Nightly News   |  June 15, 2010

La. builds barge barriers to block oil

To prevent more oil from getting into Louisiana's wetlands, Gov. Bobby Jindal approved a plan to submerge 116 barges filled with water to hopefully narrow openings to the Gulf waters by 70 to 80 percent. NBC's Thanh Truong reports.

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HOLT: in the gulf, one place we've been hearing a lot about, Grand Isle is about to try something new to keep all that oil from contaminating precious marshland. They're uses barges, lots of them, in an unusual way. NBC 's Thanh Truong is in Grand Isle tonight.

THANH TRUONG reporting: Hey there, Lester . The oil continues to move further into the marshes here, and there's now a plan to use these barges behind me to block its path. Here in Grand Isle , Louisiana , desperate times are calling for desperate measures. To prevent more oil from getting through Pass Abel and Four Bayou Pass , 116 barges will be lined up, filled with water and partially submerged to hopefully narrow the openings by 70 to 80 percent.

Governor BOBBY JINDAL: This is a war, and we have got to win this war. We cannot afford to have this oil in our wetlands. And what concerns us is that we are losing this war at this time.

Capt. LaFERRIERE: The barges would be spudded down, basically, and it would form a wall to direct the oil into our skimming efforts, where we can actually pick it up off the water.

TRUONG: Governor Bobby Jindal says it took much too long for the federal government to approve the barge plan. Local leaders say it took several meetings with federal officials to get some traction. And it wasn't until a face-to-face meeting between President Obama and Jindal last week that the state's plan got the green light.

Gov. JINDAL: But if they're not going to get us the booms and the skimmers that we asked for, we have got to be creative in narrowing those passes so we can concentrate the limited resources we do have.

TRUONG: Oil can now be spotted more than 12 miles north of the marshes here. Officials say this is the furthest inland the oil has been so far.

Mr. DAVID CARMARDELLE (Grand Isle Mayor): We got 70 barges behind our island, we got 18-wheelers going to load up, and we're going to be lit up like a Christmas tree and working around the clock to fight the oil.

TRUONG: And tomorrow they'll start work on this so-called barge barrier. They'll be driving pilings into the water. Then on Thursday, Lester , they'll be moving these barges out to those passes.

HOLT: Thanh Truong tonight, thank you.