Jindal Seeks President’s Help in Fighting Oil
BATON ROUGE, La. - Higher than normal tide pushed heavy oil deep into the marsh along the southernmost point of Louisiana, prompting Gov. Bobby Jindal to renew his call for a permit to build up barrier islands.
Jindal has for weeks been requesting a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit to dredge offshore and dump sand on and between barrier islands to catch oil spewing from the Deepwater Horizon well.
"I would much rather fight this spill 15 to 20 miles offshore than in our marshes," Jindal said Wednesday.
The governor said he will bring up the subject Friday when President Barack Obama visits the area.
Jindal said he will lend support to Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser as he moves to "take matters into our own hands" if the Corps, the Coast Guard or BP doesn't clean up the oil soon.
Signs of the spill - oil-stained floating booms and oil-encrusted marsh reeds - line South Pass. But at the farthest east island at Pass a Loutre, thick standing oil covers the marsh.
Although usually used to keep oil out of the marsh, booms form a barrier, trapping the oil in a football-field-size area.
Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Dan Lauer said that once an area is as heavily oiled as that island is, "we try to contain it so it doesn't go out into another area.
Nungesser said that if no BP or Coast Guard plan to clean up Pass a Loutre is submitted, "Saturday morning we will go and clean it up the best we can." He said skimmers and a suction apparatus would be employed.
What seems like miles of orange and white oil boom strings are scattered along the marshy areas that make up the toe of the Louisiana boot. In some areas, they have blocked the oil, but in others, it's evident that oil has escaped into the marsh.
"Boom has its limitations," Lauer said. Strong currents, high tides and wave action can wash it ashore, so containing the oil is "a very, very difficult thing."
Jindal boarded an airboat to take a look at how far the oil had penetrated the marsh. After pushing more than 30 feet through thick, 5-feet-tall reeds, the airboat turned around.
Accompanying the governor was Democratic campaign consultant James Carville of New Orleans and his wife, Republican consultant Mary Matalin, who said they were disgusted with the damage inflicted by the oil.
Jindal and Carville used nets to scoop up some of the thick oil as television and still cameras whirred.
"This is not like regular oil and not like WD-40," Carville said later at a news conference. "This is the thickest stuff you can imagine."
He said he couldn't help but notice "It's silent. There's no life there."
Matalin, who captured a plastic bottle full of oil at the site, said "this is not salad oil," as she held up the bottle. She said anyone who doubted the seriousness of the problem "needs to stick his hand in this stuff."
Nungesser said the farthest island in Pass a Loutre has been covered with oil for more than a week and is dying.
"It will crumble and float out to sea," he said, "We will lose more coastline to this catastrophe than four hurricanes."
After Obama's visit Friday, Nungesser said "we'll know on Monday if he really cares because he's the guy who can make it happen."