Louisiana Leaders Fight Feds To Protect Baritaria Bay

By: Mark Strassman
By: Mark Strassman

Photo: CBS News

It's been 80 days since oil began gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, and now the pass leading to Louisiana's Baritaria Bay is being threatened.
As Mark Strassmann reports, local and state leaders are in a fight with the feds over a plan to protect it.

"That is definitely oil. No doubt."

Greg Bourgeois has dried oil on his driveway and a puddle of sheen behind his house.

"Realize this is not much. But is this the beginning of what's gonna come?"

He lives a half-mile inland from Baritaria Bay.

"The oil just washed over the boom?” asked Mark Strassman, CBS.

"There's no other place it could have come from," said Bourgeois.

Oil's a daily menace in Baritaria Bay, one of America's richest fishing grounds.
And a local plan to protect it has gone nowhere.

"We're angry,” said Deano Bonnano, Dir. of Emergency Preparedness in Jefferson Parrish. “We really are. The federal government has done nothing but put roadblocks in the way of protecting the coast.”

BP has even agreed to pay 30-million dollars for their plan.
Build rock walls in these channels to stop the gulf's oil before it enters Baritaria Bay.

"But the army corps of engineers denied the permit. And many coastal scientists say the rock dyke would casue more harm than good. They say rocks blocking the pass might stop the oil -- but also change the course of the currents and flush away this fragile coastline."

"There is a real danger,” said Denise Reed of UNO Environmental Service.

Environmental experts worry about storm surge -- funneling past openings in the rock walls, and battering soft barrier islands.
"We could put rocks in next week,” said Reed. “We could have breaches in the islands the week after.'

But locals want action.

"How many studies do we have to do before this oil is everywhere?" asked Bourgeois.

And smearing more wildlife.

But on Wednesday, 32 oiled pelicans, scrubbed clean, were released again into the wild in Florida, away from the oil threat that still menaces so many places.

“As for the plan to build rock walls here, local leaders even bought all the material: 100-thousand tons of rock,” said Strassman. “Now it's sitting on barges, as more oil heads to shore.”

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