Crude oil has reached Lake Pontchartrain. How did it get there? Ask the listless Obama administration, which rarely misses a chance to put its collective feet up on the desk, even as petroleum batters the Gulf Coast, its wildlife, and the economies of the Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and (as of Sunday) Texas shorelines.
Now that a half-ton of tar balls, oil sheen, and other waste has seeped into Lake Pontchartrain, the majestic city of New Orleans essentially is surrounded by a crescent of petroleum to its south, east, and north.
This would be bad enough if the federal government were toiling away to protect New Orleans, the state of Louisiana, and its neighbors from BP’s oil geyser, which has gushed some 4.86 million barrels of raw petroleum over the past 81 days. Instead, the Obama administration repeatedly has prevented state and local officials from trying to save the people, habitat, and creatures of this precious part of the American landscape.
Most recently, Louisiana officials were stunned that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers rejected their proposal for rock barriers to keep oil out of Barataria Bay, an estuary popular with local fish and wildlife. These non-toxic rocks, the Corps fretted, might rechannel tidal flows in a potentially damaging way. Well, maybe. But if your house is burning down during an electrical storm, go ahead and call 911. Don’t sit there paralyzed in fear because a lightning bolt might electrocute you as you phone the fire department.
“Only a government bureaucrat would say rocks are more harmful to our water than oil,” Gov. Bobby Jindal (R., La.) told the Baton Rouge Advocate. The Corps on Saturday nixed Jefferson Parish’s request to build five rock dikes in passes leading to Barataria Bay. “The Corps took weeks to review the plan only to reject it today, and this denial is another unfortunate example of the federal government’s lack of urgency in this war to protect our coast,” Jindal added.
“One of the things that really gets me is they didn’t offer us an alternative plan and they didn’t offer us a plan of their own,” Grand Isle mayor David Camardelle remarked. “They just said, ‘No.’”
Early in this crisis, Jindal asked Washington if Louisiana could build sand barriers to protect the sensitive shoreline that yields so many of the oysters, shrimp, and fish that delight diners from the French Quarter to the Golden Gate. While BP’s oil slick crept towards the coast, the Environmental Protection Agency pondered this request. After researching its collective navel for five weeks, EPA finally vetoed the sand barriers, presumably because sand ruins a shrimp’s day far more than does petroleum. By then, the oil had washed in, which made the whole point painfully moot.
In mid-June, the Interior Department and the Corps of Engineers blocked yet another sand-berm proposal, this time because the sand allegedly would threaten birds on Louisiana’s Chandeleur Islands.
“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 Chandeleurs at all,” complained Garrett Graves, chairman of the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority. “There isn’t a place for a bird to land for over a mile away.”