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Louisiana gets White House OK for dredge plan

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • BP is ordered to fully fund plan for walls of sand to protect coastal marshes from oil spill
  • State officials lobbied hard for the plan as sludge seeped into marshlands
  • Government had already approved one segment of plan; five segments remained
  • Gov. Bobby Jindal: Damage to marine life "is already being done"

(CNN) -- The White House has ordered BP to fully fund Louisiana's plan to dredge up walls of sand to protect coastal marshes from the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal announced Wednesday.

The news comes about a week after the federal government approved one segment of the plan on a trial basis. But U.S. officials raised concerns about the long-term environmental effects of what would effectively amount to building dozens of miles of new barrier islands off Louisiana.

"We have just received word from the White House that they are going to require BP to fund the five remaining segments," Jindal said to applause in an announcement amid a news conference.

Louisiana officials have lobbied hard for their plan for weeks as brown sludge from BP's ruptured undersea well seeped into marshlands around the mouth of the Mississippi River. State and federal officials huddled Tuesday with Adm. Thad Allen, the Obama administration's point man for the spill response, and Allen had promised to send his recommendation to the White House within a day.

But Jindal said BP has yet to move on the first segment, which was approved last Thursday. He told reporters that BP should "sign the contracts today to move the dredges, or write us the check and move out of the way so we can get it done."

Louisiana's strategy is aimed at closing off gaps among the state's marshy periphery in order to keep oil out of the coastal marshlands that are at the heart of the Gulf of Mexico's fisheries and home to an extensive network of wildlife. Heavy oil has been sloshing into the marshes for about two weeks and has already taken a toll on the ecosystem, Jindal said.

"You don't see the marine life that should be there. That damage is already being done," he said.

The state had sought backing for 24 projects that would create about 90 miles of berms. Only one of the projects had been approved to receive funding from the BP-paid cleanup effort, however, with the federal government telling Louisiana to go ahead with about 40 miles of other projects on its own.