Navy Secretary Gets Earful on Oil Spill

Ray Mabus
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus talks to reporters after his town hall meeting
ST. PETERSBURG (2010-08-04) -

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus came to St. Petersburg's waterfront Tuesday night to hear what local residents have to say about the effects of the Gulf oil spill. The president's point man on Gulf restoration got an earful.

This was Mabus' fourth town hall meeting in cities along the Gulf Coast. It was also the most-attended - several hundred people crammed into the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute on the St. Petersburg waterfront.

Most of the questions directed to the Secretary revolved around the economic fallout from the oil spill. Mabus says several common themes have surfaced.

"One is the need for local input, for local plans to come up," he said. "Another is for a governance structure that reaches out to all the interested parties, because the people on the Florida coast - on the Florida Gulf - know more about what's needed to do the restoration than anybody else."

And unlike in his past trips to the Gulf, Mabus heard more about concerns with the chemical dispersants used by BP rather than the oil itself.

Of of those speakers at the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute was Jon Brett. He's with the fishing internet site and said during his visit to the spill site, it was "carpet bombed" with dispersants. After the meeting, Brett said he didn't hear much to dispel his concerns.

"I'm a little bit of a skeptic to begin with," Brett said. "I feel like this is a little like laying out the boom. It makes people feel like, "Hey, we're doing something. You know, hey, we actually care." But in reality, the boom is a complete waste of resources. I mean, if you've got a six-inch wave, it's going to push the oil over the boom."

Mabus is scheduled to give a long-term Gulf Coast Restoration Plan to the president later this month. It will include economic development, restoration of the marine ecosystem and aid to people and businesses affected by BP spill.

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