La. Coast Darkens As BP Turns To Plan B Again

Saturday, oil giant BP gave up on its latest attempt stop the leak spewing millions of gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. It was just the most recent in a series of disappointments for southern Louisiana as residents watch mushrooming and shifting columns of oil march against their coastline.

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.

Yesterday, the oil giant BP gave up on its latest attempt to stop the leak spewing millions of gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. It was just the most recent in a series of disappointments for south Louisiana, as residents watched columns of oil march against their coastline.

NPR's Frank Morris of member station KCUR in Kansas City has more from Buras, Louisiana.

FRANK MORRIS: It wasn't a perfect afternoon for the Plaquemines Parish Seafood Festival. Storms were gathering and large swaths of prime shrimping and fishing areas were closed. But for parish president Billy Nungesser, it was a welcomed diversion.

Mr. BILLY NUNGESSER (President, Plaquemine Parish): It shows what we needed is a little break from what we've been going through here in the parish for the last month.

MORRIS: The break didn't last long. Nungesser stepped off the side of the stage and glanced at his BlackBerry.

Mr. NUNGESSER: We just got word the plug didn't work. Just got an email saying the plug did not work and the oil is continuing to flow, just two seconds ago.

MORRIS: Three hours later, BP's Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles had a press conference.

Mr. DOUG SUTTLES (Chief Operating Officer, BP America): For three full days of attempting top kill, we have been unable to overcome the flow from the well. So we now believe it's time to move on to the next of our options which is the LMRP, Lower Marine Riser Package cap.

MORRIS: Well, the failure of top kill was big news. It was no surprise at the shrimp and oyster boat docks in Empire, Louisiana.

Mr. KERRY DESPAUX (Shrimper/Oysterman): I kind of figured that wasn't going to work anyway, because if it was going to work they probably would have tried it...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DESPAUX: ...in the very beginning.

MORRIS: Kerry Despaux has been in the shrimping and oyster business 24 years. The oil relentlessly spewing into the Gulf, 41 days now, could ruin his livelihood. But he can only wait and see what BP does to stop it.

Mr. DESPAUX: I hear they're something else now. I don't know. Some other type of hat...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DESPAUX: ...or cap or whatever. Let's hope they finally - they get it.

MORRIS: It's a desperate situation for shrimpers and oystermen. The oil is coming and once it gets into estuaries and oysters beds, it'll kill plants and animals there, taint the fish and lodge there perhaps for years. Like many others in this area, Despaux thinks he knows how to protect the fertile coastal waters: berms, barriers built on the shallow seafloor to protect estuaries and marshes from the encroaching slicks.

It's a plan that's been pushed by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and Billy Nungesser. The failure of the top kill maneuver intensified Nungesser's drive to get the work underway.

Mr. NUNGESSER: We got to build these barrier islands. We got to build them now. I'll be calling the president of BP and beg him to do the right thing and build these islands. We will never keep this oil out if we don't.

MORRIS: Nungesser wants to go beyond the pilot project the Coast Guard is working on and even beyond the 45 miles of berms approved by the Army Corps of Engineers. He wants a system enclosing much of the southern Louisiana coast, he said so yesterday at the seafood festival.

Mr. NUNGESSER: And we won't stop till we get that done. We're going to win this war. Thank you everybody for coming and supporting our cause.

(Soundbite of applause)

Unidentified Woman: Dredge, baby. Dredge.

Mr. NUNGESSER: Dredge, baby. Dredge.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. NUNGESSER: Thank you.

Unidentified Woman: Thank you.

MORRIS: Frank Morris, NPR News, Buras, Louisiana.

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