps if the federal government had taken any interest in protecting the coast in this area there would truly be places for birds to land and people to fish today."

The Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority's mandate is to develop, implement and enforce a comprehensive coastal protection and restoration master plan. For the first time in Louisiana's history, this single state authority will integrate coastal restoration and hurricane protection by marshalling the expertise and resources of the Louisiana Office of Coastal Protection and Restoration, and other state agencies, to speak with one clear voice for the future of Louisiana's coast. Working with federal, state and local political subdivisions, including levee districts, the CPRA will work to establish a safe and sustainable coast that will protect our communities, the nation's critical energy infrastructure, and our bountiful natural resources for generations to come. The CPRA of Louisiana was established by Act 8 of the 1st Extraordinary Session of 2005. Web: www.lacpra.org


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