Advocate Editorial Board opinion: Thank you for improving communication on oil cleanup effort

By the Advocate Editorial Board
April 3, 2014 at 5 p.m.
Updated April 2, 2014 at 11:03 p.m.

The Houston Ship Channel collision that spilled more than 160,000 gallons of oil has brought the realities of dealing with an oil spill much too close to home for some Crossroads residents. Oil has washed up along a 12-mile stretch on Matagorda Island, and an aggressive cleanup effort is underway.

We are glad to see that teams are working to prevent any negative environmental impacts. The Gulf is an important resource that contributes greatly to the area's economy through fishing, shrimping, tourism and more. However, at the beginning of the cleanup effort, community members who had concerns were not given many answers about the situation. Those who went to the command center at the Port O'Connor Community Center to ask for information were turned away by a Calhoun County sheriff's deputy and given a phone number to call, which some said was disconnected. One resident said he was told to leave or he would be arrested when he tried to gain access to the building.

All of this led to a meeting of about 60 people at the home of Jane Lane, an attorney whose office is in Port Lavaca. Most of those in attendance were fishermen, oyster harvesters, shrimpers and bait stand owners, all of whom rely on the health of the bay and Gulf to earn a living.

In response to these concerns, the organizers of the oil spill response effort have changed their policies when dealing with community questions. Now, when a member of the community comes to the command center to ask about the progress of the cleanup effort, he or she will have the opportunity to meet with a person who can speak with him or her and answer questions. In addition, a meeting occurred Thursday to update the public on the cleanup, and an open letter was sent out to members of the fishing community.

We applaud the members of the cleanup effort for recognizing the need for more communication with residents of Calhoun County. There is no question that the people of these communities are grateful for the work being done to protect the environment. Many of the people who live in the communities near the affected areas make their livelihoods on these waters. It is only natural that they would be concerned about any possible negative impacts on the region.

Many people see an attitude of secrecy as an indication that something is wrong or being hidden. By making a concerted effort to be more open with the community about the cleanup efforts, the leaders of the response are taking a positive step in alleviating the fears and concerns of residents of Calhoun County. As the cleanup continues, we hope this more open communication will continue.

This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.



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