Archive for BP Oil Disaster


Barrier Island Restoration: An Investment in Coastal LA’s Future and for Nesting Seabirds, Part 3

April 21, 2016 | Posted by Emily McCalla in Birds, BP Oil Disaster, coastal restoration, Restoration Projects

Our partners at Audubon Louisiana published a series of blog posts that we are cross-posting here. View the original blog post here.

As we mark the sixth anniversary of the BP oil spill this week – an event that significantly and negatively impacted Louisiana’s already disappearing barrier islands and the species that depend on them – we will examine the status of barrier island restoration. Over the coming days, we’ll publish a series of blog posts that detail what work has been done to restore Louisiana’s barrier islands, the importance of these islands to birds and humans alike, as well as Audubon Louisiana’s role before, during and after the restoration process to monitor and improve bird health on these islands and elsewhere.

Part 3: "Audubon Louisiana: A Steward of Birds through Coastal Restoration"

By Erik Johnson, Director of Bird Conservation, Audubon Louisiana, @AudubonErik

Audubon Louisiana is deeply involved in monitoring and improving the health of bird populations across the state. Nowhere is this more important than on barrier islands, which provide critical habitat for many bird species as we’ve detailed in previous blog posts.

The restoration of larger barrier islands closer to shore, like Whiskey Island, Scofield Island and many others, raises questions regarding the nesting success of seabirds, if one follows basic tenets of Island Biogeography Theory. An important question that Audubon Louisiana is seeking to understand is how many more fledglings are produced on a given island after restoration compared to before. It is possible that overall nesting success could decrease after restoration, because a larger (restored) island might support more predators, causing seabirds to be less successful. However, if there are more seabirds nesting on restored islands, might the total number of chicks fledged could still be a net increase? What do we do if not?

Audubon is monitoring beach-nesting birds on Grand Isle and the Caminada Headland to answer some of these questions for Least Terns and Wilson’s Plovers. After protecting certain nesting areas from human disturbance, in which volunteers play an important role in preventing, we track the nesting success of birds, and determine causes of failure, such as storm surge and various predators.

Piping Plovers, Elmers Island, Louisiana Photo: Erik Johnson, Audubon Louisiana

Piping Plovers, Elmers Island, Louisiana Photo: Erik Johnson, Audubon Louisiana

If restored barrier islands act as refuges and havens for predators, and not nesting seabirds, what can be done to enhance seabird nesting success? The removal of predators can be expensive, challenging and unsustainable. Electric and other kinds of exclosure fencing might be feasible in certain circumstances, but is also relatively expensive, and often requires regular maintenance. A more sustainable approach might instead be to place greater emphasis on the construction of smaller offshore islands, through dredge spoil or beneficial use, particularly where land-building processes exist (such as near diversions and naturally accreting deltas).

Caminada Headlands Barrier Island Creation - The continued deterioration of Caminada headland threatens thousands of acres of wetland habitat, as well as critical infrastructure. The project creates 300 acres of back barrier intertidal marsh and nourishes 130 acres of emergent marsh behind 3.5 miles of the Caminada beach using material dredged from the Gulf of Mexico. Photo: Patrick M. Quigley, Gulf Coast Air Photo

Caminada Headlands Barrier Island Creation – The continued deterioration of Caminada headland threatens thousands of acres of wetland habitat, as well as critical infrastructure. The project creates 300 acres of back barrier intertidal marsh and nourishes 130 acres of emergent marsh behind 3.5 miles of the Caminada beach using material dredged from the Gulf of Mexico. Photo: Patrick M. Quigley, Gulf Coast Air Photo

By no means, might I suggest to reduce the emphasis on larger barrier island restoration – this has an important role in the protection of other coastal habitats and coastal human communities. Surely, barrier islands with some predators are better than no barrier islands. Considering how to maximize the efficacy of barrier islands for nesting seabirds will require an island-by-island assessment, regular surveys, and adaptive management. Each of these islands are one hurricane away from losing their predators, so a well-constructed barrier island that withstands one or more storms, might suddenly produce more birds than were produced in many multiple years leading up to that. Most seabirds are long-lived, and their ability to live and nest on the edge of the Earth gives them a chance to wait for this once-in-a-lifetime event. They take the long-term view – not all that different than Louisiana’s 50-year, $50-billion coastal restoration plan.

