BARATARIA BASIN, La. -- It was a frustrating morning for Gov. Bobby Jindal, who personally made sure the state’s vacuum barges were back out in the marsh sucking up BP oil.
The Coast Guard shut down the highly successful vacuum operation to inspect the vessels on Wednesday, and state leaders are now complaining the Coast Guard is getting in the way of the oil spill response.
The state’s fleet of 16 vacuum barges went back to work Thursday afternoon. The Louisiana National Guard-designed vessels can now suck up about 4000 gallons of oil every 90 minutes.
Despite their success at cleaning up BP polluted wetlands like Bay Jimmy, located in the Barataria Basin between Grand Isle and lower Lafitte, the Coast Guard shut down their operation for more than a day.
Jindal traveled to Empire on Thursday only to find eight barges still tied up at the marina.
“What's so frustrating is the stories kept changing,” Jindal said. “Yesterday morning, they said we're shutting down. Then, they can't find the boats to go out and inspect. They didn't realize that they'd approved them already.”
Coast Guard Commander Dan Laur said the vessels needed safety inspections.
The issue that we were looking at is the safety and stability with the vessels, safety of the crew on board, make sure they had the proper firefighting equipment, there was grounding in case lighting as you see, things like that,” Laur said.
The governor says the fact that these barges were tied up at the dock for the past 24 hours is just another example of a disconnect between the federal response and the state and local response to this oil spill
“We never got a clear answer why they were shutting it down, what they needed to do. This morning again, pushed the White House, met with the captain in charge of the Coast Guard for Louisiana's oil spill response. They told us they were going to let them go this morning and you know what the contractors told us the inspector finally showed up this morning and told them never mind,” Jindal said.
By mid-afternoon the barges were back on the water sucking up oil in Bay Jimmy.
“We were very disappointed we could have actually had these barges ready to go a lot longer than that, but we've been on hold with the Coast Guard,” said Kenneth Marbach, a vacuum barge contractor.
The governor flew over the operation pointing out oil on the ground and in the water that he says could have been cleaned up by now.
“Every drop of oil that hits our wetlands is one more damage, it’s one more damage to our ecosystem and our way of life,” he said.
Jindal also flew over east Grand Terre Island to check on the progress of the state’s first sand barrier building project. So far crews have added about 120 acres of sand beaches to the island to help catch oil before it enters sensitive inland waterways.