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June 4, 2010

While Nero Fiddled

Joe Charlebois

While Nero fiddled, Governor Bobby Jindal (R., LA) had been begging for approval and funding for the dredging and subsequent construction of 80 miles of sand-berm barrier islands.


The hope is that these newly constructed berms would provide the adequate protection to the wildlife that inhabits the marshes and bayous as well as the livelihoods of millions that rely on the treasures of the splendid state of Louisiana.


As background, it should be known that many of the natural barrier islands remain decimated by the ravages of Hurricane Katrina, thus leaving the coastline even less protected than it would normally have been. The Jindal Administration has been criticized by some that it is taking advantage of this tragedy to rebuild the islands that were to rebuilt anyway – but on someone else’s tab.


Anyone who has lived on the Gulf Coast realizes the importance of a healthy Gulf and wetlands, so quick action is necessary. Last week the Army Corps of Engineers approved a “trial” two-mile island. Governor Jindal pushed for more and guarantees that British Petroleum would pay for the construction costs.


On June 2nd, Governor Jindal finally received approval, not only for the Army Corps “trial” island, but a total of 40 miles of sand berms. It is still not the 80 miles originally proposed, but it will provide some level of protection for the fragile ecosystem that is currently under attack from the ravages of flowing oil.


It is unknown how long the Deepwater Horizon oil rig will bleed our transportation industries lifeblood into the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. All reasonable measures need to be considered and set into motion as soon as possible.


This is triage. Emergency measures should be taken. When a patient comes into the emergency room with life threatening bleeding the admitting nurse doesn’t ask how they’ll pay for treatment. They get the vitals and take steps to limit the damage.


Due to the federal government bureaucrats putting the Governor Jindal’s proposal on hold until June 2nd, millions more gallons of oil will reach the shorelines because of this delay?


Many have chided President Barack Obama for not doing enough, quickly enough. I understand that and there is plenty to say and many have said it already. But the real tragedy here is the inability and inefficiency of those in the federal government to protect the coastlines while the BP people have failed to halt the free flow of oil and gas into our southern waters.


Stanford’s Henry I. Miller – physician and molecular biologist who is a fellow at the university's Hoover Institution – recently opined in his Investor’s Business Daily Perspective piece that the Environmental Protection Agency has done less to protect the environment and more too potentially cause harm – regarding oil spills – in its stone-age fear of genetic engineering. The EPA, he states, has put up roadblocks that virtually prohibit the research and development of micro-organisms that could be developed to eradicate these types of oil slicks.


Leadership requires action; our federal government has failed us. The coastal states have watched as BP struggles to cut off the flow of oil and has failed. They have stood by and watched the federal government and the president drag their feet. We may be too far removed from this disaster, but the livelihood of thousands is at stake, as is the very survival of these precious wetlands.


To paraphrase James Carville: “They’re dying down there!”


It is time to put down the fiddle and listen to the residents and protect the Gulf Coast.


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