News

Hundreds attend oil spill community forums

By: Melissa Schneider / Published: Jun 14,  2010

The Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, with the help of its partners, coordinated three oil spill community forums on June 2-3. About 500 people attended the forums, which took place in Biloxi, Miss., and Mobile, Ala.

People attended a 45-minute briefing by members of the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Then, they were able to attend question-and-answer sessions on several topics: fisheries and wildlife, monitoring and data, business and personal finance, technological disasters and mental health and legal perspectives.

Mike Kensler of Auburn, Ala., attended a forum in Mobile.

“It’s a very healthy thing; I think it’s a good idea to do it,” he said. “People got a sense that there’s more agency coordination and action going on than is readily apparent.”

Each forum lasted about three hours.

“It was real informative,” said Mobile Resident Perry Berens. “I think the people who had things to say were good. I think the questions people asked were good. And, I think the people answered them as well as they could, given the stage we’re at.”

The Deepwater Horizon has been pumping oil into the Gulf of Mexico since April 20, 2010. Attendees at forums raised questions about air quality, dispersants, property values and insurance coverage, Small Business Administration loans, stresses that accompany technological disasters, fish kills and many other topics. Attendees voiced frustration that the oil was still flowing, and some wanted to know how to get their ideas on how to clean up the oil and stop the leak into the hands of BP decision-makers who would use them.

The sessions were recorded, and transcripts will be made available at www.gulfseagrant.org in the coming weeks. Look for the link to oil spill information.

Representatives from the U.S. Coast Guard, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA Fisheries, Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, Auburn University Marine Extension and Research Center, Alabama Cooperative Extension Service, University of Southern Mississippi, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, NOAA National Weather Service, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, NOAA National Coastal Data Development Center, Mississippi Gulf Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau, Small Business Administration, Mississippi Cooperative Extension Service, Interfaith Disaster Task Force, Mental Health Association of Mississippi, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Legal Program, Alabama Marine Resources Division, University of South Alabama and Alabama Gulf Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau served as panelists and answered questions.

Forum facilitators included people from Texas Sea Grant, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, NOAA Gulf Coast Services Center, Auburn Cooperative Extension Service, Mobile Bay National Estuary Program, Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, NOAA, Environmental Protection Agency’s Gulf of Mexico Program and NOAA National Coastal Data Development Center.

See more photos of the community forums at www.facebook.com/MississippiAlabamaSeaGrant.

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