Western Sandpiper, Grand Isle, Louisiana Photo: Erik Johnson, Audubon Louisiana

Western Sandpiper, Grand Isle, Louisiana Photo: Erik Johnson, Audubon Louisiana

 

If you would like more information on Audubon Louisiana's Coastal Stewardship Program or would like to volunteer with one of our programs, contact Erik Johnson, Director of Bird Conservation for Audubon Louisiana, at ejohnson@audubon.org. You can also sign up here to receive the latest news, updates and volunteer information from Audubon Louisiana.

 

No Comments

Rebuilding after the BP Oil Spill

April 20, 2016 | Posted by Emily McCalla in BP Oil Disaster, Reports, Wildlife

By our partner, National Wildlife Federation. View the original post here.

Six years ago this week, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, killing 11 men and spewing millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico for nearly three months. At the time, many representatives from the Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition were on the ground, cataloging the impacts to wildlife and the habitats of the Gulf of Mexico.

Touring Shell Island West. Photo by Jacques Hebert

Six years later, we are still hard at work. Yesterday, National Wildlife Federation released a new, interactive report that looks at what the most recent science says about the impacts of the disaster, and how we can restore the Gulf.

Some of the impacts described in the report:

  • In the first five years after the disaster, more than three-quarters of pregnant bottlenose dolphins in the oiled areas failed to give birth to a live calf.
  • As many as 8.3 billion oysters were lost as a result of the oil spill and response effort. The dramatic reduction in oyster populations imperils the sustainability of the oyster fishery in the northern Gulf of Mexico.
  • In 2010, the oil spill killed between two and five trillion larval fish.
  • The fate of as much as 30 percent of the oil remains unknown to this day.
  • Twenty percent of the adult female Kemp’s ridley sea turtles may have been killed during the disaster, possibly explaining the turtles’ low nest counts.
Twenty percent of the adult female Kemp’s ridley sea turtles may have been killed during the disaster, possibly explaining the turtles’ low nest counts. Photo by National Park Service

Kemp’s ridley sea turtle. Photo by National Park Service

Today, we know more about the devastating impacts of oil than ever before — and we also know more about what we can do to restore the Gulf of Mexico. As a result of the various legal settlements with BP and the other oil companies, more than $16 billion dollars will ultimately be available for environmental restoration.

We need to make sure that this money is used wisely on projects that benefit the Gulf as a whole.

Coastal Louisiana and the wetlands around the Mississippi River Delta — which were already eroding at an alarming rate pre-spill — received the brunt of the oil that hit the coast. Some marshes and barrier islands still have remnants of BP oil, even six years later.

The money from the settlement means that the very areas that were so badly injured stand a chance to rebound— if we use the settlement money to fund comprehensive, science-based restoration.

This year, on the eve of the anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon explosion, staff from the Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition took a tour of Shell Island West, a barrier island restoration project in Louisiana funded by early Natural Resource Damage Assessment funds. This project will restore approximately 600 acres of beach, dune, and marsh habitat. It is part of the larger Barataria Basin Barrier Shoreline restoration project, which will rebuild the eroding barrier islands that separate the ecologically and economically important Barataria Bay estuary from the Gulf of Mexico.

Shell Island West. Photo by Jacques Hebert

Restoring estuaries like Barataria Bay are key to improving the health of the Gulf of Mexico. Barrier islands serve as a first line of defense, protecting coastal communities from hurricanes and tropical storms. They also form protected areas where freshwater from rivers can mix with the saltier waters of the Gulf, creating nursery areas for many species of wildlife. These protected areas contain a variety of habitats – such as marshes or oyster reefs – that are vital for many different species. Therefore, the Shell Island West project will benefit fish and wildlife that use the barrier island and its beach as well as the marsh on its protected side.

But sadly, in many cases, barrier islands like the Shell Island West are eroding rapidly, leaving both people and wildlife vulnerable.

For our long-term protection, we need to rebuild these critical barrier islands while restoring important habitats like wetlands through sediment diversions and marsh creation. Creating a more natural connection between the Mississippi River and Barataria Bay by building controlled sediment diversions will rebuild and restore wetlands — and it will make projects like the marsh creation and barrier island restoration at Shell Island West more sustainable in the long run.

