BP will launch test to find boom anchors left in Gulf after oil spill


The Coast Guard has directed BP to drop test anchors into Gulf of Mexico waters, and then search for them, to find the best way to locate and remove thousands of boom anchors left behind in the Gulf and surrounding waters after the oil spill.

That first phase, scheduled to begin this weekend, involves finding the best methods for removal. The second phase will entail locating and removing the orphaned anchors in St. Bernard Parish.

The third and final phase of the program – to retrieve all remaining anchors in state waters – is conditional. Removal begin in all Louisiana waters affected by the spill if the first two phases are successful.

St. Bernard Parish President Craig Taffaro has estimated there are about 3,500 anchors in St. Bernard waters alone. Thousands more are estimated in Jefferson and Plaquemines’ waterways.

While the current plan doesn’t guarantee that anchors will be removed outside of St. Bernard, local officials appear confident it will get accomplished.

Jefferson Parish Councilman Chris Roberts, who sponsored a parish resolution in November for boom anchor removal, said the anchors in Jefferson waters will be removed by an means necessary.

“If we need to initiate litigation against BP then we will do that,” Roberts said. “But we are very happy to see that it is progressing and we will monitor the program.”

The 20- to 70-pound Danforth anchors were used to secure the boom that lined portions of Louisiana’s coast to help prevent the oil spewing from BP’s Macondo well from reaching the marshes.

Local fishers complain that BP contractors simply cut the boom from the anchors, leaving the hazards in waterways. The fishers say their nets have snagged and been torn by the anchors, and boat propellers have become tangled in the ropes that come up from the anchors and float to the surface.

BP has maintained that its contractors removed all the anchors that weren’t embedded deep in sediment or had not long ago drifted away.

And a recent release by the Unified Command, the multiagency organization responsible for oil spill response, contends that every anchor that could be safely recovered was removed, and that Danforth anchors, which are intended to embed in the sediment and collapse flat when not in use, do not protrude above the sediment.

But despite the Unified Command’s position that there is no threat, the adamant push by local officials and fishermen seemingly has spurred the Coast Guard to act.

“The federal government team that continues to oversee this response is committed to ensuring that BP uses a safe and proven method to find and remove orphan anchors so that teams do not break submerged pipelines in the area or further harm fragile ecosystems by causing erosion,” stated Capt. Lincoln Stroh, federal on-scene coordinator, in a release by the Deepwater Horizon Incident Joint Information Center. “Teams cannot simply drag the waterways with a hook or trawl due to the risk of breaking a pipeline or causing massive erosion.”

“The program requires BP to undertake careful planning to ensure there is no environmental damage or destruction to existing pipelines and infrastructure.”

Benjamin Alexander-Bloch can be reached at bbloch@timespicayune.com or 504.826.3321.

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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