Panel: Jindal sand berm project was a colossal waste of time and money

Brett Michael Dykes

For months, critics of Louisiana GOP Gov. Bobby Jindal's BP-funded $360 million sand berm project have blasted the effort as a tragic misuse of time and resources. They charged that the governor and his lead advisers could have undertaken scores of other projects that would have been far more beneficial to the damaged Gulf and the inhabitants of its coast.

Some have even charged that the plan was nothing more than a multi-million dollar kickback for the governor's supporters. "The only reason those sand berms are still being built is because Bobby Jindal has supporters he needs to pay back," a current Louisiana officeholder, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of ongoing dealings with the Jindal administration, told Yahoo News back in October. "It's that simple ... follow the money. The people making money off this thing are people that gave money to Jindal."

As one might expect, the Jindal camp took vigorous issue with that complaint -- as well as the more general broadsides from the scientific community pointing out the inefficiency of the berms as a means of containing damage from the enormous spill. Now, however, the independent commission appointed by President Obama to investigate the oil spill has chimed in as well. Its verdict is, if anything, more harsh than the assessment offered by earlier critics: In the report the commission's members released today, they concluded the berm project was a total bust that succeeded in capturing virtually no oil.

In emphatic language, the bi-partisan commission announced that it can "comfortably conclude that the decision to green-light the underwhelmingly effective, overwhelmingly expensive Louisiana berms project was flawed."

Take the simple question of oil containment. "Estimates vary, and no precise figures are available," the report notes. "But no estimates of how much oil the berms captured are much greater than 1,000 total barrels. In comparison, according to peer-reviewed government estimates released in November, burning, skimming, and chemical dispersion addressed a total of between 890,000 and 1.85 million barrels spilled from the Macondo well."

In a statement emailed to The Lookout, Jindal blasted the report as "partisan revisionist history at taxpayer expense" and curiously invoked the name of a bygone populist Louisiana governor with a legacy of corruption.

"The Commission would do a true service to Americans by recommending federal bureaucracies that can be eliminated or expedited in times of major disasters -- like Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill, instead of attacking the politics of Louisiana and Huey Long," Jindal wrote. "The report's assertion that the berms did not pass the commission's 'cost benefit analysis' is insulting to the thousands of people whose way of life depends on the health of our working coast. What exactly is the cost of thousands of jobs and generations of fishermen and oyster harvesters who have made their living off of our coast for over 100 years? I would like the Administration to provide us with an estimate of the 'cost' that they did not deem worthy of every action possible to protect coastal families."

(Photo: AP/Dave Martin)