The residents of Cameron Parish are doing what they have done so many times before: preparing for the worst.
However, this time it isn’t for a hurricane. It's the oncoming encroachment of oil from the Gulf of Mexico into their marshlands, a fragile ecosystem that has already been devastatingly battered by at least two major hurricanes within the last five years.
Louisiana Army National Guard members from the 928th Sapper Company, 769th Engineer Battalion, have been working to place and to fill Hesco Concertainer sections, used for flood protection and erosion control, along various points of the Cameron coast.
The sites chosen were low-lying areas or spots washed out by hurricanes; places where water from the Gulf of Mexico easily crosses over the roadways into the marshlands.
“It is not uncommon for water to go over roadways in these places at high tide with currents touched by southeasternly winds,” said Clifton Hebert, director of the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness in Cameron Parish.
The barrier wall consists of linked baskets, which, Hebert said, are made from the same felt-like materials used in road beds during construction, filled with sand brought in from area sandpits. They are made to withstand extreme temperatures and weather conditions, tropical storm or hurricane conditions notwithstanding.
Since last weekend, between 30 to 35 soldiers have been working on a 2 1/2 mile stretch of land east of Holly Beach, and by Thursday afternoon, a half of a mile of it had been completed. Second Lieutenant Paul Mounts said work on two additional sites had begun on Thursday morning.
In the end, the soldiers will have installed anywhere from 8 to 10 miles worth of beachfront barriers in various parts of Cameron Parish. To help speed the process along, the soldiers live at Camp Midstream, which is a few miles east of their Holly Beach project site, near the Cameron ferry.
“We hope to have the work done in the next week or so depending on weather and equipment,” Mounts said.
Cameron’s OHSEP made the request for the barrier as a preventative measure. The Coast Guard approved the project, ordered materials and coordinated with the Louisiana Army National Guard for staging and installation. BP foots the bill.
In the eastern part of Cameron Parish, Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge is preparing to employ booms for combating the oil encroachment. Hebert said officials were currently in the process of setting up a staging area.
On the Web: For more information about the Hesco Concertainer units, visit www.hesco.com
Southwest Daily News