NOAA released a draft damage assessment and restoration plan addressing environmental injuries from the 2005 Tank Barge DBL 152 oil spill in federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico.
The draft plan describes the steps NOAA has taken to see if natural resources, such as marine habitats, were injured by the nearly two million gallon spill, as well as the extent of those injuries. The spill began on November 11, 2005 when the Tank Barge DBL 152 struck submerged remains of a pipeline service platform that collapsed during Hurricane Rita approximately 50 miles southeast of Sabine Pass, Texas.
“Sometimes effects of oil spills are immediate and clearly visible, but often the effects are less obvious and require expertise and time to properly evaluate,” said Troy Baker, NOAA’s Assessment and Restoration Division acting southeast branch chief who has been leading this project, “Developing this draft plan and the comment period for it is the next step in an ongoing process.”
The draft plan also describes environmental restoration proposed by NOAA to compensate the public for environmental injuries resulting from the oil spill. To help address this, NOAA has proposed estuarine shoreline protection and a salt marsh creation project at the Texas Chenier Plain National Wildlife Refuge Complex in Galveston Bay. Once the plan is finalized, NOAA would apply to the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund — which is funded through costs and penalties recovered from polluters as well as taxes on the petroleum industry — to fund the restoration.
Public comments on the draft plan may be submitted by mail or electronically through April 15.
Following the public comment period, NOAA will consider any comments received and release a final restoration plan. This comment period is the last step before restoration projects are selected and funding is sought from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.
As a designated natural resource trustee agency under the Oil Pollution Act, NOAA is authorized to act on behalf of the public under federal law to assess natural resource damages and recover the costs for those damages. Costs recovered are then used to plan and implement actions to restore, replace or acquire the equivalent of the natural resources injured by the contamination.
Press Release, March 19, 2013; Image: NOAA