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Biden is briefed, visits seafood wholesaler (Updated 1:15 p.m.)

Vice President Joe Biden arrived at 9:40 a.m. at Louis Armstrong International Airport in Kenner, La., where skies are overcast and temperatures are unseasonably tolerable thanks to a pleasant morning shower. Wearing khaki pants, a blue polo shirt and a baseball cap with an American flag, Biden bounded down the stairs and was greeted with handshakes by Gov. Bobby Jindal and Rep. Anh "Joseph" Cao, R-New Orleans. Biden put an arm around Jindal's shoulder as the trio chatted for a couple of minutes on the tarmac. Jindal had said he plans to press Biden to step up the federal response to the spill. Jindal said heavy patches of oil were spotted about three miles offshore from Grand Isle on Monday. "We didn't see one vessel out there trying to capture that oil. We need to have a greater sense of urgency," the governor said. "They need to treat this like the war that it is." He also called on the Army Corps of Engineers to issue permits allowing Grand Isle Mayor David Camardelle to build rock dams blocking oil from five passes into Caminada Bay, a vital fishery. A motorcade is heading to the unified command center in New Orleans, where Biden is to be briefed by Adm. Thad Allen.

The motorcade arrived at 10 a.m. at the unified command center in downtown New Orleans, where a half-dozen protestors stood outside in a light rain carrying signs that said, "Oil kills." Biden went to the 14th floor of the 24-story Poydras Plaza, where more than 100 BP, government and military offcials were seated at rows of tables working on laptop computers in a cavernous office dubbed "the bullpen." The workers were arranged in various groupings, such as "Critical Resources Unit," "Documentation Unit," and "Technical Specialists." A large projection TV flashed weather updates and the latest track for Tropical Storm Alex. The offices are the same ones used by FEMA after Hurricane Katrina. Sitting at the head of a horseshoe arrangement of tables behind temporary partitions at one end of the bullpen, Biden was flanked by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus on his left and Adm. Thad Allen on his right. Also participating in the briefing were Jindal; Cao; BP chief operating officer Doug Suttles; NOAA Adminstrator Jane Lubchenco; Rear Adm. James Watson, the federal on-scene coordinator; Rear Adm. Paul Frederick Zukunft; Charles Henry, Jr., NOAA senior scientific coordinator; Kari Sheets, a NOAA scientist; and Michael Joseph Saucier, a regional supervisor for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement. After an hour-long briefing, Watson gave Biden a brief tour of the bullpen. Biden seemed impressed with the size of the operation and said, "I don't think the American people have any idea" how many resources are being used to fight the spill. Watson said the "Documentation Unit" records everything that happens at the unified command center, where more than 430 people work each day. "We're learning a lot," Watson said. "There's never been an oil spill like this in history. So we're recording everything so we can learn from history." We are en route to Pomes Seafood, an eastern New Orleans wholesaler that used to serve free all-you-can-eat crabs at nearby Crazy Al’s bar on Wednesday nights. The good deed typically required 600 to 800 pounds of crab each week. It’s unclear whether the oil spill has impacted this popular tradition. Jindal said he is asking BP to fund a 20-year, $400 million program to test seafood for oil contamination and rehabilitate fisheries.

He said 30 percent of the nation's seafood comes from waters off Louisiana, where commercial fishing is $2-billion-a-year industry while recreational anglers contribute another $1 billion to the local economy. "Our message to BP is that the cost of this program is just a fraction of the damages that could be caused if we don't do this," Jindal said.

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