Jul 23, 2010 7:16 AM by Sharlee Barriere
SLIDELL, La. (AP) - Simmering distrust on the oil-coated
Louisiana coast boiled over Thursday as local officials in coastal
parishes mounted an effort to stop the Coast Guard from moving
protective boom and other oil spill response equipment out of the
way of Tropical Storm Bonnie.
St. Tammany Parish President Kevin Davis issued an executive
order prohibiting the movement of any protective equipment without
parish consent, said Davis' spokeswoman Suzanne Parsons.
Parsons said parish officials were told by the Coast Guard that
barges blocking oil from entering Lake Pontchartrain through two
narrow passes that connect it with the Gulf of Mexico would be
She said Davis spoke with Coast Guard Rear Adm. Paul Zukunft,
the on-scene incident commander for the oil spill, on Thursday.
"We have no confidence in what is going to happen," she said.
"We are going to have oil in the lake."
Parsons said Davis' order carries the power of prosecution.
"I'll arrest people if I have to," Davis told WDSU-TV.
In a statement Thursday, Zukunft said he ordered surplus
response equipment to be moved inland to keep it safe and so it
could be quickly redeployed after the storm passes.
"We are repositioning assets away from low-lying areas to
higher ground staging areas to protect our ability to respond to
the dynamic requirements of the incident," he said in the
An agency spokesman said local leaders in Louisiana were
informed Wednesday in a letter of the intent to move equipment to
Storms earlier in the summer damaged some boom spread out in
marshes as a barrier against the oil. Federal officials say keeping
supplies safe will lead to swift replacement of any boom Bonnie may
"Just as this spill evolves, so does our response effort,
including moving vital equipment out of harm's way to staging areas
that rest on higher ground," Zukunft said. "We will continue to
work closely with our state and local partners to find solutions
that preserve our capability to respond Gulf-wide while evolving
our plans to provide the coastal communities the resources needed
to meet any threat from oil."
Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser said the Coast
Guard told him it would move trailers full of protective boom to
the Baton Rouge area. He said he persuaded the Coast Guard to store
the boom in Plaquemines at parish expense.
In neighboring St. Bernard Parish, officials were frantically
trying to keep the boom staged in the fishing village of Hopedale
from being moved.
Jennifer Belsom, a spokeswoman for St. Bernard Parish President
Craig Taffaro, said the Coast Guard was trying to move out boom and
skimmers, while Taffaro's office planned to keep them in the parish
closer to the shore.
"It's totally being ignored," she said, adding in an e-mail
that "coastal parishes are addressing the balance between
protecting assets and preparing for storm activity. No parish has
decided at this time to stand down activities."
Nungesser said the parishes feared that if the boom was removed
it would not be sent back.
"The Coast Guard has not stood up and made BP do anything
unless we rant and rave," said Nungesser, a frequent critic of the
response to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The first
mainland impact from the oil came in Plaquemines on April 29, 9
days after the BP-leased rig Deepwater Horizon exploded about 40
miles southeast of the Mississippi River.
Nungesser called the boom movement "a failed attempt by the
Coast Guard to help BP smuggle assets out of here unnoticed."
Also Thursday, Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency
and said he expected local officials to issue orders on Friday to
evacuate low-lying coastal communities outside protective levee
systems. But he stopped short of issuing a state-mandated
evacuation. During hurricanes Gustav and Ike in 2008 Jindal ordered
an evacuation for much of the coast.
Bonnie formed Thursday afternoon in the Bahamas. Forecasters
said it could be near the central Louisiana coast on Sunday,
raising fears that wind and higher tides could wash oil from the BP
spill deeper into marshes.