Holloway: Biloxi’s spill efforts proceeding on two fronts

Biloxi remains fortunate that no oil or sheen from the BP spill and leak have threatened the city’s shoreline, but, Mayor A.J. Holloway says, there’s no overlooking the fact that the threat is looming each day, the seafood and charterboat fishing industries have been decimated, and the city must continue doing what it can to prepare for any eventuality.

The city’s approach, which began days after the April 20 incident with a declaration of a state of emergency, is two-fold: recommending measures that should be taken to protect the city’s shoreline, and taking steps to be in a position to directly oversee oil spill efforts should the need occur.

“Our message is the same as it has been,” Holloway said: “Our resorts, beaches and our restaurants are open, our fishing and golfing are great, and we welcome visitors to come enjoy themselves.”

This week the city took two significant steps in its preparation efforts: it recommended to the Department of Marine Resources where X-tex, a recycled, absorbent material, should be set up along the Biloxi shoreline; and it began steps to identify a contactor to help in any cleanup efforts on the Biloxi shoreline.

“We’ve said all along that this is bigger than us,” Holloway said. “We realize that the response is primarily in the hands of our state and federal partners, and that BP is the responsible party, but we have an obligation to the residents and businesses who look to us.

“Our city staff is continuing to work with the Department of Marine Resources and the Harrison County Sand Beach Authority to have BP install X-Tex fencing around critical areas within the city. These areas include the outfalls along the beach, any rock jetties, any marsh grass areas, including those along the beach and in the Bay of Biloxi.”

X-tex, its creators say, traps oil, but allows water to pass through. Its creators say, the material is hydrophilic, which allows the material to filter water more quickly and absorb more oil.

Holloway said he was confident that DMR would follow through on Biloxi’s recommendations.

At the same time, the city this week began advertising for contractors to present proposals to the city for shoreline protection and oil removal services.

“This follows the same process that we followed on the debris removal contracts that we put in place before Katrina made landfall,” Holloway said. “Now, we’re not going to pull the trigger or commit any taxpayer resources until we know we’re being reimbursed. But we want to have the qualified folks on standby and ready to go on a moment’s notice when the need arises.”

Oil spill news and news

The economic impact: A June 14 white paper by the University of Southern Mississippi gauges the financial impact of the spill, click here.

Calling qualified contractors: The city is now receiving sealed bids from contractors for a pre-event oil pollution protection and removal contract, similar to the contract the city currently has in place for the removal of hurricane debris. To see the advertisement for the contract, click here. To see the specifications themselves, click here.

The latest available numbers: To read a recent Mississippi Key Highlights — a compendium of statistics from BP — click here.

The language barrier: BP representatives have now translated claim forms into Vietnamese to help Vietnamese-speaking citizens file damage claims. You can see the English and Vietnamese versions of the claim forms in the Spill Info section of the city web site. To go there, click here.

London calling: A British newspaper reporter this afternoon contacted Mayor A.J. Holloway to gauge reaction to the comment from BP’s chairman, Swedish-born Carl-Henric Svanberg, that the company cares about “the small people.” Said Holloway to the reporter: “I don’t think he meant anything by it. English is his second language, as I understand it. He’s under a lot of stress, and I think he just misspoke. I’ve made a boo-boo or two myself, so no offense is taken.” Said the British reporter to the Biloxi mayor: “That’s a very honorable position.”

Volunteers: A couple of weeks ago, the city passed along more than a thousand names to the Mississippi Commission on Volunteer Services. The potential volunteers had signed up through the city’s web site. To sign up directly, click here.

Vessels of opportunity:
Licensed Mississippi commercial fishermen who own large shrimp boat-size vessels and are interested in working in the BP Vessel of Opportunity should sign up if they have not already done so. Call the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources — Lauren Thompson at 228-523-4053 or Shelly Becker at 228-523-4051 — with your name and a description of your vessel.