State and Federal Officials Release Second Restoration Plan for Bouchard Barge-120 Oil Spill
BOSTON - The Natural Resource Damages Trustee Council for the Bouchard Barge-120 oil spill today released a draft restoration plan (RP) and environmental assessment (EA) for shoreline, aquatic and recreational use resources impacted by the 2003 spill in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
It is the second of three anticipated plans to restore natural resources injured and uses affected by the 98,000-gallon spill that oiled roughly 100 miles of shoreline in Buzzards Bay. A $6 million natural resource damages settlement with the Bouchard Transportation Co., Inc. is funding development and implementation of restoration, with $4,827,393 awarded to restore shoreline and aquatic resources and lost recreational uses.
- The draft plan evaluates alternatives to restore resources in the following categories of injuries resulting from the spill:
- Shoreline resources, including tidal marshes, sand beaches, rocky coast, and gravel and boulder shorelines;
- Aquatic resources, including benthic organisms such as American lobster, bivalves, and their habitats, and finfish such as river herring and their habitats; and
- Lost uses, including public coastal access, recreational shell-fishing and recreational boating.
The plan considers various alternatives to restore these resources and recommends funding for more than 20 projects throughout Buzzards Bay in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
Shoreline and aquatic habitats are proposed to be restored at Round Hill Marsh and Allens Pond Marsh in Dartmouth, as well as in the Weweantic River in Wareham. Populations of shellfish, including quahog, bay scallop and oyster will be enhanced through transplanting and seeding programs in numerous towns in both states. These shellfish restoration areas will be managed to improve recreational shell-fishing opportunities.
Public access opportunities will be created through a variety of projects, including trail improvements at several coastal parks, amenities for universal access, a handicapped accessible fishing platform in Fairhaven and acquisition of additional land to increase the Nasketucket Bay State Reservation in Fairhaven and Mattapoisett. New and improved public boat ramps are proposed for Clarks Cove in Dartmouth and for Onset Harbor in Wareham.
The draft plan also identifies Tier 2 preferred projects; these are projects that may be funded, if settlement funds remain following the selection and implementation of Tier 1 and/or other restoration projects that will be identified in the Final RP/EA to be prepared and released by the Trustee Council following receipt and consideration of input from the public.
"I'm thrilled that we have the opportunity to work with our partners and the public to improve the quality of Buzzards Bay and surrounding natural areas," said Tom Chapman, the New England Field Office supervisor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The Trustees will hear comments on the draft plan at a public information meeting on Thursday, February 20 at 7 p.m. in the Community Room of the Keith Middle School, 225 Hathaway Boulevard, New Bedford.
"We continue to make progress, together with our federal and state partners, in restoring this bay and estuary where I have spent so much of my life," said John Bullard, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Northeast Regional administrator. "And, we're eager to hear what members of the public think of the ideas in this plan, which are intended to further this work. We hope to improve habitats like salt marshes and eelgrass beds in the bay. These will benefit river herring, shellfish and other species and support recreational activities for the thousands of people who use the bay."
"The Bouchard spill caused serious damage to natural resources throughout Buzzards Bay, but working with our local, state and federal partners, we continue to bring those resources back to health," said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rick Sullivan, who serves as Massachusetts' Trustee for natural resources. "As Trustees, we will support multiple projects in order to restore as many damaged areas and injured resources as possible, spreading those benefits up and down the shorelines of the bay."
The public is invited to review the Draft RP/EA and submit comments during a 45-day period, extending through Sunday, March 23, 2014. A hardcopy of the Draft RP/EA is available in the City of Fall River and Town of Bourne public libraries. The electronic version of this Draft RP/EA document is available for public review at the following web sites:
Comments on the Draft RP/EA should be submitted in writing to:
NOAA Restoration Center
Attention: Buzzards Bay RP/EA Review Coordinator
28 Tarzwell Drive
Narragansett, R.I. 02882
For the Bouchard B-120 settlement, the Trustee Council is composed of representatives from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, representing the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs; the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management; the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, representing the U.S Department of Interior; and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, representing the U.S. Department of Commerce.
The spill also affected tribal resources of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head, which previously settled separately with Bouchard.
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