Interior Secretary Salazar installs ‘boom to nowhere’ at Gulf oil spill photo op

Alex Pappas Political Reporter
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Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, clad in life vest and wader boots, visited the west end of Little Lagoon in Gulf Shores, Ala., last week to help BP contractors install an oil retention boom to protect the area’s white beaches from the oil spill.

But according to one area homeowner, the boom Salazar helped place — during a photo shoot that was covered widely by the media — offers no protection to the shores and wildlife.

“We call it the ‘boom to nowhere,’” said Laguna Key homeowner John Simms. “Where the boom is placed it doesn’t keep the oil out of the lagoon and it doesn’t protect the marsh.”

A shallow waterway connects the lagoon, where the boom was placed, to the Gulf of Mexico, where oil is expected to come from. A five-foot high and 15-foot wide sand berm was previously built across that waterway area to stop any possible oil from making its way into the area, so residents say the boom’s necessity in that particular location is questionable.

Even if oil penetrated the sand berm in the picturesque area, they say, the booms placed by Salazar are positioned in a way that would not stop the oil from entering the lagoon from the shallow waterway. “The boom does not enclose the area that would be breached,” said another resident, Connie Smith. “It is a single line stretched into the lagoon a short way, and the oil would simply glide around it and back into the wetlands.”

Oil balls, thought to be from the initial oil rig explosion, were spotted Tuesday on Laguna Key beach. Slick from leaked oil has not yet reached the shores.

The area is located on the eastern boundary of Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, a vital environment for fish and waterfowl whose waters before Hurricane Ivan in 2004 were deep enough for bottlenose dolphin to swim. “This was a perfect photo op for Sec. Salazar in boots and life vest in knee-deep water with marsh and the homes of Laguna Key in the background,” Simms said.

Ken Salazar visits Bon Secour

The Department of Interior, reached Tuesday afternoon, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

But Jeremy Phillips, refuge manager for the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, defended the placement of booms in that area, telling The Daily Caller that the refuge asked the BP contractors to put booms there as a backup for the sand berm.

“We definitely would not have selected that area if it was not an important one to protect,” he said.

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A dead bird that washed ashore at Laguna Key Beach near the sand berm:

Oil balls, possibly from the initial Deepwater Horizon explosion: