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July Coastal Scuttlebutt: daily mini-posts


Portrait of sand berm success?

July 15

One more in a long series of coastal plans?

In today Aimee Miles described a new coastal initiative announced by Governor Jindal. Apparently the governor said that restoring the delta is the most important aspect of recovering from the BP blowout. Although I strongly disagree with many aspects of the governor’s vision for restoration, I give him credit for having used the phrase ‘restoring the delta.’

Most media sources continue to miss the critical point that, unlike the coasts of Texas and Florida, south Louisiana is a massive and geologically young delta. To the extent that the governor understands the distinction, that’s progress.

The sand berm saga continues

Governor Jindal continues to insist that despite evidence to the contrary, the sand berms are working and collecting oil. A government news blog published ver batim the self-serving press release issued by the Governor’s Office on July 13.

Paul Rioux wrote an article posted at last evening on the disagreement between the coastal science community and the Jindal Administration over the success or failure of the sand berms (and piling rocks in tidal passes). He used pictures posted here in his piece.

Last night on his CNN show AC360, Anderson Cooper interviewed James Carville and Billy Nungesser about progress – or lack of – re the BP blowout. Cooper asked Mr. Nungesser what he thought about the three time lapse photographs posted here on Sunday, July 11 that show dramatic shrinkage and apparent failure of newly dredged sand piled into berms at the north end of the Chandeleur Islands.

Nungesser acknowledged the setback and said that future berms will be armored (with rocks?). He dismissed opponents to using sand berms and rocks to block oil from marshes, saying that they’re just looking for ‘rocks to throw’ at the concept. I assume that he intended no pun.

Producers for Anderson Cooper’s show AC360 have called me about the many scientific concerns about the sand berm project. They promised to follow up on these concerns, perhaps beginning this evening.

July 14

Nevermind! I (Len Bahr) was scheduled to appear on MSNBC this evening at 7:00 PM CDT on Countdown with Keith Olberman to discuss the use of sand berms to save marshes from oil. Unfortunately I was bumped by more important news on attempts to cap the well.

Chairman of the Louisiana CPRA defends the Chandeleur sand berm project

Mounting criticism of the ongoing project to create artificial sand berms to protect coastal marshes from oil intrusion has obviously struck a nerve with sand berm supporters. The Governor’s Office released the following press release yesterday, which includes 22 low resolution photographs supposedly showing the success of the effort.

State of Louisiana Office of the Governor July 13, 2010

Garret Graves: The Berms are Working

BATON ROUGE – A delegation of Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority representatives and coastal scientists visited the sand berm project in the northern Chandeleur Islands area today.

Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Chairman (CPRA) Garret Graves said, “We conducted a construction and effectiveness assessment of the sand berm project.  The berms are working!”

The delegation found that the sand berm continues to progress in volume and length.  Over 60,000 cubic yards of dredge material was placed on the E-4 berm just yesterday.  In addition, nine hopper dredge loads totaling approximately 30,000 cubic yards of sand were deposited into the sand re-handling area for the middle portion of the E-4 berm.

On the west side of the river, three hopper dredges are depositing material into the sand re-handling area for Pelican and Scofield Islands.  In addition, a cutter head dredge is removing material in Pass a Loutre – helping to restore the river flow to this important area that has experienced heavy oiling.

To date, the cleanup crews have removed over 500 pounds of oil and oiled debris from the E-4 berm.

Editor’s note: To view the pictures, click here. Compare these pictures from the Governor’s Office with the above high resolution photograph taken on July 8, 2010.

Reflections on Presidential BP Commission meeting

My primary takeaway from the 2nd day of the Presidential BP Oil ‘Spill’ Commission meeting in New Orleans is that no one representing the State of Louisiana was present. Lafourche Parish President Charlotte Randolph and Grand Isle Mayor David Camardelle both testified but no one from the Governor’s Office apparently thought that the meeting justified their participation, or even presence. This appears to be a perfect example of what John Maginnis perceives as Governor Jindal thumbing his nose at President Obama. Here’s a quote from Maginnis’ Louisiana Politics column published today:

It is appropriate for the governor to call out federal officials for failing to coordinate resources or to follow through on what they agreed to do. But to slam their policy decisions as so much bureaucratic hash ultimately does little good for the coast or its people. Jindal’s amped-up pronouncements play well to a frustrated and angry public, particularly those already ill-disposed toward the Obama administration–in state and beyond. Yet rhetorically shaking one’s fist at the feds achieves as much as doing the same to the oily sea. It’s past time for the governor to speak softly and put away his little stick, for that’s about all he’s got in this fight.

