Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sand berm to protect Barataria Bay wetlands gets federal OK

Adm. Thad Allen on Thursday approved a proposal to build a 6-foot-high sand berm just south of Scofield Island as a temporary barrier to keep oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill from reaching wetlands in Barataria Bay.

The berm, which would be placed just west of the Mississippi River in Plaquemines Parish, is one of six oil-protective sand berms proposed by the state that were granted an emergency permit on Thursday by the Army Corps of Engineers.

The estimated $16 million cost of building the Scofield Island berm will be borne by BP or the federal Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, and will be used as a test to determine whether the Louisiana strategy would work, Allen said. If the berm proves effective, Allen could consider authorizing other barrier islands.

If the state wants to build the other five, including two east of the Mississippi River and three more to the west, it will have to pay for them, with no guarantee of being reimbursed, Allen said.

"There are a lot of doubts whether this is a valid oil spill response technique, given the length of construction and so forth," Allen said Thursday at Port Fourchon. "But we're not averse to attempting this as a prototype."

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