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BP oil spill: Louisianans want more from Obama ... but more what?

With Obama in Louisiana Friday to assess the response to the BP oil spill, residents have strong views about what needs to happen next. But their ideas can conflict, and expectations are low.

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Davis, who says he did not have time to watch the president’s press conference on Thursday, says he had no expectations about Obama’s visit, but one request: “I hope he will sign the permits we need to dredge barrier islands to help keep the oil out as soon as possible. If the oil gets in here, it will kill everything. We have the choice of dredging and dealing with whatever problems that might cause later on, or losing everything right now.”

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Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) has pressed the administration to approve his plan to dredge a series of temporary sand berms along a 100-mile stretch of Louisiana’s coast to help keep the oil spill out of inland waters. On Thursday, the US Army Corps of Engineers and the Coast Guard approved building six segments over 40 miles of coastline. Coastal geologists have criticized the plan as an unrealistic defense that could cause more problems with erosion along the state’s threatened coastline.

In an informal poll conducted by a New Orleans radio station Thursday, 70 percent of respondents rated the Obama administration’s handling of the crisis as poor.

In Venice, La., where hurricane Katrina made landfall in August 2005, assistant manager Stephanie Cubbage stood outside with other employees of the Light House Motel to watch as Obama’s motorcade passed on his previous trip to Plaquemines Parish on May 2. She doesn’t have high hopes for the president’s second visit.

“He hasn’t done anything for us, and I don’t expect him to do anything,” Ms. Cubbage said Thursday. “We feel like they forgot about us and everyone is pointing the finger at everybody else. They been lying to us from Day 1.”

A conservative state, Louisiana gave Obama less than 40 percent of the vote in the 2008 presidential election. With the spill crisis, the president seems to find himself in a no-win situation across the state’s political spectrum.

“Everyone has been disappointed in the response of BP and the federal government,” says Matt Petersen, CEO of Global Green Initiative, an environmental group in New Orleans focused on green energy. “We need regulation and to end the too-cozy relationship between government and the oil industry. I was surprised by the president’s half-measure of putting offshore drilling on hold, when it seems like we really need a moratorium until this industry is truly safe.”

Valerie Gonsoulin, an office manager and kayak fisher-woman from Lafayette, La., who voted for Obama in 2008, says she is angry, but not sure who she is most angry with.

“I think the oil shouldn’t be in the marshes at all, and I think the federal government should have stepped in at the beginning,” says Ms. Gonsoulin, who has traveled to coastal Venice and Grand Isle since the spill to see the response firsthand. “I think Obama dropped the ball. I expected him to be more proactive. But I think closing down the rigs offshore is only putting more of a burden on the people of Louisiana. Now all those people are out of work, too.”

IN PICTURES: Louisiana oil spill