No Comments

Oil Spill Anniversary Spotlights Opportunity for Largest Restoration Effort in American History

| Posted by Emily McCalla in BP Oil Disaster, Media Resources

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact

Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781, schatzele@nwf.org
Jacques Hebert, National Audubon Society, 504.264.6849, jhebert@audubon.org
Elizabeth Van Cleve, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.553.2543, evancleve@edf.org
Rachel Guillory, Ocean Conservancy, 504.208.5816, rguillory@oceanconservancy.org
Andrew Blejwas, The Nature Conservancy, 617.785.7047, ablejwas@tnc.org

OIL SPILL ANNIVERSARY SPOTLIGHTS OPPORTUNITY FOR LARGEST RESTORATION EFFORT IN AMERICAN HISTORY

(Washington, DC —April 20, 2016) Today marks the sixth anniversary of the Gulf oil disaster, which killed 11 men and began an oil spill that would dump more than 3.19 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier finalized the historic $20.8 billion settlement with BP – the largest environmental settlement in U.S. history – for the massive damages caused by the spill.

Groups working on Gulf restoration, including: Environmental Defense Fund, the National Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society, Ocean Conservancy and The Nature Conservancy, issued the following statement:

“The opportunity to begin the biggest environmental restoration effort in American history is now a groundbreaking reality for the Gulf, following the finalization of the settlement with BP.

“In the aftermath of the spill, elected officials, state and federal agencies and residents across the Gulf worked together as never before to ensure passage of the RESTORE Act to benefit the ecosystems and communities of the region.

“We are eager to continue this work with both state and federal leaders to quickly update the RESTORE Act Comprehensive Plan, and advance restoration work.

“Restoring the Gulf wholly and correctly — and sooner rather than later — means that we’re fast tracking the region’s resilience, and protecting the people, wildlife and jobs across the Gulf for the benefit of the entire nation.”

# # #

 

No Comments

6 years after the oil disaster: Coastal restoration in action

April 19, 2016 | Posted by Emily McCalla in BP Oil Disaster, coastal restoration, Restoration Projects

By Estelle Robichaux, Restoration Project Analyst, Environmental Defense Fund

Today marks the 6th anniversary of the BP oil disaster, an event that changed not only the landscape and economies of the Gulf Coast but also the relationship that many residents have with their surrounding environment.

In Louisiana, of course, this devastating event only exacerbated our ongoing land loss crisis by killing wetland plants and speeding up erosion, as well as damaging communities that had only just begun recovering from the destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina five years earlier.

We can still plainly see some impacts from this disaster, such as the complete erosion of Cat Island in Barataria Bay, La., or the less obvious ongoing ecological effects, like a recent study linking increased juvenile dolphin mortalities to the spill.

But with the recently approved BP settlement and the finalized Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration (RESTORE) Council Initial Funded Priorities List, there is more hope than ever before.

Barrier islands, Louisiana’s first line of defense

Here in coastal Louisiana, the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) has been working since Day 1 to restore some of the areas hardest hit by the oil spill. The barrier islands and in the salt marshes of Barataria Bay experienced some of the highest concentrations of oiling during the spill, so this is where a lot of the early restoration funding has been focused.

Restoration Timeline

Restoration timeline of completed and future priority projects

Even before money from Transocean and BP was available, CPRA used other funding, like from the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act (CWPPRA), to complete different parts of the Barataria Pass to Sandy Point Barrier Island Restoration Project, one of our campaign’s priority projects. East Grand Terre, which we visited last year, was first of the four islands restored between late 2010 and early 2014 in this important barrier island chain. Two other projects, at Chaland Headland and Bay Joe Wise, had been completed before the oil spill.

Now that some of the funds from the oil spill settlements can be spent, active restoration of two more barrier islands has begun. Both Shell Island West and Chenier Ronquille, also part of the Barataria Pass to Sandy Point Barrier Island Restoration Project, are being restored with Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) Early Restoration funding. We expect both of these projects, being co-implemented by CPRA and NOAA’s Habitat Restoration Team, will be complete by early 2017!

restoration_map2

Completion of priority projects

Once CPRA receives funding from the RESTORE Council to implement projects on the Council’s Funded Priorities List, the state will finalize the design and begin construction of one more barrier island in the area: West Grand Terre. If all goes well, this island should be restored by the end of 2018. And with that, almost the entire barrier island chain between Barataria Pass and Sandy Point will have been restored!

