Tags: US | Gulf | Oil | Spill | Magnolia | River

Ala. River Mired in Red Tape to Protect From Spill

Tuesday, 08 Jun 2010 07:03 AM


It's hard to imagine a spot with more to lose from the Gulf oil spill than the Magnolia River. Gnarly trees shroud its slow-moving waters, rich with crabs and mullet. Docks have mailboxes; letters are delivered by boat. Seafood boils with friends are a weekend staple.

Jamie Hinton loves this place, just like everyone in this idyllic community off Mobile Bay, and he wants to do all he can to protect it from what he and others see as a twin threat — oil and bumbling on the part of both government leaders and corporate executives.

Hinton, chief of the Magnolia Springs Volunteer Fire Department, said Monday he spent three weeks tangled in red tape before finally getting approval to do something that's never before been needed, much less tried: using a combination of barges and oil-blocking booms to keep crude out of the Magnolia River.

On Sunday, the new system was finally in place at the mouth of Weeks Bay. Locals hope it will safeguard both the Magnolia River and the nearby Fish River, where the U.S. Postal Service operates what locals proudly call the nation's last waterborne mail route.

"What you've got here is a community that has taken charge of the situation and said, `To hell with the system,'" said Gib Hixon, an old friend of Hinton and chief of Fish River/Marlow Fire and Rescue.

"It's illegal to block this waterway. But if the oil comes, we're going to bring a barge in and use it as a gate to block it," said Hixon. "They can arrest me and Jamie if they want to."

The story began when Hinton called his local county emergency management office to ask about plans for protecting coastal waters and was shocked by the response.

"The first thing the guy said was, `People are blowing this thing out of proportion, it's just light crude," Hinton said. "I told him I don't care if it's light crude or dark crude or sweet crude, I don't want it in my damn river."

Baldwin County officials deny that anyone ever told Hinton such a thing. But whatever happened, Jamie Hinton was fired up.

Hinton and other leaders got together to kick around ideas for safeguarding their river shortly after the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20 and sank in the Gulf of Mexico in about 5,000 feet of water off the Louisiana coast. Someone suggested using barges at the mouth of Weeks Bay to block waves out of the adjoining Mobile Bay, then adding layers of boom.

"It's not rocket science, but it sounded like it might work," Hinton said. The engineering didn't seem that hard since the passage into Weeks Bay is only about 530 feet wide and fairly shallow.

"That protects the Fish River and the Magnolia River. I thought, `that's awesome,'" he said.

Community members honed the plan, and Hinton set out to find barriers to supplement the single strand of narrow boom that BP provided, a meager allocation Hinton called "overly ridiculous." He submitted the blueprint in mid-May believing he'd get an answer quickly from the unified incident command in Mobile.

And then, with the oil oozing toward the northern Gulf Coast, Hinton waited. And waited. And waited.

After fits and starts, supposed approvals and later balks, Hinton finally got the OK last week on his fourth try to protect the river just as oil began washing ashore on Alabama beaches. With a $200,000 allocation from the $25 million that BP gave Alabama for oil spill response, rented barges, a tug and other barriers are now in the water.

So far, no oil is in Weeks Bay or either river, but the slick hasn't gotten to the barrier yet. If and when it does, Hinton and the mayor will make the decision to close the bay and block off access to the Magnolia River.

"We can shut it down in three hours," Hinton said.

Why did it take so long for Hinton to get an answer about the protection plan?

Scott Hughes, a spokesman for the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, said the delay sounded like an issue for the unified command in Mobile to address. The head of the command, Coast Guard Capt. Steve Poulin, said it sounded like an issue related to the state's approval process.

Hixon, Hinton's buddy, said the whole system is broken.

"This is the biggest damn mess I've ever seen," he said.

Patricia Sevening, a member of the Magnolia Springs Garden Club who lives on a canal off the Fish River, is just happy someone is protecting her water.

"It's such a beautiful area," said Sevening, watching as boom and barges were moved into place. "This is really frightening, what it could do for generations."



Town of Magnolia Springs, Ala.: http://www.townofmagnoliasprings.org/

© Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Around the Web
Join the Newsmax Community
Please review Community Guidelines before posting a comment.
>> Register to share your comments with the community.
>> Login if you are already a member.
blog comments powered by Disqus
Zip Code:
Privacy: We never share your email.
Hot Topics
Follow Newsmax
Like us
on Facebook
Follow us
on Twitter
Add us
on Google Plus
Around the Web
Top Stories
You May Also Like

Allen West: Joint Chiefs Shouldn't Focus on Essay Contest

Monday, 26 Jan 2015 22:16 PM

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey is taking heat from liberals and conservatives after he announced an  . . .

Snowstorm Threatens to Paralyze Northeast for Days

Monday, 26 Jan 2015 18:12 PM

Tens of millions of people along the Philadelphia-to-Boston corridor rushed to get home and settle in Monday as a fearso . . .

Report: Feds Stockpiling License Plates, Driving Habits in Database

Monday, 26 Jan 2015 20:58 PM

A new report claims the government is stockpiling a vast national database of Americans' license plates and driving habi . . .

Most Commented

Newsmax, Moneynews, Newsmax Health, and Independent. American. are registered trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc. Newsmax TV, and Newsmax World are trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc.

America's News Page
©  Newsmax Media, Inc.
All Rights Reserved