Friday, May 7, 2010

City of Sanibel Plans to use Booms to Protect Shores from Oil

The continuing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and its potential to wash up on local beaches weighed heavily Tuesday on the Sanibel City Council and staff. However, city officials are already making plans to place booms along the beaches and mangroves to keep the crude oil from damaging Sanibel’s environment and its tourism industry. Mayor Kevin Ruane said, “We are continuing to work with our partners, both federal and state, as well as local... (in) planning and preparing for this event.” After the Florida governor’s office on Monday extended the state of emergency from the Panhandle to Sarasota, Ruane and City Manager Judie Zimomra participated in a conference call with the governor. So far the city manager has ordered the finance director to prepare cost tracking forms and has met with representatives of the JN “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge and Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation to coordinate efforts and documentation of pre-disaster conditions. Additionally, the city is coordinating with local partners to document pre-disaster conditions and coordinating identification of environmentally sensitive areas. At the council meeting, Ruane held up various maps as Zimomra described the potential movements of the oil slick and how to combat it. Natural Resources Director Rob Loflin said the gulf loop current is 20 to 80 miles offshore. If oil were to get into the current it would move quickly down the coast, Loflin said. He recommended that Sanibel place booms along 30 miles of beaches and about eight miles of mangroves and openings to the refuge. “If you get this (oil) in the mangroves, there is nothing you can do,” he added. “We have snowy plovers nesting on the beaches and it’s the start of turtle nesting season.” Ric Base, executive director of the Sanibel-Captiva Chamber of Commerce, is stressing to the public that “there is little chance of the spill coming this far east and south. Our beaches are open and clean.” Meanwhile council members were wondering why oil companies drilling in the U.S. are not required to use cut-off valves to stop the oil from spewing out of the sea bed.Vice Mayor Mick Denham said such valves have been mandatory in Norway since 1993 and are required in most other countries. He said Sanibel should lobby elected officials and send a letter to Senator Bill Nelson, who is encouraging communication. “We as a council should begin to lobby for the ultimate in safeguards,” Denham added.

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