We’re only getting started

The road to recovery for Louisiana communities and ecosystems will be long. But in many respects, we’re well on our way: Barrier islands are being restored, the $20.8 billion BP settlement has been approved and the RESTORE Council has finalized its first list of funded projects. Louisiana already has a plan to restore its coast via the 2012 Coastal Master Plan, and because of the BP and Transocean settlements, the state will have over $8 billion to spend on coastal restoration over the next 15 years. Six years after the spill, there is still work to do, but we are seeing real progress.

As Senior Restoration Project Analyst, Estelle Robichaux advocates for the implementation of science-based restoration projects and programs in coastal Louisiana. Estelle leads the Mississippi River Delta Restoration Coalition’s project-related efforts, including science-based decision-making processes, project implementation, and related research. Estelle’s work also focuses on science communication and monitoring the development of scientific and research programs related to coastal Louisiana in the wake of the BP oil disaster.

No Comments

Six Years after the Oil Disaster: Stay the Course on Restoration

| Posted by Emily McCalla in BP Oil Disaster

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:

Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781, schatzele@nwf.org
Jacques Hebert, National Audubon Society, 504.264.6849, jhebert@audubon.org
Elizabeth Van Cleve, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.553.2543, evancleve@edf.org
Jimmy Frederick, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, 225.317.2046, jimmy.frederick@crcl.org
John Lopez, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, 504.421.7348, jlopez@saveourlake.org

Six Years after the Oil Disaster: Stay the Course on Restoration

With BP Settlement Finalized, Time to Put Funds to Work Restoring Louisiana’s Coast

(New Orleans, LA—April 19, 2016) Tomorrow marks six years since the BP Deepwater Horizon rig exploded, killing 11 men and spewing more than 3.19 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier finalized the historic $20.8 billion settlement with BP – the largest environmental settlement in U.S. history – for the massive damages caused by the spill. Louisiana is poised to receive nearly $8 billion over the next 15 years from the settlement, or about half a billion dollars per year, which it will use to advance the largest environmental restoration program in the state’s history for the benefit of the region and nation.

As we remember April 20, 2010, leading national and local conservation organizations working on Mississippi River Delta and Gulf Coast restoration – Environmental Defense FundNational Audubon SocietyNational Wildlife Federation, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation – released the following statement:

“Six years after the Gulf oil disaster, our region is embarking on the largest environmental restoration program of our time. How these unprecedented funds are spent affects all of us, and we must remain vigilant to make sure decision-makers invest in the best and most powerful ecosystem restoration projects. We must ensure this funding is used effectively and for its intended purpose – to restore the Gulf Coast for the people, industries and wildlife that depend on it.

“In Louisiana, the stage is set for continued progress on restoring the coast. With science-based restoration plans in place, and now dedicated funding to help pay for them, we can make great strides toward countering our land loss crisis. In the last decade, Louisiana has already invested billions of dollars from early settlement money and other funding on restoring the coast, including improving more than 27,000 acres of coastal habitat and constructing 45 miles of barrier islands and berms.

“We applaud Governor Edwards for his recent commitments to safeguard coastal funds for coastal restoration and protection. Moving forward, we must continue to hold our leaders accountable and ensure this money is not used for anything but its intended purpose. The future of Louisiana depends on a sustainable, restored coast.

“Louisiana has made remarkable advancements since the Gulf oil disaster six years ago. We must make sure our decision makers continue to prioritize comprehensive restoration and safeguard coastal funding – we may only have this chance to get it right.”

