Today, a team of experts from The Heritage Foundation left port at Myrtle Grove, Louisiana to tour marshes, wetlands, estuaries and lakes from Venice to Grand Isle, and spoke with officials leading the cleanup and protection efforts. One message was made extremely clear: The lack of urgency from the federal government remains.

The Heritage team witnessed workers collecting boom saturated in oil and other boats maintaining and placing new boom. The edges of several marsh patches were visibly stained black and although some areas already showed signs of recovery, had Governor Bobby Jindal’s proposal for building barrier islands been approved from the beginning, the oil would not have even reached these marshes. Though the Sand Berm E-4 has now been authorized by the army core of engineers, Governor Jindal said,”That first month we lost, we could have created 10 miles of land.” The decisions to delay or reject rock jetties, sand berms and other protective measures are inexplicable to local workers and residents, especially when the benefits expand beyond preventing the oil from spreading deeper into the marshes.

The urgency is necessary because not only will building barrier islands protect the state’s wetlands, but they can also act as a line of defense for hurricanes and bad weather. These projects can prevent longer-term coastal erosion and large patches of marshes from simply disappearing. BP had paid for the rocks for the jetties but they were never used.

Even if there weren’t an oil spill, Louisiana passed a constitutional amendment to use royalties from offshore oil and gas activities to finance coastal restoration, and a Congressional law is set to increase the percentage of royalties collected by Louisiana’s state government 2017. Of course, with the moratorium in place and drilling rigs leaving to sign multi-year contracts off the coasts of other countries, that revenue could quickly disappear. Lifting the moratorium remains the top priority for those in the Gulf, but the locals’ demands have been largely ignored – a common theme since the rig first exploded April 20th.

Building the barrier islands can be done in a way to protect the delicacy of the ecosystem in the Gulf. While it is important to understand any significant environmental consequences, the amount of oil released has everyone in crisis mode in the Gulf while President Obama remains asleep at the wheel. Jefferson Parish official Deano Bonano expressed this very sentiment, saying, “”That’s our frustration: that the opposition to the plan is based on what may happen. . . . As opposed to the oil that is happening.”

As the Heritage team watched oil seep ashore into this fragile environment, it was obvious that the response to this crisis needs to be measured in minutes, not days. Time is running out for a vast region of our nation.

For more of Heritage’s oil spill coverage ‘Live From the Gulf’, click here. Our team in the Gulf this week:

Jack Spencer: Policy Director, Energy and Environment, Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies
Nick Loris: Research Assistant, Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies
Rory Cooper: Director of Strategic Communications
Robert Gordon, Senior Advisor for Strategic Outreach