Time is Running Out
By Roger Hall
Dear Council and Concerned Citizens,
It has been over a month since I raised my concern that we should be taking strong action to protect our island and our beaches. I advocated procuring hard boom material while it is still available as well as absorbent boom material, an oil absorbent felt like 5' fence material that would be installed in the water and microbes that would be used to eat the oil that either approaching us or is able to get here. I spoke before the council two weeks ago and informed the council that I had spoken with several suppliers and all of those materials were readily available. The longest lead time was for hard boom material and that was 4 weeks. That same supplier had sold $5 million in materials, representing 50 truck loads to various communities in the Keys and was busy filling that order.
Since that time the following has happened:
Nancy Ritchie, our environmentalist, appeared before the council and assured them that we had 47,000 feet of boom material earmarked for Marco Island. When asked where it was she didn't have any idea. Ronny Joel informed the council that we were going to have 6 big dumpsters to receive the clean up and he had purchased thousands of gloves, bags, and scoopers to use in the clean up. No provisions for prevention were offered
This subject was added to the previously scheduled special meeting to be held the following evening in order to more fully explore our options. That meeting was attended by a representative from the county but curiously was not attended by our environmentalist. It was like having a meeting to discuss an approaching forest fire by not having the fire chief there.
The county representative presented the facts that:
1. There wasn't any boom material reserved for Marco Island that he was aware of.
2. The county was going to protect our beaches by installing 6 miles of hay bales end to end, that would be staked down above the high water mark that were going to protect our beaches from tar balls. When asked how thousands of hay bales placed above the high water mark were going to prevent oil, which is floating in the water, from getting on our beaches, the representative didn't have any answer. When asked where these thousands of hay bales were being stored, again, nobody knew.
3. A plan that was developed some months ago was presented. The county has taken the position that we need to protect the environmentally sensitive areas. the Rookery, and that we can clean up the developed areas later.
4. A map was presented that outlined the oil disaster plan. Unfortunately, while it contained a lot of marks that showed something was supposed to happen, the county representative could not remember what they meant.
BOTTOM LINE: THERE IS NO PLAN!
The agenda for tonight council meeting contains a provision for an update on the oil spill. I don't see any action items relating protecting us from the approaching spill.
The only thing that has saved our island to date is the fact that this occurred in the summer, when the winds are light and have been primarily blowing from the south, pushing the oil north. If this had occurred during the winter months when the winds blew from the west, north west, for weeks at a time, we would be looking like Louisiana. There is over 100 million gallons of oil swashing around in the gulf, it is growing by millions of gallons a day, and it will continue to do so for months. We have a respite but the oil is coming sooner or later. The loop current will carry the oil south, 100 miles off our coast, but it will only take a few days of strong westerly winds to put it on our island.
During the last council meeting it was decided to wait and see what the communities to the north were doing to deal with this spill and take advantage of their experience.
It is now apparent that BP, the Coast Guard, and the federal government are all way behind the curve in planning for prevention. As documented on every news show and in today's papers, more and more of these communities are taking matters in their own hands. That is the lesson.
Tonight, you are going to approve $500,000 for a shed. Wouldn't it make sense to spend that money on protecting our island and its 1 billion dollar tax base?