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Chandeleur sand berm segment shrinking like a wool sweater in hot water!


by Len Bahr, PhD*

If a single picture is worth 1,000 words this 3-picture 378-word post is short on verbiage but long on information.

Regular readers of LaCoastPost know that I have long been challenging the wisdom and effectiveness of constructing artificial sand berms for the specific purpose of intercepting intruding oil. I’m far from alone in this controversy and all the scientists with whom I have spoken share my concerns. For example, see the article by Amy Wold in the July 11 The Advocate, which describes the decision to build the sand berms as driven more by politics than science.

In terms of specific criticisms, I have predicted that the berms will: (1) squander limited sand resources; (2) increase the depth and reduce the friction of the bottom profile; (3) increase the erosive power of tidal exchange; (4) steal dollars from and interest in less dramatic but more effective measures; (5) exacerbate the ongoing tension and lack of cooperation between federal and state agencies; (6) inject political overtones in what should be objective technical discussions; (7) jeopardize the credibility of the overall mission to protect and restore the Mississippi River delta; and (8) – most telling – fail to actually reduce the risk of oiling local marshes.

My final (9th) criticism and prediction is that these artificial sand ridges, planned in a science vacuum, will not survive the 2010 hurricane season. This is ironic in that the time required to construct them extends well beyond the hurricane season. Hopefully, the source of the oil will be shut down long before the sand berm project is complete. This makes the aggressive selling of the project suspicious and suggests a hidden motive involving massive dredging contracts.

With respect to the short life expectancy of artificial sand berms, examine the following three successive aerial images of ‘progress’ in constructing the first segment of sand berms along the northern section of the (submerged) Chandeleur Island chain. The photographs were taken from approximately the same location and altitude, looking from south to north. I’m not at liberty to credit the source of the photos but I can verify their authenticity.

These sad and shocking images document the waste of enormous resources and time. It’s very hard to resist the temptation to say, “I told you so.”

*Founding editor (

Photo taken 6.25.10

Photo taken 7.2.10

Photo taken 7.7.10

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