St. Bernard Parish officials announced Saturday that training of the initial group of fishermen to deploy protective booms is complete. The fishermen are now prepared to take measures to protect St. Bernard’s coastline from the drifting oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico from the Deepwater Horizon, an oil rig operated by British Petroleum that was drilling in 5,000 feet of water about 40 miles offshore when it exploded last week. Additional resources are in route to St. Bernard as well.
Key bureaucratic hurdles were cleared today after Lisa P. Jackson, the Environmental Protection Agency Administrator sent to Louisiana by President Obama and Congressman Charlie Melancon met with St. Bernard Parish officials in Chalmette.
St. Bernard Parish officials explained to Ms. Jackson and Congressman Melancon that some of the bureaucratic issues of OSHA were slowing down the parish’s ability to respond on a local level. Ms. Jackson immediately addressed the issues, clearing the way for St. Bernard to deploy local resources to help deal with the recovery.
“She immediately began working BP to reduce the bureaucratic red tape that was slowing our ability to respond,” said Col. David Dysart, St. Bernard Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.
Additionally, St. Bernard had representatives in Houma at the BP Command Center working with federal and state officials to enhance the boom plan for St. Bernard Parish and to ensure the necessary logistical resources were in place to support that plan.
More protective boom was deployed in St. Bernard waters on Saturday. The local fishermen who are now trained have their vessels loaded in preparation of operations that will be deployed tomorrow.
An initial phase of fishermen who had signed up with St. Bernard Parish to volunteer their boats received phone calls late Friday night inviting them for the Saturday morning training. This first phase of fishermen will allow them to work alongside BP contractors to place protective measures in St. Bernard as part of BP’s Vessel of Opportunity Program.
More training of fishermen is expected to take place early this week. Fishermen will be contacted for additional training and additional phases of the effort.
Commercial fishermen who are St. Bernard residents and who can assist in any local efforts to protect our coastline in St. Bernard can continue sign up with St. Bernard Parish Government at the website www.sbpg.net at the Contact Us button on top of the web site.
Additionally, commercial fishermen may contact the St. Bernard Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness during normal business hours Monday through Friday at 278-4268.
Please include the following information: Vessel name, Owner/Captain name, Contact Number or Email if available, Length of Vessel, Horse Power and Draft.
St. Bernard Parish will send this volunteer list to British Petroleum for the Vessel of Opportunity program which may hire locals to help with the spill. Additionally, it will be kept for St. Bernard Parish for any secondary response efforts.
If you have difficulty sending through the website, you may send the information to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meanwhile, St. Bernard officials continue to stress that the drinking water supply is safe because the parish’s only intake is far inland on the Mississippi River. Furthermore, state regulators have assured parish officials that smells should not be harmful. Persons with special respiratory conditions should be mindful of the odors. President Taffaro asked residents to report odors to the St. Bernard Office Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness at 504-278-4268. When calling, please be specific about the time and location of the odor.
Current projections show that the oil should reach the Chandeleur Islands and the outer edges of the Biloxi Marsh by Sunday. Based on those projections and the continued cooperation with the Coast Guard and BP, St. Bernard enjoyed the benefits of this increased cooperation and BP laid down some booms today in St. Bernard waters. However, efforts on Friday were stymied by tidal and weather conditions which make booming in some areas ineffective.
The long term goal is that over several days workers will continue to place multiple layers of both hard booms, which are meant to contain the oil, and absorbent booms, which are meant to absorb the oil.