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Louisiana lawmakers: BP can't handle Gulf oil spill cleanup anymore

Calls are mounting for the state of Louisiana and the federal government to wrest control of the Gulf oil spill cleanup from BP. Two lawmakers say BP seems 'overwhelmed.'

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In Jefferson Parish, parish workers, the Coast Guard, and Louisiana National Guardsmen in Grand Isle are scrambling to protect inland waters with sand berms and deflection booms. Parish council member John Young called for state intervention. “The US government and the state need to step in and take over from BP,” says Mr. Young. “We should be responsible for our own plan as far as getting approval for defending our coast.”

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In Terrebonne Parish, BP and the Coast Guard have established a response headquarters in the fishing hamlet of Cocodrie, where hurricane Gustave made landfall in September 2008. But much still depends on BP's future responsiveness.

“Our response plan was approved by the Coast Guard and by the responsible party,” said Terrebonne public safety officer Ralph Mitchell, referring to BP. “The oil is still offshore and we haven’t seen any yet. We have some boom out and we’re waiting for more. The parish isn’t responsible for getting it. We have to wait on BP.”

In Lafourche Parish, efforts are focused on sandbagging beaches at Port Fourchon and building a floating decontamination area, where oil from the spill can be cleaned off incoming ships before they enter the port. Port Fourchon handles 18 percent of the shipping traffic associated with domestic oil production in the US, some ships traveling 50 miles up Bayou Lafourche to Lockport, La.

Its vibrant fishing community is worried about contamination in inland waterways. “If you drive Highway 1 up to Lockport, you’ll see fisherman lining the bayou the whole way,” said Brennan Matherne, public information officer for the parish. “There’re thousands of people here who make their living off oysters, shrimp, and fish. Oil going up the bayou wouldn’t be good for any of us."

IN PICTURES: Louisiana oil spill