Gulf Evacuations Delay Cleanup Operations St. Bernard Parish moved valuable oil skimmers and other vessels away for safety as Tropical Storm Bonnie headed toward the Louisiana coastline last week. Parish officials are working to get boats back downstream to the Gulf of Mexico.
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Gulf Evacuations Delay Cleanup Operations

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Gulf Evacuations Delay Cleanup Operations

Gulf Evacuations Delay Cleanup Operations

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DON GONYEA, Host:

And now we're going to hear about the resumption of the oil cleanup in the Gulf. Ships were taken out of the Gulf over the weekend in anticipation of a tropical storm. But that storm, named Bonnie, dissipated long before hitting the site of the oil spill. Still, the evacuation set back efforts to permanently shut the blown-out well. NPR's Carrie Kahn reports from New Orleans.

(SOUNDBITE OF RUSHING WATER)

CARRIE KAHN: The boat idles at the foot of the lock's giant, black, steel doors. Taffaro shouts up to a watchman to explain what he's doing.

M: We are just trying to get some of those boats that we brought in for safe harbor out.

KAHN: Taffaro says he wants the doors open as soon as possible. That way, the boats can get back to work, cleaning up the oil that has soiled hundreds of acres of wetlands throughout his parish.

M: Be sure that we can get back to work. We don't want to lose any time that we don't have to. Any day we've lost is a day too many.

KAHN: But infuriated officials, like Parish President Taffaro, balked. Taffaro says many here worried that BP wasn't ever going to bring back the boats. After several heated exchanges, the evacuation plan was modified, and Taffaro was able to keep the boats closer. But he still doesn't trust the oil company.

M: Let's just say that we are acting on a trust-but-verify basis. That means we trust what you say is true. As soon as we verify it, we know it's true.

KAHN: But retired Admiral Thad Allen, the government's point man for operations in the Gulf, says the original plan to move the boats farther north was only motivated by concerns over keeping the equipment safe and dry.

GONYEA: I'm still haunted by my flight over New Orleans on the 6th of September, 2005, seeing a parking lot full of school buses, underwater. They were not moved in time so they could help with the evacuation. So we need to continually focus on where this equipment should be, and how it can best be preserved to help the people of the Gulf area.

KAHN: Allen says this weekend's evacuation was necessary, and a good practice run for future hurricanes.

GONYEA: We're going to be playing a cat-and-mouse game for the remainder of the hurricane season.

KAHN: Carrie Kahn, NPR News, New Orleans.

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