Speaking of insightful columns, read James Gill’s description of the dilemma posed by Louisiana’s absolute dependence on oil and gas, (for better and worse) in today’s The Times-Picayune.

July 13

Eighty-four days since the Deep Horizon well explosion and blowout, a new cap was installed that could finally shut off most of the gushing oil that I estimate would have filled up more than one fifth of the Superdome by now. This auspicious event was described today by Sandy Davis in The Advocate. Meanwhile, two relief wells continue to be bored, one of which could intercept the faulty well deep below the sea floor by the end of July.

LaCoastPost makes national news

Michael Reilly, earth science producer for Discovery News, wrote an article about the apparent failure of an early segment of sand dunes constructed at the northern tip of the Chandeleur Islands. His article and photographs were based on my post from July 11 on the shrinking sand berms.

Ongoing presidential oil spill conference

Today I’m planning to attend the second day of the initial meeting of the Presidential oil spill commission at the Riverside Hilton in New Orleans. State and local elected officials will provide testimony on responses to the disaster, which should prove interesting. Updated coverage of the hearing by reporters from The Times-Picayune is available here on

July 12

Science vs policy: Obama and Jindal both under fire

Key members of Louisiana’s academic science community, our ‘coastal brain trust,’ have rightly complained about being ignored by Governor Jindal in his policy responses to the BP blowout. Tom Hamburger and Kim Geiger from the Chicago Tribune Washington Bureau wrote a story published on July 10 in The Los Angeles Times describing similar complaints by members of the national science community about President Obama’s reaction to the catastrophe. Here’s a quote from the article:

The most immediate case of politics allegedly trumping science, some government and outside environmental experts said, was the decision to fight the gulf oil spill with huge quantities of potentially toxic chemical dispersants despite advice to examine the dangers more thoroughly.

Sadly, politics typically trumps science with respect to government responses to short term disasters like the BP blowout, as well as the slow catastrophe of sea level rise from warming seas.

Conflicting views on the part of Louisiana coastal residents on the short term economic benefits of oil and gas production vs its long term environmental costs are the subject of a very thoughtful op/ed column by Martha Serpas published in yesterday’s The New York Times. Ms. Serpas grew up along Bayou Lafourche, which gives her the credibility to write honestly about this politically-charged subject.

July 11

Oil capacity of the Superdome

Checking the oil level in the Superdome.

Monday, July 12 will mark the 83rd day since the Deep Horizon BP well explosion and blowout. If by some chance the well were to be successfully capped on Monday, a total of ~5 million barrels (bbls) of crude petroleum may have been released (60K bbls/day x 83).

As it turns out, The New Orleans Superdome represents an internal volume of ~5 million cubic yards, and 1.0 cubic yard = 4.8 bbls of petroleum. In other words, filled to capacity the Superdome would hold ~24 million bbls of oil. Therefore, total oil bubbling out of the Deep Horizon wellhead and dispersing into the most productive waters in North America since April 20 would fill up ~20.8% of the Superdome.

Oil spill commission may be off to rocky start

Today’s The Times-Picayune carries an article by David Hammer about the initial two day meeting of the Obama independent oil spill commission, which begins at 9:00 AM Monday July 12 at the Hilton Riverside downtown. The agenda on Monday includes a status report from the Coast Guard and BP officials. Tuesday’s meeting will feature presentations by state and local officials. That should be very interesting and I plan to attend.

Hammer provides a short description of each of the seven commission members. Note that this impressive group includes Don Boesch from the University of Maryland. Don is a New Orleans native and regular contributor to LaCoastPost.

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that the initial meeting of the commission has become controversial in DC, with some Republican and Democratic lawmakers suggesting that the members are biased against offshore drilling and lack expertise in petroleum engineering.

An editorial in today’s The Times-Picayune picks up on this controversy, urging that the commission address the moratorium on deep water drilling that the federal government supports, despite its having been enjoined by the 5th circuit court of appeal.

Ivor van Heerden in the news again.

Never a stranger to controversy, Ivor van Heerden appears in a BP-sponsored video that appears to play down the severity of the oil invasion of coastal marshes in Louisiana. An article by Mark Schleifstein in yesterday’s The Times-Picayune describes and provides a link to the video. I for one hope that Dr. van Heerden is correct in his assessment.

July 10

Can it be? Will the gushing oil be capped this weekend?

