CPRA Discusses Oil Spill Clean-Up and Restoration Projects during Monthly Meeting at State Capitol
Baton Rouge, LA: The Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority met Wednesday to continue discussions on oil containment and to update attendees on the work underway to repair damages to the state's wetlands, fisheries, wildlife and other natural resources caused by the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Authority Chairman Garret Graves discussed the sand berm project. Graves started the conversation by discussing some of the inaccuracies mentioned in recent articles related to sand berms. He pointed out that an estimated 8.5 miles of berms have been constructed while an additional six miles of berm material remains in the re-handling area.
Department of Natural Resources Assistant Secretary Lou Buatt noted that nearly 70 percent of the sediment used for the berms is new sediment from the Mississippi River that is added to the barrier island berm system.
Shaw project manager Charlie Hess stressed that some of the berm project highlights including: constant coordination with federal agencies, extraordinary permitting efforts, adaptive management strategies and the deployment of a major percentage of the domestic dredging fleet.
Mr. Hess was quick to point out that the material being used does make good quality berm. Good grain sized material is good for mitigating oil into the ecosystem. Finally, he noted that the remainder of the project should move more quickly due to the stockpiled dredged material in the re-handling area.
In regards to recent oil sightings Graves said there continues to be oiling on a daily basis. It's said we still have up to 3 million barrels of oil still in our waters. To put this amount in perspective, Graves pointed out this is multiple times more than the total spilled during the Exxon-Valdez spill in Alaska.
Recently, the University of Georgia completed a study and found 2inch thick layers of oil exist on the ocean floor in the Gulf of Mexico. Graves went on to say that this is potentially a huge threat during hurricane season as it could be thrust farther into our coastal ecosystem.
He then urged that local, state, federal and BP officials continue to take an aggressive approach on dealing with the oil spill. "I'm not comfortable letting down our guard until we know where all the oil is. We need to press hard until we have a crystal clear picture that the oiling vulnerability no longer exists," he said.
Authority members Mark Morgan and John Barry discussed the proposed reallocation of Hurricane Protection System funding within the New Orleans area. A proposal to allocate Southeast Louisiana urban flood control and Lake Pontchartrain and Vicinity hurricane protection funds to the Western Closure Complex remains a complex issue. Morgan and Barry recognized the need to ensure that hurricane protection work continues to progress, but overall funding shortfalls for the protection system must be addressed.
The Authority then took up discussions on the ongoing Natural Resources Damage Assessment (NRDA) being conducted by state and federal agencies.
Oil Spill Coordinator Deputy Director Karolien Debusschere pointed out that NRDA is how the public is compensated for any injuries to natural resources. The purpose of having trustees is to ensure that advocates represent various natural resource interests and to help improve public involvement. She then went on to discuss the ways the damages to natural resources are being assessed.Methods include: Aerial surveys for assessing marine mammals and sea turtles, a marsh bird mortality plan, and water column assessments.
Kyle Graham, Deputy Director of the Coastal Activities in the Governor's Office then discussed emergency restoration projects under NRDA. Graham said, "We are evaluating projects to be done immediately due to the ongoing impact of oil." Graham listed specific projects that were being deemed priorities. He pointed out that by completing certain projects upfront the state can save money and increase productivity through NRDA responses to the oil spill.
Graham concluded by listing out five state goals: define revenue stream, build on states current comprehensive planning effort, establish effective implementation process, construct near term projects, and begin development of next wave of large scale projects.
If you need additional information, please call the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority at (225) 342-3968