CPRA Statement On EPA Berm Letter
BATON ROUGE, La -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released a comment letter to the Corps of Engineers yesterday regarding issuance of the Section 404 Clean Water Act Permit for the originally proposed barrier island sand berm project. In May the Corps of Engineers issued an emergency authorization for the State to proceed with the construction of the six segments of bermsthat were approved by Admiral Thad Allen as reponce actions to the BP oil spill. As a condition of that emergency authorization the State was required to submit a complete formal permit application for the etire project proposal (all 19 segments) within 30 days.
To clarify misinterpretations, the EPA did not call for stopping current work on the berms. In fact, the EPA would oppose stopping work on the berms. They recognize that this oil spill response effort provides significant opportunities to distribute sediment from the Mississippi River into the barrier island systems and to advance our common, long-term coastal sustainability goals.
The EPA did suggest that the berms have only experienced "light oiling". Having spent months in the coastal area during this spill, I have seen some the heaviest oiling on Louisiaina's coast on our berms. Louisiana National Guard has picked up at least 1,000 pounds of oily debris on the berms. In addition, the federal government's own estimates indicate that there is multiple times more oil in the Gulf today than was spilled during the entire Exxon Valdez incident. Now is not the time to stop protective measures that have proven their effectiveness.
Hundreds of barrels of oil have been stopped and collected from our berms. This makes our berms one of the most effective protective measures taken during the spill.
The EPA also suggested that the berms would harm or reduce bird habitat. We have seen more birds on our new berms than on many of our other barrier islands. The berms appear to actually increase bird habitat.
We have been meeting with the EPA and other federal agencies on regular basis and enjoy open lines of communication. The letter simply suggests furhter modifying the berm profiles to be more inline with barrier island restoration. The State has previously submitted and received approval for minor modifications that work toward this goal. We appreciate EPA's concurrence that we continue to build on the current actions and morph the berms into more resillient features of our coastal landscape. We will continue to work with EPA and the Corps on the permit to ensure that we make long-term modifications to ensure that this work complements the coastal sustainability goals that the state, parishes, NGOs and our community leaders have successfully advanced over the last three years. We fully agree with this goal.