Sierra Club: Protect our barrier islands now - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Sierra Club: Protect our barrier islands now

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) -

By Steve Phillips – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The Sierra Club held a news conference in Biloxi Monday, demanding more be done to protect Mississippi's barrier islands from the oil spill.

The club's statewide director also lashed out at Governor Haley Barbour's response to the crisis, calling some of the governor's comments "nonsense" and "non-constructive."

"Our concern today is the fact that these islands are not being protected," said Louie Miller, statewide director of the Sierra Club.

Standing beside large photos of oil covered birds from Louisiana, he said Mississippi's barrier islands and coastline could face a similar fate.

"Our concern is that the same thing can happen to the Mississippi coastline. And it appears our governor is more interested in mitigating the effects to BP's reputation than he is to mitigating the effects to the Gulf Coast. And I think that's totally unacceptable," Miller said.

Protective boom has been the most visible sign of proactive oil damage prevention along the coast and near the barrier islands. But a man who makes a living taking visitors to these "crown jewels" offshore said boom alone is inadequate.

"Deploy more skimmers at the point of the spill and off our barrier islands and mainland beaches. Skimmers. Where are they? We're told they're out there. Has anyone seen them?" said Captain Louis Skrmetta of Ship Island Excursions.

Petit Bois island was quickly cleaned last week, after a strand of oil washed ashore. We saw no evidence of tar balls during our visit there Monday, only some dark clods of clay we learned are natural and quite common.

Louie Miller said the Petit Bois experience should have been a wake up call.

"Everybody was caught asleep at the switch or with their pants down. Let's be real here. We've already had the first drill, and they failed," he lamented.

Captain Tom Becker said the charter boat business continues taking an expensive hit. The mere mention of oil was enough to ruin summer bookings.

"The word got out that the oil is everywhere. Well, phones started ringing. And they were to cancel trips. They weren't to book trips," said Captain Becker.

"My biggest concern is that the oil is going to come in like it did in Louisiana. We don't want to see these kinds of pictures in Mississippi or anywhere else," said Casey DeMoss-Roberts, with the Gulf Restoration Network.

Copyright 2010 WLOX. All rights reserved.

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