The two media reports described below provide real hope for a near term end to the flowing oil — light at the end of the BP tunnel. My immediate thought was, “Can it be?” I immediately flashed on the iconic 1970 Beatles song…

Let It Be!

Songwriters: John Lennon, John Winston; Paul McCartney, James Paul

When I find myself in times of trouble?Mother Mary comes to me?Speaking words of wisdom, let it be

And in my hour of darkness?She is standing right in front of me?Speaking words of wisdom, let it be

Let it be, let it be?Let it be, let it be?Whisper words of wisdom?Let it be

And when the brokenhearted people?Living in the world agree?There will be an answer, let it be

For though they may be parted?There is still a chance that they will see?There will be an answer, let it be

Let it be, let it be?Let it be, let it be?Yeah, there will be an answer let it be

Let it be, let it be?Let it be, let it be?Whisper words of wisdom?Let it be??Let it be, let it be?Let it be, yeah, let it be?Whisper words of wisdom?Let it be

And when the night is cloudy?There is still a light that shines on me?Shine on until tomorrow, let it be

I wake up to the sound of music?Mother Mary comes to me?Speaking words of wisdom, let it be

Yeah, let it be, let it be?Let it be, yeah, let it be?There will be an answer, let it be??Let it be, let it be?Let it be, yeah, let it be?Whisper words of wisdom?Let it be

The Wall Street Journal published an article by Susan Daker yesterday that offers the strong hope that the BP gusher could be capped by Monday.  If this proves true, it will have meant the conclusion of 83 days at ~60 K bbls/day or 5 million total bbls of crude oil released into the Gulf of Mexico from the well head a mile beneath the surface. Of this, if 20% has been captured that would leave ~4 million net bbls unleashed into the gulf, along with an undisclosed amount of chemical dispersant – and not a single bale of hay to help soak it up!

An article in today’s The Advocate by Sandy Davis describes the same subject with a more local flavor.

Sand berms still making news

I don’t think I’ve met the John Kennedy who wrote this letter to the editor published yesterday in The Times-Picayune but he’s certainly not the current Secretary of the Treasury! At any rate Mr. Kennedy expressed strong support for my nine-point critique of the Jindal-Nungesser sand berm project, which was gratifying. I’ve received numerous emails with similar messages, indicating that the popularity of the dredge and pump project, the signature state response to the BP blowout. is far from universal.

A well-informed source has promised that today I will receive aerial photographs showing the effectiveness – or lack of — of the sand berms already in place. I can’t wait! Check back tomorrow.

Jindal rules!

On July 8 Time-CNN published an article by Alex Altman with the title Battlefield General: Is Bobby Jindal Making Sense?

Altman describes how, according to a Rasmussen poll,  the Jindal popularity has risen to an astounding 74% since the BP blowout on April 20. The article implies that this ‘Bobby Bump’ is largely the result of media coverage of his response to the incident, which has been painting his portrait as a military commander leading troops in a charge up BP Ridge. The surge of Jindal popularity is also reported here in The State Column.

July 9

Jindal and Landrieu shown on left in this June 7 photo from the Houma Courier

Jindal challenging Landrieu’s coastal creds?

Michelle Millhollon reports in today’s The Advocate that Governor Jindal’s chief of state Timmy Teepell is taking a leave of absence to help the Republican Governor’s Association raise money for prospective gubernatorial candidates around the country. Speculation is rampant about what this really means.

Some think that Jindal is truly serious about the 2012 presidential race. Other’s believe that he’s far too smart to believe he has a real shot at the White House and that Teepell’s leave of absence is a feint to disguise our governor’s real ambition – to get reelected to a second term as governor in 2013 and then to run for Mary Landrieu’s senate seat in 2015.

The idea is that Bobby Jindal plans to use his new national image as a coastal ‘savior’ vis-a-vis the B.Pocalypse to challenge Mary Landrieu’s long and hard-earned reputation as Louisiana’s chief coastal advocate.

Feds pledge to restore the Mississippi River delta

In her article in yesterday’s The Houma Courier Nikki Buskey described an emergency meeting of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) in New Orleans on June 7. Secretary of the Navy and former Mississippi Governor Ray Maybus (4th from left in above photo) was in attendance, which guaranteed a large audience. Secretary Maybus promised a federal focus on restoring coastal Louisiana, once the Deepwater Horizon well has been shut down and mitigation efforts are well underway.

