Photo by me, Brian Merchant
When I was down in the Gulf, one of the first things I reported on was Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal's plan to construct giant islands to protect the barrier islands from the incoming oil slick. The plan sounded highly dubious from the get-go, and I couldn't find a scientist or oil spill expert who thought it was a reasonable idea (seems I wasn't the only one, either -- Dr. Robert Young, a prominent coastal geologist, has noted "I have yet to speak to a scientist who thinks the project will be effective."). Anywho, despite the protestations, Jindal had the giant berms built. And lo and behold, it was a huge waste of time, resources, and money: The Associated Press reports:
The big set of sand barriers erected by Louisiana's governor to protect the coastline at the height of the Gulf oil spill was criticized by a presidential commission Thursday as a colossal, $200 million waste of BP's money so far. Precious little oil ever washed up on the berms, according to the commission - a finding corroborated by a log of oil sightings and other government documents obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request.Woops. And though the report hints that the berms may have a positive effect in the future, acting as an additional barrier between Louisiana and coastal storms (in fact, many believe that Jindal used the BP spill as an excuse to lobby for the project, which he had supported in the past but had never been able to secure funding for), most scientists are unconvinced.
Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal ordered the berms built over the objections of scientists and federal agencies - and secured money from BP to do it - out of frustration over what he saw as inaction by the Obama administration. During the crisis, Jindal boasted that the sand walls were stopping oil from coming ashore, and the idea proved popular in Louisiana. In its stinging report, however, the commission, appointed by President Barack Obama to investigate the spill, called the project "underwhelmingly effective, overwhelmingly expensive."
"I have yet to speak to a scientist who thinks the project will be effective. In the end, we have a project that is incredibly expensive. There has been little scientific review. It is questionable if the proposed berm will prevent oil from entering the wetlands it is designed to protect. The structure will be very short-lived. And there are many potential negative impacts of this structure on the coastal environment that have not been evaluated. Coastal dredging and filling can cause significant damage to marine organisms and local ecosystems as massive amounts of sand are dug up in one location and then deposited on the sea floor in another spot. In addition, building a 45-mile sand berm could alter tidal currents and lead to the erosion of natural barrier islands that protect the Louisiana coast from hurricanes."
Pointless, temporary, potentially damaging to the environment. And it cost $200 million. Nice.