###

No Comments

BP Oil Spill Fines Clear Way for Largest Restoration Effort in U.S. History

April 4, 2016 | Posted by Emily McCalla in BP Oil Disaster, Federal Policy, Media Resources, RESTORE Act

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

Contact:
Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781, schatzele@nwf.org
Jacques Hebert, National Audubon Society, 504.264.6849, jhebert@audubon.org
Elizabeth Van Cleve, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.553.2543, evancleve@edf.org
Rachel Guillory, Ocean Conservancy, 504.208.5816, rguillory@oceanconservancy.org
Andrew Blejwas, The Nature Conservancy, 617.785.7047, ablejwas@tnc.org 

BP Oil Spill Fines Clear Way for Largest Restoration Effort in U.S. History

State and federal leaders have once-in-a-lifetime window to make good on promises

(NEW ORLEANS – April 4, 2016) Groups working on Gulf restoration lauded news today of the signing of the consent decree between the Department of Justice and BP. The agreement is the final step to settling BP’s penalties for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.

Groups including Environmental Defense Fund, National Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society, Ocean Conservancy, and The Nature Conservancy, released the following statement:

“Today’s approval by Judge Carl Barbier means that billions of dollars for the largest environmental restoration effort in American history can finally be put to work. Funding under the provisions of the RESTORE Act and for natural resource damages will now be guaranteed for the next 17 years. This is a unique opportunity for state and federal agencies to work together toward a more resilient Gulf of Mexico. If done right, investment in the Gulf can have lasting benefits for the region and the nation.

“Now is a time for big thinking across funding streams. This is a defining moment for the RESTORE Council and Natural Resource Damage Assessment Trustees, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation leaders and others to all pull together and make good on years of promises for Gulf Coast restoration and resilience.”

###

No Comments

Gulf Restoration Groups Call on Oil Spill Trustees to Run Open Process

February 23, 2016 | Posted by Emily McCalla in BP Oil Disaster, coastal restoration, Federal Policy, Media Resources, Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

Contact:
Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781, schatzele@nwf.org
Jacques Hebert, National Audubon Society, 504.264.6849, jhebert@audubon.org
Elizabeth Van Cleve, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.553.2543, evancleve@edf.org
Rachel Guillory, Ocean Conservancy, 504.208.5816, rguillory@oceanconservancy.org
Andrew Blejwas, The Nature Conservancy, 617.785.7047, ablejwas@tnc.org 

Gulf Restoration Groups Call on Oil Spill Trustees to Run Open Process
Standard Operating Procedures for Spending $7.1 Billion in Funding Should Engage Public 

(New Orleans – February 23, 2016) Gulf restoration advocates are calling on federal agencies to increase transparency and public feedback opportunities as the agencies implement a $7-billion restoration program over the next 15 years. These renewed calls for openness come in response to the release of the Final Programmatic Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan, which describes how the BP Natural Resource Damage Assessment Trustees will plan for, administer and implement restoration efforts.

Groups, including Environmental Defense Fund, National Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society, Ocean Conservancy and The Nature Conservancy, issued the following statement:

“The Trustees are about to embark on the biggest restoration program in American history. The choices they make now will have repercussions for Gulf ecosystems and communities over the next decade and a half – and potentially for generations to follow.

“As the Trustees develop their Standard Operating Procedures, a key element in the design of this program, we hope they will outline additional opportunities for the public to provide meaningful feedback throughout the restoration process. A lot can change in 5, 10 and 15 years, and the people who live and work in the Gulf should have regular opportunities to engage in this process.

“The Trustees have done a tremendous amount of work, and we’re grateful for their efforts. We were pleased to see the Trustees commit to several measures for coordination across state lines and across funding streams – which will enable more successful restoration.

“We look forward to working with the Trustees to make sure the important work of Gulf restoration gets done right.”

# # #

 

No Comments

$52.2 million in oil spill funds approved for Louisiana coastal restoration

December 15, 2015 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in 2012 Coastal Master Plan, BP Oil Disaster, coastal restoration, Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA), Restoration Projects, RESTORE Act

By Elizabeth Weiner, Senior Policy Manager, Environmental Defense Fund

4689SecPritzkerWebCr Robert smith wildlife Mississippi

Penny Pritzker, Secretary of Commerce and Chair of the RESTORE Council. Dec. 9, 2015. Credit: Robert Smith/Wildlife Mississippi

Last week, the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration (RESTORE) Council approved its first Funded Priorities List (FPL) of projects and programs to fund with civil penalties available from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill Transocean settlement. This is an important step forward for the entire Gulf Coast that is still recovering from the spill. In particular for the Mississippi River Delta, the FPL demonstrates both the state of Louisiana’s commitment to funding Coastal Master Plan projects with RESTORE dollars and progress in implementing the master plan.

