Residents pull no punches at Houma townhall

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by Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News

wwltv.com

Posted on August 5, 2010 at 6:22 PM

HOUMA, La. - President Obama's point man for the restoration of the Gulf Coast told a packed house at the Houma Civic Center, his job is to make sure when the BP oil well is killed for good and the crude is cleaned up, that's not the end of the story.

"We were going to look to see what needs to be done to bring the gulf back environmentally, bring the gulf back economically, bring the gulf back in terms of healthcare, mental health," said Ray Mabus.

The former Mississippi Governor and current Secretary of the Navy is traveling the gulf coast, seeking local input.

Mabus and a presidential commission are creating a plan for the long term recovery of the region.

Folks at the Houma town hall meeting were not shy, sharing their opinions on a wide range of subjects.

"Til this date, the federal government has not built any portion of the Moganza levee protection system or the lock here in Terrebonne Parish, even though it's been under study for 20 years," said Berwick Duvall from the Morganza Action Committee.

"We need job training dollars, environmental protection of our coast line, mobile health units," said Houma Nation Chief Thomas Dardar.

"I want to know that in ten years, my grand-babies won't have cancer because of corexit that was sprayed or because our government didn't do what it needed to do to clean up our coastlines," said Susan Felio-Price, co-owner of the Price Bros Shipyard in Chauvin.

Congressman Joseph Cao, R-Louisiana, waited in line to challenge Mabus to help save 5000 jobs at Avondale Shipyards.

"We have approached you on a number of occasions to tell you the potential devastation that shipyard moving to Mississippi or other locations will cause the state, economically," said Cao.

Northrup Grumman wants to close the West Jefferson shipyard in 2013.

Cao says Mabus has the authority as Navy Secretary to require Northrop Grumman or any other ship builder to construct the final two, San Antonio class assault vessels at Avondale.

Northrup Grumman announced any additional Gulf Coast shipbuilding would be done at its shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss.

"I believe that the secretary, through contractual law, can reach an agreement with Northrup Grumman with respect to anything, how much it costs, where it should be built, how it should be built," said Cao.

"What I got the authority to do is try to get these two ships under contract and we have been unable to do that," said Mabus. "We've been trying for a good while."

Mabus says he expects to submit the gulf coast recovery plan in weeks, not months.

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