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Louisianans to Obama on BP oil spill: Show us we matter

As President Obama visits Louisiana Friday for the third time for an on-scene update of the BP oil spill, some residents report a nagging feeling that the US response would have been more vigorous if the accident had happened elsewhere.

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Yet the administration has its own bit of encouraging news to share. This week, the US Army Corps of Engineers issued permits to Louisiana to build six long sand berms that state officials want to build just off several vulnerable barrier islands and marsh inlets to keep more oil from these fragile, economically vital habitats. Ahead of the president's visit to the region last week, St. Tammany Parish President Kevin Davis said he hoped the administration would sign off on the permits.

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This time around, Mr. Obama could offer something to help people cope with the disaster – accelerating a program set to start in 2017 in which the federal government will share the revenue from offshore oil leases with Louisiana, says Wendell Curole, who heads the Southern LaFourche Levee District in Lafourche Parish and traces his family's presence in the region back seven generations.

The US government pulls in some $7 billion a year in royalties, he says. Starting up that program as soon as possible, instead of waiting until 2017, would help offset some of the economic losses people here already are feeling as a result of the blowout.

Even a clear statement of the region's value to the rest of the nation would help, Mr. Curole adds. Like many here, he says that if this incident had happened just off Florida, in the Chesapeake Bay, or in California's Sacramento River Delta, the federal response would have been more aggressive.

The comment reflects what LSU's Dr. Goidel says is a broader yearning among residents here to correct what they see as an underappreciation around the rest of the country for what the delta region contributes. Some 30 percent of the fish caught in US waters are caught off the delta, because of its unique ecology, Curole says.

If Obama "would just say: The delta is a very unique place; there's no delta in North America that can match the Mississippi Delta with its tremendous risks and tremendous rewards,' that would help reassure people that he has the region highlighted on his map," he says.

IN PICTURES: Louisiana oil spill