VENICE, Louisiana – Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today surveyed ongoing response efforts to combat the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, inspecting the four-story cofferdam that will attempt to capture the largest leak from the damaged wellhead; making an aerial survey of containment and cleanup efforts underway on Gulf waters; and visiting national wildlife refuges on the Louisiana and Alabama coast to assess on-the-ground efforts to protect sensitive areas.
“I am encouraged by the coordinated and comprehensive response initiatives I saw today,” Salazar said at an afternoon news conference at the Unified Command's Joint Information Center in Roberts, Louisiana. “Federal and state employees are working tenaciously with speed, skill and dedication side by side with thousands of volunteers to assist BP in capping the seabed leak, contain the surface spill and protect the Gulf coast environment and communities.”
“The weather is also cooperating,” Salazar noted, “providing response teams with favorable winds and calm seas to mount an all-out effort to attack the surface spill with dispersants, skimmers and controlled burning. “We have plans in place, resources deployed, and the people we need to fight the spill.”
At Port Fourchon, Salazar was briefed by Ron Ferguson, BP's Gulf of Mexico Shore Base coordinator, on the 40-foot metal containment structure that will be transported today to the site of the leak and deployed to the seabed during the next 48 hours to cover the largest leak at the end of the broken riser pipe. The oil will be captured and conveyed via riser pipe from the dome to the surface, where the BP vessel Deepwater Enterprise will collect, separate and store the oil for transport to shore facilities. If no major problems are encountered, the system could be operational by Sunday.
BP engineers also have stopped a smaller leak on the broken well riser pipe by installing a valve, reducing the number of leaks to two. Another containment structure is under construction to capture and control the second leak. Drilling also continues on a relief well near the damaged well to provide a permanent solution by sealing off the damaged well. Good weather has allowed aerial dispersant, skimming and controlled burning to resume in the ongoing effort to reduce the size of the oil spill and Salazar observed some of those ongoing efforts during his aerial inspection of the spill site.
During tours of Delta National Wildlife Refuge near Venice, Louisiana and Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, near Gulf Shores, Alabama, Salazar encouraged U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees and hundreds of volunteers who are deploying booms, digging berms and taking other precautions to protect the sensitive areas and natural resources. Salazar joined teams deploying booms at Ivan Cut of Little Lagoon Pass at Bon Secour refuge.
Interior's Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service, which manage protected areas along the Gulf Coast from Louisiana to Florida, have deployed tens of thousands of feet of boom. These barriers in front of Delta and Breton National Wildlife Refuges are holding and no oil appears to have come ashore at these units. The National Park Service is positioning booms fronting Gulf Island National Seashore and other units on the Mississippi and Alabama coasts. No oil has come ashore at those areas.
Salazar lauded the coastal protection efforts, saying “These dedicated employees and volunteers are bringing the resources and expertise of the Federal Government to the people and landscapes of the Gulf, as they brace for the difficult times ahead. I also thank all of you for the long hours you are putting in to helping deal with this emergency.”
Among the major initiatives Salazar has already undertaken to combat the spill, the Secretary
Pressed BP officials and engineers to work harder, faster, and smarter to cap the leaks;
Urged other companies to bring their expertise, resources, and ideas to the effort:
Ordered immediate inspections of all deepwater operations in the Gulf of Mexico;
Issued a safety notice to all operators, reminding them of their responsibilities to follow our regulations and to conduct full and thorough tests of their equipment;
Establishing the Outer Continental Shelf Safety Oversight Board within the Department of the Interior with top officials to strengthen Outer Continental Shelf safety and improve overall management, regulation, and oversight of OCS operations;
Launched a joint investigation of the incident with the U.S. Coast Guard to determine what happened and hold those responsible to account.
Information on the federal response effort is online at www.deepwaterhorizonresponse.com. Images from the Secretary's Gulf Coast visit today will be available online at