Jindal plans $12M for oyster bed, shoreline rehab

Published 10:42 pm Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Gov. Bobby Jindal intends to redirect $12 million in state and federal coastal restoration funding to help re-establish oyster reefs and shoreline damaged by the Gulf oil spill.

The governor announced the plans Tuesday, saying he expects oil giant BP PLC to later reimburse the spending. BP, however, has yet to agree to reimbursement, and Louisiana officials complained they don’t feel that the company understands the urgent need to rebuild oyster beds and eroding marshland.

“Instead of making a proactive measure to reverse the damage that has been created by the oil spill, they’ve continued to delay the process,” said St. Bernard Parish President Craig Taffaro.

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Billy Nungesser, president of Plaquemines Parish at the epicenter of the oil spill, said in the hard-hit area of Bay Jimmy, as much as 5 feet of shoreline disappears each week, allowing the oil to work its way further into the marsh.

The Jindal administration plans call for $2 million to re-establish up to 200 acres of oyster beds in public seed grounds, $5 million for engineering up to three miles of shoreline reefs for further oyster production and $5 million to rebuild vegetation and sand fencing over 30 miles where oil killed coastal plant systems that had held the land together.

The condition of shoreline in areas like Bay Jimmy and tiny islands where pelicans, spoonbills and other birds make their nests is particularly critical, said David Muth, Louisiana’s state director of the National Wildlife Federation.

“The islands they nest on, the small islands, are in danger. They were washing away before the spill and it’s going to get worse,” Muth said.

The dollars will be taken from three different accounts for oyster development and coastal restoration programs. Federal approval will be needed to redirect a $5 million slice of the cash, but Jindal’s coastal adviser Garret Graves said he’s talked with federal officials who have suggested they are willing to reallocate those coastal assistance dollars.

A BP spokesperson didn’t immediately respond Tuesday to Associated Press questions about whether the company will reimburse the state for its spending. Jindal said his administration has continued to negotiate with BP about the money.

“For months and months, we’ve all watched BP spend millions of dollars on commercials. Time after time they say, ‘We’ll be here for the long haul. We’re gonna make it right,”’ said Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Secretary Robert Barham. “For the oyster industry, especially today, we say to BP, ‘Just do what you say in your commercials.”’