Needless to say, Pine Islanders in particular are getting very nervous as the BP oil spill gets closer and closer to our shores. Most of us hold the view that response efforts elsewhere along the Gulf have been too little too late. We don’t want to be in that position.
We want to a have a plan and we want to be prepared. We have numerous commercial fishing and other boats and lots of volunteers that could assist in the response, but we need training and guidance.
We are aware that Florida has a response plan (copy attached), but nothing in the plan is specific to our area or tells us what to do. We are also aware that Lee County has a disaster contractor, but query whether the contractor has the knowhow or resources or even a plan to deal with oil spills.
If the county has not already done so, we suggest planning specific to our local environment. Our geography is somewhat unique and provides us a partial means of defense not available to many other Florida areas. Booms placed at Boca Grande Pass, Redfish Pass, Blind Pass, and the Sanibel Bridge would do wonders in helping to protect all of the Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserve (which includes Charlotte Harbor, Pine Island Sound, Matlacha Pass, and San Carlos Bay) plus the Caloosahatchee River. The Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve could be protected in a similar manner. The remainder of the oil spill that gets pass the skimmers and other Gulf-based equipment and reaches Lee County would have to be dealt with as it hits the Gulf-front beaches per the Florida state plan; but at least we could greatly lessen the impact on much of our very sensitive mangrove forests and saltwater marshes.
To carry out the initial phrase of this plan, we would need some 6 to 8 miles of boom, and expenses for the boats. If we deploy the booms shortly before the oil starts to arrive, HAZMAT training and equipment for that phrase would be unnecessary. Please seriously consider this suggestion.
Of course, HAZMAT training and equipment will be necessary for all subsequent local phrases, including wildlife rescue, beach clean-up, and estuary clean-up for the oil that escapes pass the booms. My efforts to arrange HAZMAT training for myself and others have largely been in vain—training is either of no practical application or is not available in the near future.
To date, Pine Island boat captains and citizens offering to assist in responding to this crisis have been ignored. We want to help, and we want to be empowered to protect ourselves and our environment. Waiting for the oil to arrive, hopefully to be followed by anonymous trained personal to clean it up, is not a satisfactory plan. We need to be ready, and to do that, we need resources, guidance, and training.We seek your assistance.
By: Phil Buchanan