NEW ORLEANS - The big set of sand barriers erected by Louisiana's governor to protect the coastline at the height of the Gulf oil spill was criticized by a presidential commission yesterday as a colossal, $200 million waste of BP's money so far.
Precious little oil ever washed up on the berms, according to the commission - a finding corroborated by a log of oil sightings and other government documents.
First-term Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal ordered the berms built over the objections of scientists and federal agencies - and secured money from BP to do it - out of frustration over what he saw as inaction by the Obama administration.
During the crisis, Jindal boasted that the sand walls were stopping oil from coming ashore, and the idea proved popular in Louisiana.
In its stinging report, however, the commission, appointed by President Obama to investigate the spill, called the project "underwhelmingly effective, overwhelmingly expensive." Still, the panel did concede that the sand might ultimately prove helpful in Louisiana's long-term effort to restore its badly eroded coastline.
Jindal disputed the commission's findings on the berms.
"This report is partisan revisionist history at taxpayer expense," the governor said in a statement. "The report's assertion that the berms did not pass the commission's 'cost benefit analysis' is insulting to the thousands of people whose way of life depends on the health of our working coast."
A BP spokeswoman said the company had no comment.
Over the summer, the state received grudging government approval to build 36 miles of berms, and it has erected roughly 14 miles so far. An estimated 19 million cubic yards of sand has been moved to make the barriers, which rise six feet above sea level and are around 300 feet wide at their base.
BP originally committed $360 million to the project. Of that, $195 million has been spent so far.