Louisiana submitted five project proposals, all of which are projects from the Coastal Master Plan. While these projects are still in planning phases, they represent critical near-term opportunities to keep the Mississippi River Delta on its path to recovery and sustainability. The Louisiana master plan projects receiving funding include:

Two additional projects, Jean Lafitte Canal Backfilling ($8.7 million; implementation) and Bayou Dularge Ridge, Marsh and Hydrologic Restoration ($5.2 million; planning), are also located in Louisiana and were included in the Council’s FPL. These two projects, submitted for funding by federal members of the RESTORE Council, are complementary to and consistent with the Coastal Master Plan and will directly benefit coastal Louisiana.

The RESTORE Council meeting in Biloxi, Miss. Dec. 9, 2015. Credit: Robert Smith/Wildlife Mississippi

The RESTORE Council meeting in Biloxi, Miss. Dec. 9, 2015. Credit: Robert Smith/Wildlife Mississippi

The finalization of this FPL comes in follow-up to positive progress made through other Gulf oil spill funding streams – the National Fish and Wildlife Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund, created by criminal plea agreements with multiple responsible parties, and the Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration (NRDA) process.

Now that BP’s settlement of civil penalties and responsibilities under NRDA is pending, both the RESTORE Council and the NRDA Trustee Council will be able to make even more progress, with an eye toward large-scale restoration. For the RESTORE Council, the next step will be an update to its Initial Comprehensive Plan to improve decision-making, project selection, and to consider the projects planned and funded through the other oil spill funding streams. For the NRDA Trustees, their next step will be considering public comments and finalizing the draft Programmatic Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan.

No Comments

RESTORE Council Votes to Approve Priority List of Gulf Restoration Projects for Funding

December 9, 2015 | Posted by jhebert in BP Oil Disaster, Federal Policy, Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, Media Resources, Restoration Projects, RESTORE Act

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

RESTORE Council Votes to Approve Priority List of Gulf Restoration Projects for Funding

(December 9, 2015 – Biloxi, Miss.) Today, the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration (RESTORE) Council voted to approve its first Funded Priorities List (FPL) – a compilation of restoration projects the Council will prioritize for funding and implementation following the 2010 Gulf oil disaster. This set of projects will be funded by a portion of RESTORE Act dollars designated for ecosystem restoration from the Transocean Clean Water Act settlement.

National and local conservation organizations working on Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi River Delta restoration – Environmental Defense Fund, National Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society, Ocean Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation – released the following statement in response to today’s announcement:

“We congratulate the RESTORE Council and staff on their efforts to finalize this Funded Priorities List. Our organizations look forward to continuing to monitor projects as they move into the implementation phase.

“Additionally, now that the BP settlement is near final, the RESTORE Council and the Gulf states have a tremendous opportunity ahead to achieve broader meaningful restoration and lasting resilience for the essential ecosystems of the Gulf. However, with certainty around funding levels, the Council will be faced with difficult decisions. In order to make progress toward comprehensive restoration, the Council will need a science-based process for prioritizing future projects, with a focus on more large-scale proposals. With the first BP settlement payments on the horizon, it is essential that the Council promptly turn its attention to updating the Comprehensive Plan, so that it can serve as a tool to guide future investments around the Gulf. We stand ready to assist the Council and staff as they undertake this critical next step.”

Media Contact:

Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781, schatzele@nwf.org
Jacques Hebert, National Audubon Society, 504.264.6849, jhebert@audubon.org
Elizabeth Van Cleve, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.553.2543, evancleve@edf.org
Rachel Guillory, Ocean Conservancy, 504.208.5816, rguillory@oceanconservancy.org
Andrew Blejwas, The Nature Conservancy, 617.785.7047, ablejwas@tnc.org
Jimmy Frederick, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, 225.317.2046, jimmy.frederick@crcl.org
John Lopez, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, 504.421.7348, johnlopez@saveourlake.org

No Comments

What We Know Now About the BP Oil Disaster

November 16, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in 5 Years Later, BP Oil Disaster, Science, Seafood, Wildlife

By Ryan Fikes, Staff Scientist, National Wildlife Federation, Gulf Restoration Campaign

This post has been cross-posted from the National Wildlife Federation's Wildlife Promise blog.

