Sand Berm Funding Grows, But No Cash Yet

Stop-gap. The Louisiana National Guard has been dropping sandbags to fill small gaps in Pelican Island, where construction of a major sand berm has been approved.

Louisiana Army and Air National Guard

UPDATE: BP has announced that it will fund the six approved sections of the sand berm project, estimated to cost $360 million. The company says it will make payments based on progress.

The controversial plan to build 72 kilometers of sand berms for oil protection in Louisiana is accelerating. Yesterday, Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, who leads the federal response, told BP to pay for all six stretches of sand berms approved last week.

Louisiana had requested permits for sand berms that would extend for 160 kilometers. Given uncertainties about the risks and benefits of the berms, the Army Corps of Engineers granted a permit to build six sections for a total of 70 kilometers. Allen was even more conservative and decided that the federal government or BP would cover the cost of building only one 3.2-kilometer-long segment as an experiment. The state would be responsible for funding or billing BP for the remaining berms.

In a statement yesterday, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal expressed relief at the decision to fund all six segments. But he said the state had not received any money for the work. "We are asking the Coast Guard and the federal government today to force BP to either advance the state the funds we need to begin work on these sand boom segments or force BP to begin the work on their own," he said.

The statement says:

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimated the costs of the first segment at Pelican Island would range from $51 million to $155 million. We have requested $44 million from BP to begin work on the first segment and we still don't have the funds we need to begin this work or a commitment from BP to start it themselves. Now, we need funding for the other five segments the White House has agreed to force BP to fund.