Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill
Phase III Early Restoration
Five Texas-based projects totaling about $18 million were approved to begin to compensate Texas for lost human use of natural resources resulting from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The three artificial reef and two state park projects are part of the latest round of early restoration led by state and federal Natural Resource Damage Assessment trustees.
The five Texas projects are part of a broader suite of 44 projects totaling an estimated $627 million across the Gulf, the largest suite of early restoration projects since the oil spill. About 63 percent, or $397 million, of the projects address ecological losses. The remaining 37 percent, or $230 million, address lost recreational services.
The latest early restoration phase is part of a Final Programmatic and Phase III Early Restoration Plan and Early Restoration Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (Plan), which sets a strategic approach for early restoration. The Trustees received thousands of public comments that were instrumental in its development. The Trustees have developed a reader-friendly guide to the Plan which includes descriptions of the projects.
The Trustees’ decisions on the Plan are set forth and explained in a Record of Decision (ROD). Both the Final Phase III Plan and the ROD are available on the Gulf Spill Restoration website, and copies will be available in locations across the Gulf region. Together, the Plan and the ROD describe the Texas early restoration projects that have been approved for implementation.
Texas early restoration projects include beach redevelopment at Galveston Island State Park, new amenities at Sea Rim State Park, and the creation or enhancement of three offshore artificial reefs. The reef projects will enhance artificial reef sites in Texas state waters by expanding a reef site off Freeport and creating a new reef site off Matagorda. In addition, a new ship reef will be created outside state waters by sinking a vessel offshore of Galveston. In the event the ship reef project becomes technically infeasible (for example, an appropriate ship cannot be acquired with available funding), an artificial reef site off Corpus Christi will be expanded. All five projects are intended to compensate for lost recreational use of natural resources.
Early restoration projects represent an initial step toward fulfilling the responsible parties’ obligation to pay for restoration of injured natural resources. Ultimately, the responsible parties are obligated to compensate the public for the full scope of natural resource injuries caused by the spill, including the cost of assessment and restoration planning.
State and federal natural resource Trustees are in the process of assessing and quantifying injuries caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill (Spill) to natural resources and services provided by those resources. When a spill occurs and the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) process starts, early restoration is a way to get natural resources back to baseline conditions faster. Early restoration can begin while the NRDA process is still under way, which is important because damage assessments are complex and can last many years.
Under the early restoration agreement signed by BP (a responsible party) and the Trustees, BP committed to provide $1 billion toward implementation of early restoration projects. The purpose is to begin restoring the Gulf of Mexico and to compensate for natural resource injuries, including the loss of human use of Gulf resources, from the Spill. BP agreed to fund projects jointly agreed to by BP and the Trustees, after the public has been given the opportunity to comment. In return, the Trustees agreed to provide BP with project-specific offsets that the Trustees will apply in the future as credit against the Trustees’ final assessment of total injury to resources impacted by the Spill. The broad scope of the impacts to natural resources has resulted in a complex negotiation process for the identification and selection of early restoration projects.
If the latest round of Phase IV projects is approved and funded, approximately $832 million of the $1 billion would be obligated. More information about the first three phases of early restoration can be found at www.gulfspillrestoration.noaa.gov.
Early restoration is not intended to provide the full extent of restoration needed to satisfy the Trustees’ claims against BP. The Spill injury assessment and restoration planning will continue until the public is fully compensated for the natural resources and services that were lost as a result of the Spill.