Time for Louisiana to take action

Jeff Crouere Contributor
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With each passing day, the crisis in the Gulf becomes worse for South Louisiana. Our delicate ecosystem is being destroyed as we wait for BP and the federal government to take action. Every day, the Deepwater Horizon well is spewing thousands of barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. As the oil reaches the marsh, fishermen are giving chilling reports of dead fish, birds and other wildlife. The seafood supply is dwindling everyday, hurting our famed restaurants and our tourism industry.

This oil spill is impacting the entire region and is a true disaster, so it is mind boggling that President Obama has not done more to deal with this crisis. It took the president nine days after the explosion to even mention the incident. His only visit to the region lasted just a few hours. Since then, he has blasted the oil companies, but done almost nothing to assist the struggling people of the Gulf Coast. He has even refused to meet with Louisiana’s congressional delegation to discuss ideas on how to deal with the crisis.

Clearly, the incident is too big for BP to handle. While the company will pay for the costs of the cleanup, the response to the disaster is the responsibility of the federal government. At this point, the president needs to show leadership. For example, he should direct the Army Corps of Engineers to give immediate approval to the plan of local leaders to build barrier islands to protect the wetlands. The dredging equipment is available, but the permits need to be approved. Despite assurances that the process would be expedited, the Corps of Engineers is still waiting for an environmental impact study to be completed. However, if this situation persists much longer, we will not have an environment to protect.

Our local leaders should have learned the tough lessons from Katrina. It is folly to depend on the federal government for timely assistance. The federal bureaucracy is too large and there is too much red tape for a quick response. During Katrina, President Bush was criticized for the slow reaction of the federal government. However, after a sluggish start, Bush showed true interest in the recovery and visited the region dozens of times. Sadly, in this case, President Obama has done nothing but give lip service to the people of South Louisiana. He seems more interested in blasting the state of Arizona about their illegal immigration law than in helping the people of Louisiana.

Local and state leaders should take matters into their own hands and start building the barrier islands on their own. Louisiana has a $26 billion state budget and certainly has enough money to rent the necessary dredging equipment and hire the appropriate number of workers to complete the project. They should forget about the permits and the federal approval and just begin work on this vital project. Otherwise, our environment, economy and way of life may be obliterated.

Some experts now estimate that 100,000 barrels of oil are flooding into the Gulf of Mexico each day. Since the initial explosion, enough oil has escaped to completely fill 102 school gymnasiums. This threat could destroy our fragile wetlands if action is not taken immediately.

Louisiana has waited long enough for a federal response; the survival of our state is at stake. If this is technically a violation of the law, so be it. No one from the federal government will have the audacity to arrest any local or state leader trying to protect their constituents from a serious threat. In fact, if they do take action, local and state leaders will not be viewed as lawbreakers, but as heroes.

Jeff Crouere is the Host of “Ringside Politics,” which airs at 7:30 p.m. Fri. and 10:00 p.m. Sun. on WLAE-TV 32, a PBS station, and 7 till 11 a.m. weekdays on WGSO 990 AM in New Orleans and the Northshore. He is the Political Analyst for WGNO-TV ABC26 and a Columnist for selected publications. For more information, visit his website at RingsidePolitics.com. E-mail him at jeff@ringsidepolitics.com.