Louisiana Politics vs. Coastal Science

Jarvis DeBerry wrote a very timely column for today’s The Times-Picayune on a subject that should be of great concern to serious coastal advocates, the dissing of science by Governor Jindal and other state officials. Read this column!

Nungesser: Bahr is wrong; sand berms do work!

Speaking of science v politics, after numerous posts and a guest column in The Times-Picayune in which I criticized the concept of intercepting oil from the BP Blowout by erecting temporary sand berms, Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser has now replied in a letter to the editor published on July 8 in The Times-Picayune. I strongly encourage a careful read of Mr. Nungesser’s challenge to my criticism and his claims about the wonders of his sand berm project.

In Nungesser’s mind, opposing his sand berm concept is tantamount to endorsing the intrusion of oil! If President Nungesser is so concerned about oil threats to our coast why doesn’t he oppose the immediate resumption of deepwater drilling – before we even know what happened on April 20?

In terms of the temporary halt to deepwater drilling to reduce the risk of another accidental blowout, Rebecca Mowbray reported in today’s The Times-Picayune that the moratorium was lifted (enjoined) by the Fifth Circuit US  Court of Appeals in New Orleans yesterday.

July 8

Common sense – now why didn’t I think of that?

An irate reader of my guest column in The Times-Picayune sent an email strongly defending Gov. Jindal, Jeff. Parish Prez Nungesser and Grand Isle Mayor Camardell for their willingness to rearrange dirt and dump rocks around the lower river delta – despite being warned not to by scientists. My critic called me an academic egghead, bereft of common sense. Here’s a quote:

Your piece was erudite grandstanding. What could be more damaging to our coast than oil?  We need to stop it with “common sense” solutions.

He said that I reminded him of his former know-it-all LSU professors. In response I offer quotes of two of my heroes, sent by an avid reader of LaCoastPost:

For every problem there is one solution which is simple, neat, and wrong. — H. L. Mencken

Common sense is that set of prejudices, invariably wrong, acquired by age 18. — E.O. Wilson’s riff on Einstein.

Ignoring the Hippocratic oath (First do no harm).

On June 6 The New York Times published another story on Louisiana’s aversion to science. The national media are finally picking up on the rush by Louisiana officials to dredge holes and dump rocks in the delta, despite scientific warnings that the operation could harm the patient more than the disease (oil in the marshes).

July 7

See no science, hear no science, speak no science

Chris Kirkham wrote an article for today’s The Times-Picayune with more evidence of Governor Jindal’s total dismissal of scientific objections to filling tidal passes with rocks as oil barriers – in addition to the highly controversial project that consists of robbing ‘Peter Delta’ to pay ‘Paul Sand Berms.’

The governor’s anti-science view is captured by this quote from a governor’s office press release yesterday:

“No one can convince us that rocks in the water are more dangerous than oil. That is absolutely ridiculous. The only people who believe that are the bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. who can’t see the oil, smell the oil or touch the oil.

“No is not an answer. No is not a plan. No is not acceptable. Time and time again we have battled with them to get out plans approved. We are resubmitting this rock plan and we are asking BP to put funds in escrow in the event the rocks need to be removed. We have said all along that we are willing to make the rocks temporary or otherwise modify the plan to address any concerns – for example, we modified the barges by reducing the plan from five passes to two passes – but we continue to run into red tape at the federal level.

“We need the federal government to get in this war to win it. They continue to reject our plans while they put forward no plan of their own. This is not acceptable. They need to either lead, follow or get out of the way.”

The feds are also somewhat complicit in dissing scientific oversight related to the B.Pocalypse, however, as shown by Dan Froomkin’s article in HuffingtonPost. Froomkin’s piece describes a group of independent oceanographers and marine chemists, toxicologists, etc. who have so far been stonewalled on obtaining a relatively modest ~$8 million in financial support from BP or the feds to carry out state-of-the-art independent diagnostic research on the extent of the oil plume and its ecological effects on the water column of the gulf. Neither have they received permission from the Coast Guard to access the area surrounding the blowout site.

Speaking of science or lack of same, my guest opinion published yesterday in The Times-Picayune created a floodgate of emailed comments unlike anything I’ve seen so far. The readership of LaCoastPost spiked as well, receiving 1,012 viewers on July 6, topping the previous record of 895, that had been set on July 1!

