In a scathing report issued on Dec. 16, the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill characterizes the effort to build berms to stem the onshore flow from the Macondo well blowout as a politically motivated measure that was ineffective at stopping the oil. Five months after the largest oil spill in U.S. history was capped, contractors are still constructing the sand structures on barrier islands off Louisiana’s coast.
The commission concluded that the berms do not survive a cost-benefit analysis because they blocked only 1,000 barrels of the five million barrels of oil that were released in the Deepwater Horizon spill, yet cost $360 million, a third of the money that BP committed to oil-spill response along the Gulf Coast. The report concludes that such berms should not be considered in future oil-spill disasters.
Two Louisiana-based outfits—The Shaw Group, Baton Rouge, and C.F. Bean, a Plaquemines Parish dredging contractor, are building the berms. To date, contractors have completed three of the six permitted berms on the west side of the Mississippi River; one on the east bank is still under construction.
When the well was capped on July 15, 44 days after permitting, only 6% of the berms had been built.
Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) termed the commission’s report “insulting” to the people of Louisiana.
The report says the governor played a pivotal role in keeping up political pressure on the White House and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to get the berms approved. The report also observes that, just days after a May 28 meeting among President Obama, Jindal and local officials, the $360-million project gained approval. However, the report states the Corps properly vetted the projects before approving them.
On Nov. 1, Jindal announced that Louisiana and BP had agreed to spend $100 million of the remaining allocated funds to turn the berms into the largest coastal restoration project in the state’s history. An additional $40 million will be spent on completing the berm on the east side of the river.