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Feds give partial OK to Louisiana dredge plan

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • NEW: Jindal calls for fast work on first barrier island project
  • NEW: Beaches normally full for Memorial Day weekend are empty, Jindal says
  • Government approves part of Louisiana barrier island construction
  • First project will be test to see if it keeps oil off coast

(CNN) -- The federal government gave partial approval Thursday to Louisiana's plan to keep oil out of coastal estuaries by dredging up new barrier islands, the official leading the government's response to the Gulf of Mexico spill said.

Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen called for a prototype project to begin on one of six segments approved by the Army Corps of Engineers.

"Implementing this section of the proposal will allow us to assess this strategy's effectiveness in protecting coastal communities and habitats of the Gulf region as quickly as possible," Allen said in a statement announcing the decision.

Allen said he has approved the use of dredges "where work could be completed the fastest," with the government and oil giant BP responsible for the costs.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal later told a news conference that the work on the initial project should start immediately to prove how effective the dredged barriers can be.

The state had sought backing for 24 projects that would create about 90 miles of barrier; the six approved by the government will cover about 40 miles, Jindal said.

The move follows demands over the weekend by frustrated Louisiana officials, who complained that heavy oil from the massive Gulf of Mexico spill was starting to poison estuaries around the mouth of the Mississippi River while they waited for the Corps' authorization.

Jindal said the work could start showing results within 10 days of approval. Citing the success of similar work undertaken by local authorities, Jindal said: "It's showing that keeping oil off of our coasts is better than fighting it on our coasts."

The governor noted that the spill has badly hurt the shrimp and fishing industries, and now is keeping people away from a popular holiday destination.

Thousands normally come for Memorial Day weekend, he said, but today "the docks were empty, the marinas were empty, the beaches were empty."

"This should have been a peak earning time," he said. "That shows you the impact."