The power of (coastal) prayer

I was recently interviewed on the BP Blowout by a free lance reporter named Lauri Lebo, whose article appeared in a blog called Religion Dispatches Magazine. The title of her piece is intriguing:

Oil Spill Blues: Prayer, Science, and Grassroots Activism: As oil gush continues, some call for prayer, others warn of the dawning of a new global epoch in which humans are prime changers of Earth’s ecosystem. Check it out here.

Ms. Lebo is the author of a book about a 2005 federal trial that found for the plaintiffs in a suit against a Pennsylvania school board requirement to teach ‘Intelligent Design’ in biology classrooms. Barbara Forrest is a science colleague and friend at Southeastern Louisiana University – and my sister in exposing intelligent design as bogus science. Dr. Forrest suggested that Lauri and I should talk.

July 6

Sand castle oil barriers a bad idea, according to yours truly

The Times-Picayune published a guest opinion column today in which I listed nine specific objections to the highly touted sand barrier concept to protect the southeastern coast of Louisiana from BP oil.

This project, already in progress, will serve as a grand experiment that needs to be closely monitored on the value of spending $350 million for back-of-the-envelope engineering. Let me know what you think. The column appeared on at 6:00 PM yesterday and it immediately began generating amazing feedback.

Meanwhile I’m on my way to Baltimore, not to escape the political heat, but for a semi-annual Scleroderma checkup at Johns Hopkins.

July 5

More on rocks as tidal barriers

An article in today’s The Advocate confirms what I suggested yesterday, that Governor Jindal’s office has been in support of the proposal by Jefferson Parish to pile rocks in five tidal passes at the southern end of the Barataria Basin, supposedly to block oil intrusion. This proposal was recently denied by the New Orleans District of the Corps of Engineers, to the credit of the agency and its commander District Engineer Colonel Alvin Lee.

Here’s a very revealing quote from Kyle Plotkin, the governor’s press secretary:

“Only a government bureaucrat would say rocks are more harmful to our water and marshes than oil. 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.”

I find this quote highly insulting to the the people who raised serious objections to this proposal on technical grounds. These folks aren’t bureaucrats, they’re people who actually understand the dynamics of the Mississippi River delta, unencumbered by political calculations.

Oysters should inherit the Earth

An AP story posted on involves my favorite coastal animal – the oyster. The article describes two prominent and competing Louisiana oyster purveyors, Motivatit Seafoods and Ameripure, the latter company having been temporarily forced out of business because of the B.Pocalypse. These rival companies are headed respectively by Mike Voisin and John Tesvich, who share a common interest in keeping the Louisiana oyster industry viable during the throes of the catastrophe.

I intend to post articles on the oyster as one of the unrecognized stars of the Mississippi river delta – and a serious victim of expanding oil pollution on the northern gulf coast.

July 4

Happy Independence Day, 2010!

Rocks in their heads

Richard Rainey reported yesterday in The Times-Picayune web site that the Corps of Engineers has denied an emergency request by Jefferson Parish to attempt to turn off the huge ocean ‘spigots’ known as tidal passes in the Barataria Basin, by partially filling them in with rocks.

This was a terrible idea from the gitgo and my hat is off to the Corps for the denial, which was made in the face of strong political pressure from the Yenni Building on Clearview Boulevard to “Do something, anything!” I’d like to know who owns stock in Indiana limestone quarries, from where these rocks would presumably be barged down the river.

The Governor’s Office was apparently on board with this foolhardy project. When will these folks learn two basic lessons: You can’t fool Momma Nature and Time and tide wait for no man – including the governor and his parish cronies.

The Great Gray Hope!

Tom Breen reported in today’s The Advocate about ‘A Whale,’ the supertanker converted to a giant oil skimmer, about which which many fingers are crossed on this Independence Day. Do your thing, A Whale.

The Sun Gulf Also Rises – even as the oil flows

Peter D. Ward is a biology and earth sciences professor at the University of Washington in Seattle who has written a book called Flooded Earth.

Professor Ward was interviewed yesterday by Guy Raz on NPR’s All Things Considered. The discussion focused on Dr. Ward’s projections of sea level rise by 2120. I was particularly struck by the following question and response about the Mississippi River delta and her global sisters:

RAZ: Where in the U.S. are we likely to see the effects? I mean, we think about, let’s say, the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, and we can imagine what that looks like on a map, right? Will that look the same in 100 years?

Prof. WARD: In some senses. The place that will be most mitigated in terms of geography will be the entire Gulf region. I mean, that poor benighted place where we have all that nasty oil going to shore, that is the area where sea level will have the greatest impact.

