Harrison County leaders push for fabric fence to fend off oil - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Harrison County leaders push for fabric fence to fend off oil

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) -

By Trang Pham-Bui – bio | email

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) – As he watched a thunderstorm move across the St. Louis Bay Monday morning, Harrison County Supervisor Marlin Ladner pointed to problems with the boom system.

"I believe if a storm comes, it's going to create anywhere from one, two, three foot waves, and there's no way those booms can withstand that force," said Ladner.

Ladner said a better defense against intruding oil is a fabric fence that would stretch across the Bay, from Henderson Point to Washington Avenue. He said too much time has already been wasted.

"Mississippi had the longest number of days to prepare for this oil and I think we squandered it," Ladner said.

When asked who he was referring to, Ladner responded, "I'm talking about all the responsibility parties, especially the Unified Command, the governor's office. Unfortunately, we're under the gun and everybody's now jumping through hoops trying to protect it."

The Bay needs protection because it leads to Bayou Portage and fragile marshes and critical marine habitats.

Such a fence could cost at least $3 million and take up to four weeks to install.   Ladner said over the weekend, the county received permission from the Department of Marine Resources to build a similar, 200-foot fence in the Bay, as a test project.

"We're finally getting the permit, but unfortunately, now we're pressed for time," Ladner said. "We're at a point now where I don't know if short-term experiments would be sufficient.  It's sort of like the enemy's at the gates, and when the enemy's at the gates, you do what it takes to protect yourself.  I'm beyond the point of when you know something we know will work. I think we need to take actions of maybe it will work."

"It's not only frustration, but uncertainty," said Pass Christian Mayor Chipper McDermott about oil found in recent days in the Mississippi Sound.

The mayor also supports the fencing project being worked out by Harrison County and Bay St. Louis city leaders.  In the meantime, he's moving ahead with his city's plan to build a 7,000 foot fence as a temporary barrier.

"We've made a request to Unified Command to go ahead and get the money we need to fence off the two inlets that run through the back of our town," McDermott said.

And if the county doesn't get the okay to erect a larger fence, Marlin Ladner has his own solution.

"My recommendation will be to build it.  If we have time, to build it and send the bill to BP," he said.

The fence that's being proposed would be attached to pilings.  It would have gaps in between to allow boats to pass.  And the fabric could be dropped into the water, if oil threatens the Bay.

Copyright 2010 WLOX. All rights reserved.

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