Photo via Skytruth
Back when I was on the ground in the Gulf, I reported that Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal had announced a plan to stop the oil spill from reaching his state's shoreline: building up barrier islands out of dredged materials to act as a shield. I was skeptical of the plan then, as I was worried that environmental concerns were not being taken into account. It turns out my hunch was correct -- scientist after scientist has now come forward questioning the approach, arguing that it will be expensive, ineffective, and could even make matters worse. One potential side effect is that it could send the spill right up the Mississippi Delta.Here's Yale 360, summing up the massive case against creating barrier islands (via Climate Progress):
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.Whew. The barrier island idea looks to be far worse than I even initially thought. And this isn't just one expert's opinion. Article after article has streamed in, citing a wide range of experts. Indeed, Dr. Robert Young, a coastal geologist and journalist goes so far as to say that "I have yet to speak to a scientist who thinks the project will be effective."
Other reasons the barrier island idea is a bad one? The LA Times counts the ways:
- The berm system could reroute the spill up the Mississippi Delta, and it would be unlikely to survive even a mild storm during the current hurricane season.
- It also will absorb the short supplies of sand badly needed for projects to restore the state's coastline, damaged by past hurricanes.
- Heavy equipment, including barges and dredge lines, could interfere with nesting season, now at its peak, for protected bird species....
This Climate Progress post has gathered a bevy of high profile articles that condemn the barrier island approach -- it also has an open call out to any scientist who thinks the approach is a good one to make their case in a public forum. So far, nada.
So how can a such a poorly conceived project get so much attention, credibility, and approval in the first place? Same as usual: politics. Joe Romm smartly sums it up:
The magnitude of the BP oil disaster guarantees devastation to the Louisiana shore no matter how effective the response ... And that means cynical politicians are in a perfect position to demagogue dubious solutions, since if they are ignored, they can merely point to the environmental devastation and say, "if only you had listened to those of us who know this area best."So, it doesn't really matter if the solution is sound or not -- it just matters that he's vehemently supporting something. And if it's unpopular, all the better -- if it never gets done, or doesn't get done to some arbitrarily held standard, then Jindal can blame the federal government for failing.
More on the Gulf Spill and Bobby Jindal
WTF: Louisiana Governor Calls for More Offshore Drilling
Louisiana Gov Bobby Jindal Leads Fight Against Greenhouse Gas Regulation