RAZ: So when you talk abut the Gulf, are you talking about, for example, the Mississippi Delta?

Prof. WARD: Yes. The Mississippi Delta and every other delta on this planet is an endangered species. Deltas are completely tied into sea level. Even a one-foot rise in sea level tremendously affects the sedimentology of delta formation.

July 3

Sue Hawes passes


I am sorry to convey this news – our friend Sue Hawes passed away this afternoon (July 2). Her daughter Cindy asked me to help pass the news to Sue’s colleagues. There are no details on arrangements yet. Cindy indicated she would keep me informed as they are developed and I will let you know, and once we have some information I will ask for it to be posted on Breaux Act and other venues to let the broader restoration community know.

Please forward this to those who knew Sue that I might have missed – my address book is woefully inadequate to reach the many, many people in the restoration community she touched over the years. There are many who have retired from agencies for whom I don’t have current contact information.

Please begin thinking of ways we can commemorate Sue’s truly unique contribution to the restoration of our coast.


Denise J. Reed, Interim Director, Pontchartrain Institute for Environmental Sciences Professor, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New Orleans, New Orleans LA 70148 Voice (504) 280 – 7395

Documenting the situation along the northern gulf

Jim Rives (photo by Mike Robichaux)

Jim Rives, a friend, colleague and regular contributor of news items to LaCoastPost, forwarded this link to a fascinating series of seven posts by Nick Zantop, a photographer who’s been traveling lately along the northern gulf coast photographing and describing what he sees on this blog that he calls I’m hoping to actually see first hand over this Independence Day weekend a little of what I’ve been vicariously writing about for the 74 days since April 20.

July 2

The failure of sand berms constructed of Hesco baskets along the beach in Cameron Parish yesterday must have struck a nerve with the state’s chief sand berm booster, Governor Bobby Jindal. This morning, during NPR’s Morning Edition the Baton Rouge local news segment on WRKF-FM 89.3 aired a sand berm success quote from the governor. Without mentioning the sand berm failure on the western part of the coast, Jindal reported with pride that the sand berms constructed to date on the eastern part of the coast suffered no damage from Hurricane Alex.

The fact that the intact berms were roughly five hundred miles northeast of the location on the Mexican coast where the (category 2) storm made landfall may have had something to do with this (premature) success story.

The 2010 Hurricane season has about 120 days to go, Governor.

July 1

Photo from KPLC-TV 7.

Alex 1, sand berms 0

An alert reader just notified me that Crystal Price wth KPLC TV 7 in Lake Charles reported that the Hesco baskets installed by the Louisiana National Guard during recent weeks along the beach in Cameron Parish have failed, thanks to high tides and waves from Hurricane Alex.

Let’s assess the facts: the Holly Beach area, so far not threatened by BP oil, was lined by Hesco baskets filled with sand mined from natural chenier ridges that provide vital natural protection from storm surge and much of the sand has now washed away. Way to go sand berm advocates!

We’re number one!!!

According to this AP story in HuffingtonPost, as of today the B.Pocalypse sets the all time oil release record for the Gulf of Mexico.

Tough Oil’

As a long time fan of Terry Gross, interviewer extraordinaire and host of NPR’s Fresh Air, I highly recommend listening to the podcast of  her conversation yesterday with journalist and author Michael Klare, who has become an authority on global trends in offshore oil and gas production. His description of offshore production in the Gulf of Mexico and around the world provides a sobering view and a reality check on the race to develop fields under increasingly risky circumstances.

Denying oil addiction

It seems that I’m addicted, not just to Terry Gross but also to Gary Trudeau, genius creator of Doonesbury that I read daily on Slate Magazine. I’m considerably less proud to admit that, like most Americans trapped in a car dominated culture, I’m also addicted to oil, which is why I was struck with this quote from a prominent but naive denier of oil addiction (and climate change) that I read on the Doonesbury site this morning:

“Americans are not addicted to oil, Americans are addicted to freedom — the freedom to move freely and independently where and when we want.”
— former VA Governor George Allen

Getting involved

LaCoastPost reader Marty Floyd, recently retired from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), sent the following message that should interest folks looking for a way to get personally involved in the BP Blowout response:

In response to the oil spill disaster USDA-NRCS has established the “Migratory Bird Habitat Initiative” working with farmers, ranchers and other landowners to enhance habitat for migrating birds, primarily shorebirds, wading birds and waterfowl in eight states. NRCS is using two practices “Shallow Water Development and Management” and  “Early Successional Habitat Establishment and Management” in WHIP and EQIP to achieve these goals.

