According to Gov. Bobby Jindal, it is there that sand from the Gulf of Mexico’s bottom is being gathered to build barriers against encroaching oil.
Jindal and Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser said authorities want the state to move a dredging site farther from the Chandeleur Islands, a sensitive chain of barrier islands.
However, the Interior Department said the order was issued because the sand was from a sensitive section of the island chain. Also, the state also has failed to meet an extended deadline to install pipe that would tap sand from a less-endangered area.
Both Jindal and Nungesser argue that the dredging should continue.
The areas being dredged include the Chandeleurs and other barrier islands that are sensitive nesting grounds for species such as the brown pelican. The areas have been hit hard by oil washing up from the BP well that is 40 miles southeast of the mouth of the river.
“We will continue to work closely with the state of Louisiana to move the project forward as we fight to protect Louisiana’s coasts, communities and wildlife from the BP spill,” said Interior Assistant Secretary Tom Strickland.
Strickland said the berms, or a narrow ledge or shelf typically at the top or bottom of a slope, are an important part of protecting marshes and wildlife, but they “have to built right so they don’t compromise the barrier islands, which serve as a first line of defense against storm surges and hurricanes.”
According to Strickland, Louisiana originally agree to take sand from an area in the northern Chandeleurs, but had been pumping from a more sensitive area in the middle part of the chain. He also said that earlier this month Louisiana asked for a week’s extension on its agreement to run pipe to the more desired area, but that they had not met that deadline.
“All we are trying to do is hold them to their own agreement,” said Strickland.
Nungesser has already written President Barack Obama to urge the president to allow the dredging to continue.
Jindal said about 450,000 cubic yards of sand has been dredged in the area.
According to the governor, it would take about five days to build the pipeline federal authorities want.
“It took so long to approve this project,” he said. “We don’t want to be tied up in more red tape.”
Jindal has frequently criticized both BP’s and the federal response to the spill. He has proposed building massive berms to intercept the oil before it gets to the coast. It received partial approval form the corps with BP agreeing to pay $360 million for the project.