Sand Berms: Not Too Effective at Capturing Oil

Several weeks ago, before the holidays, I had the opportunity to fly over the Eastern Sand Berms (many thanks to SouthWings for providing the flight). This was an interesting flight, as it was my first look at the berms since the State of Louisiana changed its plans from creating “disposable” berms to trying to mimic barrier island restoration. Here are a few of the photos: One of the things that really stood out on this trip was there was no evidence of the original berms, which I was under the impression were located east of the existing Chandelieur Islands. All we could see now was the work that was being done directly adjacent to the existing islands. I am not sure what happened to the original berms, whether they already washed away, or if they somehow salvaged that sand for the current project. I called some folks at the Corps, but I haven’t heard back from them for a couple of days. While it seems that there has been some significant progress on the berms, I still question the efficacy of these berms, and this was strongly echoed by the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling. For example, the Times-Picayune reported yesterday that the Commission “suggests that berms and boom were pretty much a bust, collecting more headlines than oil.” While I have not seen any official documentation that states the amount of oil recovered by the berms, highest estimates that the State has offered to the media is approximately 1,000 barrels of oil. According to the Commission’s Draft Report entitled “The Story of the Louisiana Berms Project,” BP has spent $220 million on the sand berms, which is one fifth of the entire $1.078 billion that BP has paid to all of the Gulf States and the Federal Government. All to capture probably less than 1,000 barrels of oil.That being said, I am heartened to see that some good might come out of this, if the current projects are indeed beneficial to the barrier islands of Louisiana.Matt Rota is Science and Water Policy Director for GRN