Ducks Unlimited is adding an additional incentive above the WHIP and/or EQIP payments in 12 parishes within Louisiana for these practices. The sign-up period for these programs is June 28 through August 1 and can be done at the local NRCS field office.

This article by Andrew Zajac in The LA Times provides more details about gulf coast farmers being paid to flood fields for oil-displaced water birds.

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  5. Walt Sikora says:

    The Obama administration has dropped the ball in many ways with it’s “lack of urgency responses” during this oil blow-out catastrophe, while they are trying “to lawyer” their way out.

    One big oversight: the White House should have hired Mr. “T” as its response spokesman. Or is he retired?

  6. Reality says:

    ” In addition, a cutter head dredge is removing material in Pass a Loutre – helping to restore the river flow to this important area that has experienced heavy oiling.”

    When did the state apply for and get permits to dig out tidal channels to “restore” flows to the interior marsh? don’t believe I have ever seen any information out of state officials saying their berm work included efforts to modify flows through the coastal tidal channels.

    Anyone see a problem with the states stated intent to keep oil out the interior marsh by building berms and then claiming their work includes increasing flows to to interior marshes?

    • no no no….Pass a Loutre is in the Mississippi River, and it happens to be a dredge spoil drop location for when they dredge the river. They are dredging that spoil pile to build the berm at Scofield Island. The sentence in question means that dredging that dredge pile will allow more water to flow down Pass a Loutre, which will help flush water out of the surrounding marshes.

      • Anonymous says:

        Close, but very good. Pass a Loutre is a distributary of, not just “in”, the Mississippi River. The cutterhead is working in an authorized disposal and dredging area. Hopper dredges working in Southwest Pass up to the Cubits Gap area have been dumping sand here for over 30 years. The disposal area includes the head of South Pass also.

        All was well in the beginning, but the Corps has had to dredge the disposal area with a cutter head for the past 3 or 4 years. This is to make room for the hoppers to continue dumping here. they pump it up into Delta NWR forming long peninsulas of sand. They veg up pretty quickly too, look at some aerials

        Both passes have shoaled considerably along their entire legenth, and as a result, convey much less water. Note that the qoute (correctly)was “restore” flow, key word here….

        A better question may be… How did the Corps get a permit allowing them to dump in the Passes, thus reducing the flow?

  7. Kelly Haggar says:

    Can someone on this blog explain where “science” is contained in this quote? Or how something a scientist knows could have more “rationally” resolved the issue of “squirt or not to squirt?”

    “The most immediate case of politics allegedly trumping science, some government and outside environmental experts said, was the decision to fight the gulf oil spill with huge quantities of potentially toxic chemical dispersants despite advice to examine the dangers more thoroughly.”

    Let’s make some generous assumptions that the exposure risks at various levels of these chemicals is known well enough to control policy. I’m skeptical that’s true but let’s say it is. Make some more generous assumptions that the effects of various doses of light sweet crude is sufficently well understood such that the balancing of risk and reward does not take formal training. At some point a decision has to made on the basis of what is known at the time, weighing the costs and risks of a range of choices, including doing nothing pending further study. In NEPA, for example, “no action” has to be considered the mix.

    I submit that no amount of “science” can answer a values question. Is X “safe” is a values question. How large must a “potential” toxic threat be before it is too large? Risk acceptance is a values judgment. So is “we can’t afford to wait.” So is “threat X does not warrant corrective action.”

    After Cherynobol, the late Petr Beckmann (BTW, an E.E. PhD), wrote in his newsletter that the accident didn’t say anything about Soviet engineering but it did speak volumes about Soviet values. The reactor lacked a Western-style containment structure because Ukrainians were cheaper than concrete.

    I think this old chestnut sums up the correct role of “science” nicely: “Decision making is the course of action selected when the facts do not suggest an outcome.”

  8. Mike Tritico says:

    Tar and Feathers –

    Will the catastrophe in our Gulf bring about a blessed loosening of the grip the carpetbaggers have on the feeble minds of Louisiana’s ignorant scalawags?

    Given the facts that:

    1) in 6 of 12 times the single blind shear ram blowout preventers have been called upon in offshore emergencies they have failed, and
    2) the fact that 2/3 of the wells in the Gulf are equipped with that kind of BOP,

    Secretary Salazar’s call for a prudent “pause” seems to be such simple common sense that opposition to the moratorium is astounding.

