Thursday, June 24, 2010

Reaction to Dredging Shutdown

The following is the full text of the statement from Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) Chairman Garret Graves in response to the shutdown of offshore dredging efforts by the Army Corps of Engineers:

"Tonight, the United States Army Corps of Engineers New Orleans District officially shut down the state’s dredging operation to protect coastal Louisiana from the ongoing impact of millions of gallons of oil leaking into the Gulf from the BP oil spill.

After conference calls and meetings throughout the day, reports from the Corps that they had not shut down our efforts, and a top federal official said he was not halting our dredging operation, we have now been notified that our efforts to help prevent the oil from hitting our coast are officially stopped. Interestingly, the Corps' press release tonight said this was done in ‘close coordination’ with the state, while we have actually been pleading with them to let our dredging operations continue.

This decison was made only hours after BP reported that they had to remove the containment cap and we, once again, have an estimated 60,000 barrels of oil per day to destory our fisheries, birds, wetlands and coastal communities -- mind-boggling.

Indeed, the Corps’ own permit indicates that we are currently operating within the allowed dredge area. Our operations on the Northern Chandeluers have all been within our approved permitted area. We simply asked to continue dredging operations until we could ensure a seamless transition to the next sand borrow site. Reports today show that oil will hit our coast again next week and now we will lose thousands of feet of sand berm that we could have built up in that time to protect our marshes and our coast. Because of this fact, we made it clear to the Corps that their ‘Option 1’ was never an option for the state.

All of the sudden, the Department of the Interior claims we were dredging outside of the permitted area, yet they agreed to this spot for seven to 10 days. If we were dredging outside the confines of the original permit – which we were not, the agencies would have had issued a new permit for dredging outside of the initial permit. A new permit was not issued because it was not needed. We were dredging within the permitted area.

In fact, the Shaw Group project manager for the sand berms is a former top official within the Corps of Engineers. There are few folks in this world that are more familiar with the Corps' regulatory procedures. To suggest that the project manager would dredge outside of a permitted area is absurd.

The Corps’s statement also says they have concerns about the ‘additional erosion issues and possible deterioration of the Chandeluer Islands.’ While I certainly appreciate the Corps’ and USFWS's new-found love for the Chandeleur Islands, if they were actually interested in preventing further erosion in this area surely they would have invested even one dollar from their budgets for coastal restoration projects in the many years they have owned and managed this area -- as they have done for other refuges and recreational areas.

Communities used to live on these islands, today they are virtually gone. Additionally, the Department of the Interior’s continued insistence that this dredge area is a bird rookery makes it clear that they are confused about what it is that they are protecting – and perhaps have never been to the Chandeluers at all. There isn't a place for a bird to land for over a mile away.

Additionally, one of the Department of the Interior's top political appointees told the Associated Press that we were dredging ‘in between islands.’ Mr. Strickland should probably consult a current map, because there is there is nothing north of where we were dredging on the Chandeluer Island chain. It is not ‘in between’ anything. Perhaps if the federal government had taken any interest in protecting the coast in this area there would truly be places for birds to land and people to fish today".

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