I have been quick to chastise the Obama Administration for not hastening the speedy approval of Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindahl’s plan to build extensive sand berms along the coast of Louisiana to prevent oil slicked water from making its way onto the beaches and into the fragile coastal marshlands of his state.
For almost two weeks now, Governor Jindahl has been pulling his hair out waiting for the federal government through the Army Corps of Engineer, to approve his last ditch attempt to save his state’s shore line and coastal waterways.
From my perspective, I have seen the delay as criminal. The Administration’s wasting of so much precious time in determining whether or not Governor Jindahl can go through with the construction of the berms, is something that I saw relatable to watching a fire spread from house to house but refusing to call the fire department.
But then I learned from the chief of staff of Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour that that the Governor of the Magnolia State is opposed to any widespread creation of berms.
This puzzled me.
Governor Barbour is a skilled, experienced, proactive leader who is no stranger to handling a crisis masterfully. When Hurricane Katrina hit, it’s impact was just about as great on Mississippi as it was on Louisiana, but while Katrina left hundreds of bodies floating in New Orleans and thousands stranded on rooftops throughout lower Louisiana, Haley Barbour’s Mississippi was already removing debris and undertaking the rebuilding of Mississippi’s Gulf Shore.
So why would a man as responsible as Haley Barbour not be on board with the construction of sand berms that would absorb the oncoming oil flow that will amount to be one of America’s greatest environmental disasters?
As it turns out, Governor Barbour and many experts in the field of hydrological flow, believe that the construction of massive sand berms will alter the natural flow of water along the Gulf Shore and even alter tides. This could in turn wind up sending the oil east and into the Mississippi Sound.
Upon learning this and seeing the logic in it, I quickly realized that the Obama Administration may have actually done something right in this crisis. If they did allow the Jindahl berms to be built and tomorrow morning the people of Mississippi woke up to tar drenched beaches, the President would be labeled an incompetent fool for having invested hundreds of millions of dollars in a scheme that simply shifted the disaster from one people to another.
That scenario combined with the fact that current federal law requires that pollution which crosses state borders, be regulated by the federal government, made the slow in coming answer to Louisiana Governor Jindahl’s berm plan understandable.
It ends up that the President’s decision to allow the Army Corp’s of Engineers hydrodynamics experts to study the situation before approving it, is the right decision. My only question is how much longer will it take for them to know where these berms can or cannot be built. The Army Corp’s of Engineers has approved limited berm construction in those areas which they have concluded will not drastically alter the coastal tide and not just move the inevitable disaster down shore. But what about the rest of the planned berms? How much longer before it is too late to build them, if they can be built?
That aside, instead of blasting the Obama Administration for what I once thought was the most glaring example of culpable incompetence, I now give them credit for what seems to be a responsible decision on their part. However, if it takes much longer to decide where these berms can and can’t be built, we will be back to the opinion of responsibility which I originally held on this issue.
So although I now give the Administration some credit on this decision, sadly it would seem to be the only responsible decision they have to date made and it still doesn’t save the Louisiana coast from the steady stream of oil slicked water that continues to head their way. The right decision regarding the construction berms also doesn’t answer the looming problem that the date June 1 brought us.
June 1st is the official start of hurricane season. Can you imagine what another Katrina would do to not just Louisiana, but the entire Gulf shore if it strikes while hundreds of millions of barrels of crude a day are still billowing up to the surface of hurricane force wind tossed seas?
If you think what we have so far is disaster (and it is), just wait. Because if this steady flow of oil is not plugged up soon, chances are that between now and August, an ugly storm will combine two disasters into one great big mega-disaster.