Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, who is commanding the U.S. response to the Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster, issued a statement saying he has directed the British energy giant to pay for five more barriers, bringing to six the number of projects BP has been ordered to finance.
Louisiana officials had been urging Washington to approve a plan to dredge offshore sand to create berms that might offer protection to the state's marshland. Federal officials had questioned the long-term environmental impact of such projects.
"Consistent with all the work undertaken in recent weeks to assess Louisiana's barrier island proposal and gather input from local officials, environmental experts, and top scientists and engineers, I have directed BP to pay for five additional barrier island projects in addition to the one I approved last week as part of our continuing commitment to do everything possible to protect our vital coastal communities from BP's leaking oil," Allen said in a statement. "Based on a thorough expert analysis, we believe that these six total projects, which will be constructed expeditiously in the areas most at risk for long-term impact by oil, will effectively stem potential damage to these fragile shorelines."
Allen notified Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal of the decision Wednesday afternoon.
Allen said the federal government was repositioning "critical response assets across all the Gulf Coast states in preparation for potential near- and long-term oil impacts."
The Coast Guard Cutter Cypress arrived in Mobile Bay, Ala., Wednesday. Allen said oil boom materials will be deployed Thursday to protect Alabama's Katrina Pass by creating a funnel to collect oil brought in by the tide.
Helicopters will patrol the Alabama, Mississippi and Florida coast to conduct surveillance and provide information for use in positioning skimmers "to collect the most oil threatening the shore possible," Allen said.