    Even the oil companies, who fear the loss of offshore drilling, should realize that if there is one more “incident,” there will be no way that the American public will allow offshore drilling, anywhere within our political influence.

    It is time for the carpetbaggers who have been exploiting us and our resources and the hometown scalawags (Louisiana politicans and anyone else who aids and abets the carpetbaggers) to remember the old message of “tar and feathers,” now tragically upgraded in a quantum way.

  9. Walt Sikora says:

    Meanwhile, the criminal act of injecting the dispersant Corexit into oil gushing from the BP Deepwater Horizon blow-out continues.

    The fact is, the use of dispersant is not a legitimate clean-up or a mitigation technique but rather a fraud, intended to keep the oil out of sight, essentially sweeping under the carpet, in this case below the water surface where it remains toxic for a very long time. Unweathered dispersed oil retains its most toxic components, the volatile fractions and it kills the benthos as well as water column fauna.

    I have been told by a colleague it appears that the dispersant train has left the station because some government bureaucrats decided that dispersants would keep oil from impacting the shores of the Gulf. When will it be realized that this strategy will not work, and now dispersed oil mixed with a toxic chemical will get in under any containment boom and get past any rock-filled barges or other attempts to keep it out and kill everything for a very long time. Perhaps a court-ordered injunction to stop further dispersant application is what is needed.

    It would seem that the BP lawyers actually believe Corexit is some sort of magic dust that really will make spilled oil disappear and dematerialize, hence the lack of sufficient numbers of skimmer vessels two months into the disaster.

    Want more information? Check out the this Web address:

  10. HeidiHoe says:

    Maybe the rocks are indeed “Third Rocks From The Sun….”

    Was that the Hippocratic Oath or the Hypocritical Oath???? Only THE SHADOW knows fer shure……

  11. carolcrom says:

    Who were these rocks purchased from and when? Who owns them currently?

  12. Bill Nuttle says:

    Let’s all take a deep breath, and then hold it … forever. That way you won’t ever breath in any noxious fumes. – This is in essence the coastal protection that Jindal proposes for LA’s coastal bays and estuarine waters. This isn’t just absent scientific validity, it is also lacking in common sense.

    Will it work? I am not holding my breath.

  13. D Cooper says:

    I went to your site from your guest article in the NOTP.
    Live in upstate NY and have been wondering where the science has been. Pleased to find it. It is very important for people to bare witness to this and record it Look forward to more oyster information. It is all about the oysters they are the canaries in the mine

  14. Ed Bodker says:

    Len, thanks for the creative bits of humor and levity regarding our environmental plight. It not only helps temper the depressive feelings associated with our degrading environment, but it also helps to see that the best we can do is to be honest about the facts before we act. I wish it were not true but like it or not, we would do well to realize there are politics in science at all levels.

  15. Piers Chapman says:

    Not only are the sand berms along the Chandeleur Islands 500 miles from where the storm made landfall, they were also protected from the direct effects of the swells kicked up by the storm by what remains of the delta.

  16. Jim Rives says:

    Sue Hawes was a constructive force in the coastal community. She will be missed.

  17. if indeed the BP Gusher is bigger than Ixtoc, it’s the second largest individual oil disaster, after the slick in the Persian Gulf in 1991. and that spill was an act of war.

    At least, according to this paper by O’Rourke et al.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Consistent with my comment/prediction from a few days ago–this HESCO basket “system” was not properly designed to withstand the TS condition. Lacking a proper design, it should never have been built. A system could have been properly designed–with a better foundation and many more baskets. This doesn’t mean that a HESCO system was a good or bad idea, or that using precious sand for this purpose could have been done “correctly.” HESCO systems are just one possible tool for efficient construction of a temporary embankment.

  19. Charlie Viosca says:

    BP is not interested in listening to anyone other than their own (so called) experts.
    The oil flow can be stopped and be pumped to the surface but BP has no place to put the oil when it resaches the surface.
    What a sad thing this has become to all the world and it will be a lot worse before it is over.
    It is sad that people do not listen. They will spend a lot of money and time and as we already can see it is fruitless to continue with this bad idea.

  20. John Day says:

    One issue that Klare did not address in his talk was the size of the oil field where the deepwater horizon was drilling. It is estimated at 3 billion barrels. This is about a month of world oil consumption.

  21. Can we please stop the myth of how Hesco baskets are of any use? Especially because they are what contractors will be using to plug gaps at construction projects around NOLA during storms this hurricane season.

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