Today, Governor Bobby Jindal viewed firsthand a massive and heavy oil slick that is roughly three miles off the coast of Grand Isle where local leaders have been waiting weeks for federal officials to issue a permit to narrow passes and block oil from coming into Louisiana's wetlands. Governor Jindal called on federal officials to immediately issue authorization for the project so work can begin to stop more heavy oil from hitting Louisiana's coast.
Governor Jindal said, "We saw waves of very heavy bands of oil that are just a few miles off our coast. We know the slick is heading our way and we need to do everything to fight the oil off our coast. Our coastal leaders have a plan to battle the spill, but we have been waiting for weeks now for federal officials to issue a permit and approve the plan.
"Over a month ago, the towns of Grand Isle and Lafitte, together with Jefferson Parish have been asking for a permit to narrow the five eastern Barataria Passes and to establish active sorbent and removal operations on barges. So far, two passes have been approved for barges -- Pass Abel and Four-Bayou Pass. The federal government still has not approved rock or other measures necessary to direct the surface and subsurface oil to the vacuum barges. There are tons of rocks just sitting there waiting to be deployed.
"Once again, federal agencies that have done little while 2,300 square miles of wetlands disappear now tell us that they have delayed the rock approval because they are worried about "protecting our coast.' The federal agencies are saying rocks in the water would cause more damage than the oil that is coming our way. Only someone in Washington would be arguing about that. This defies logic and common sense.
"We now know that a large quantity of oil is moving toward our coastline as we speak. Contractors were ready to begin placing rock this weekend and they still stand ready to begin immediately placing the rock upon getting the emergency authorization from the Army Corps of Engineers. We are again calling on the Corps to grant emergency authorization immediately so this work can begin. Requests for minor details or additional analyses can be handled after a permit is issued -- but we need to get to work on protecting this coast.
"Over three weeks ago, The Mayor of Grand Isle and I talked to the President about this plan and we are still fighting to get approval to use the rocks. This is a war against the oil down here. We don't need more talking. We need more action. If the federal government believes this is a war, they need decide if they're in the war to win it or not.
"Thankfully, the Mayor of Grand Isle and leaders in Jefferson have refused to take no for an answer when it comes to protecting their land -- and we will continue to fight alongside them in this battle against federal red tape and the oil that threatens the future of our land and our people."
Governor Jindal said, "To date, the cutterhead dredge CALIFORNIA has dredged over 595,000 cubic yards of material for our berm on the northern Chandeleur Islands. On the west side of the river, 240,000 cubic yards of material has been moved to date.
"The CALIFORNIA has been shut down for six days because the Corps and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service made us move the dredge. The Corps of Engineers refuses to beneficially use the millions of cubic yards of material they dredge annually from our rivers and navigation channels -- and this was one of the federal agencies that shut us down.
"U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service -- the agency that manages and owns the Chandeleur Islands as they have disappeared to just a fraction of their original size -- is now saying that they are concerned that creating more land out there and helping to restore our coastal wetlands could cause "additional erosion.'
"There was oil on these islands over the weekend and we know our newly created sand berm has already stopped small volumes of oil from getting into our wetlands. Unfortunately, just south of the sand berms, this oil has already gone past what is left of the deteriorating island chain and is now heading toward our wetlands.
"We are just six days after the Corps and U.S. Fish shut us down and our fears have been confirmed. Oil is in the northern islands and will continue to contaminate our fisheries, kill our wetlands and threaten our way of life here in Louisiana.
"We need more urgency from the federal response. We need them to put the red tape aside. We need to them to really treat this oil spill like a war. You don't wait for studies and weeks and weeks for federal permits in the middle of a war. You do what you need to do as quickly as possible to protect your land and your people.
"That is what we are doing on the front lines here every day here in Louisiana and we need the federal government to join us. We absolutely will not be held back. We will not let our people and our land suffer while we wait on the federal government to realize that we need more resources and effort put into this response."
MENTAL HEALTH FUNDING REQUEST
Today, the Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals is following up a May 28th request the made to BP that requested $10 million to help mitigate the mental health impacts of this spill on individuals and families. The initial request to BP was turned down.
"Governor Jindal said, "We know families and communities along our coast are already experiencing anger and anxiety, which can easily manifest into addiction and other forms of mental health crisis if not confronted. These same types of health challenges were common after Hurricane Katrina and other hurricanes we have experienced.
"Our Louisiana Spirit crisis counseling teams have already engaged and counseled almost 2,000 individuals in the affected areas, and are reporting increases in anxiety, depression, stress, grief, excessive drinking, earlier drinking and suicide ideation. Community based organizations are reporting similar findings. These are early warning signs of developing substance abuse and dependence, mental illness, suicide and familial breakdown including divorce, spouse abuse, and child abuse and neglect.
"We are again requesting $10 million needed to support six months of continued outreach activities of our department's Louisiana Spirit outreach teams, and provide a needed therapeutic and psychiatric services."
UPDATE ON ADDITIONAL COASTAL PROTECTION INITIATIVES
Louisiana National Guardsmen continue construction operations to install approximately 8.5 miles of HESCO barrier on the shoreline of Cameron Parish. Crews have stretched over 6 miles of wall to provide an initial protection to the coast. Approximately 4.2 miles is completely filled.
* There are currently 34 vacuum barge systems operating or in the stages of deploying to operate to collect oil.
* At Pelican and Scofield Islands -- 8 gaps on Pelican Island are complete. The National Guard continues helicopter operations on Scofield Island to complete two out of the six remaining gaps there. To date, over 10,900 sandbags have been dropped on Scofield Island -- and a total of more than 27 million pounds of sand in total as part of sand-fill operations.
* In support of Jefferson Parish and Grand Isle, the Louisiana National Guard has completed all 8.1 miles of Tiger Dam in Grand Isle.