Council resolutions support coastal plan, oil responseMay 25th, 2010 | By Frank McCormack | Category: Top Story
As the frontline fight to protect St. Bernard Parish’s marshes from the oil spill continued this week, the parish council addressed the need for coastal restoration and oil spill protection legislatively through a series of resolutions during its May 18 meeting.
The first resolution voiced council support for establishing an East Biloxi Marsh shoreline barrier zone, one of several components of the parish’s coastal restoration plan. The plan, years in the making, is currently undergoing a major post-Katrina update due to the massive changes wrought by the storm.
Sherwood Gagliano, renowned geological expert on Louisiana’s coast and CEO of Coastal Environments Incorporated, has partnered with the parish’s Coastal Zone Advisory Committee to update the plan. He presented the Biloxi Marsh shoreline component to the council this week.
“In developing the plan with the Coastal Zone Advisory Committee, it became clear that one of the greatest priorities is the East Biloxi Marsh,” Gagliano said. “The feeling was that, since the Chandeleur Islands have essentially disappeared, [the East Biloxi Marsh] is the shoreline of St. Bernard Parish.”
And that outer shoreline, according to both Gagliano and the resolution, is crucial, not just to the fishing industry and for flood protection in St. Bernard Parish, but also to all the Metro New Orleans parishes and Southwest Mississippi.
“This has emerged as the highest priority,” Gagliano said. “It protects the urban areas of the parish. It’s where our fisheries are. It acts as a buffer for the New Orleans area.”
The plan calls for placing some type of shoreline barrier or armor along the outer edge of the Biloxi Marsh in order to “both reduce tropical storm surge and retard erosion along Louisiana’s muddy shorelines and thereby reduce wetland loss,” according to the resolution.
Gagliano said the coastal plan does not specify what material the barrier would be made of. During the meeting, District E Councilman Fred Everhardt floated the idea of using concrete from closed portion of the Interstate 10 Twin Spans. Gagliano said heavy rocks or submersible concrete barges could also work. He said his team has even discussed placing materials along the inside of the barrier to assist with stabilization while doubling as new oyster reefs.
Gagliano pointed out that all those discussions occurred over the past months, prior to the oil spill. The proposed East Biloxi Marsh shoreline is just where St. Bernard fishermen have been laying protective boom to keep oil out of the march.
“If [the barrier] was there now, we would already have that line of defenses,” he said. “We would just have to put oil booms to cover the tidal gaps along the shoreline.”
Gagliano told the council that the most obvious party to implement the shoreline establishment plan is the Army Corps of Engineers. The resolution calls specifically for the Corps to consider incorporating the shoreline project into the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet Ecosystem Restoration Plan, which is due to be completed soon.
“While the plan might include the entire Pontchartrain Basin, by far the greatest damage caused by the MRGO is in St. Bernard,” he said.
But because the proposed shoreline would provide a significant barrier to the growing oil spill, Gagliano also thinks British Petroleum could cover at least some of the cost of implementation.
“I think it would be appropriate for some BP participation as mitigation for the blowout,” Gagliano said. “After all, [for] the very fishermen who are out of work and whose lives are being most affected, right behind that barrier is an important fishing ground.”
The resolution instructs the parish president to forward a copy of the resolution to President Barack Obama, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, top officials with the Corps of Engineers, the parish’s federal and state congressional delegations, local parish presidents, and other top officials.
“This kind of message from local officials is incredibly strong and it’s difficult to ignore,” Gagliano said.
Later in the meeting, the council also passed a resolution in support of a U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu-supported amendment to the Disaster Relief and Summer Jobs Act of 2010 which would extend some financial relief to out-of-work fishermen through the Small Business Association.
Both measures were passed unanimously.