It’s been more than five years since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded. Since that time, a council of federal and state Trustees have been extensively investigating the impacts of the disaster on wildlife and habitats, but that information has been kept under wraps—for use in litigation against BP. Now that the case has settled, this research has finally been made public in a draft Programmatic Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan.

The impacts to wildlife and their habitats are shocking and far reaching. Despite clean-up efforts and the natural weathering processes over the five years since the spill, oil persists in some habitats where it continues to expose resources in the northern Gulf of Mexico. In many cases, the damage to wildlife and habitats was more severe than previously understood. The ecological linkages of these habitats and communities and their connectivity to the larger Gulf of Mexico ecosystem can result in cascading impacts, influencing the overall health and productivity of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem.

Together, the National Wildlife Federation and Ocean Conservancy scientists have worked to dig in to the massive report and digest its findings. Here is a snapshot of the types and severity of impacts outlined in the draft report.

 BP_impacts_web_small

1. Birds

While the Trustees acknowledge that this is a very conservative estimate, the total number of birds killed by the BP oil disaster is from 56,100 to 102,400 birds. At least 93 species of birds across all five Gulf Coast states were exposed to oil.

2. Beach & Dune Habitat

BP oil covered at least 1,300 miles of the Gulf coastline, including 600 miles of beach, dune and barrier island habitat.

3. Lost Human Use

The public lost 16,857,116 days of boating, fishing and beach-going experiences. The total loss of recreational use of the Gulf due to the disaster is worth $528 million to $859 million.

4. Oysters

Between 4 and 8.3 billion oysters are estimated to have been lost. Over three generations (minimum recovery time), the dead oysters would have produced a total of 240 to 508 million pounds of fresh oyster meat.

5. Salt Marsh

Louisiana lost up to 53 percent of its salt marsh plants across 350-721 miles of shoreline. In Louisiana wetlands, erosion rates approximately doubled along at least 108 miles of shoreline. The effect lasted for at least 3 years.

6. Sargassum

Sargassum, a floating seaweed that provides habitat for young fish and sea turtles, was exposed to oil, which may have caused the loss of up to 23 percent of this important habitat.

7. Seagrass Habitat

Seagrass beds covering a total area roughly the size of 206 football fields (272 acres) were lost from the time of the disaster through 2012.

8. Larval Fish

The Trustees estimated that 2-5 trillion larval fish were killed. The loss of larval fish likely translated into millions to billions of fish that would have reached a year old had they not been killed by the BP oil disaster.

9. Sea Trout

Several of species of sea trout, including the spotted (or speckled) sea trout, were severely impacted by the disaster. An estimated 20-100 billion sea trout larvae were killed as a result of the disaster.

10. Shrimp

The growth of young white, pink and brown shrimp was dramatically affected by oil. The total loss of shrimp production over 2010 and 2011 due to oiling is estimated at more than 2,300 tons.

11. Red Drum

The growth of young red drum fell by up to 47 percent along marsh shorelines in Louisiana that were persistently oiled since 2010, and an estimated 700 tons of red drum were lost. Reduced red drum production persisted through 2013 and is expected to continue.

12. Whales

While nearly all of the species of whales in the footprint of the oil have demonstrable, quantifiable injuries, the most hard-hit was the Bryde’s whale. With only about 50 Bryde’s whales left in the Gulf, roughly half of these animals were exposed to oil—and nearly a quarter were killed. It is unclear if Bryde’s whales will be able to recover.

13. Bottlenose Dolphins

The number of bottlenose dolphins in Barataria Bay and Mississippi Sound—two areas particularly affected by the disaster—is projected to decline by half. The populations are expected to take 40-50 years to recover. In the 5 years after the oil disaster, more than 75 percent of pregnant dolphins observed within the oil footprint failed to give birth to a viable calf.

14. Coral Reefs

The footprint of injury to mid-depth coral reefs is just over 4 square miles. These areas along the continental shelf edge, known as the Pinnacles, showed extensive damage to both the coral colonies and the reef fish associated with them. The larger ecological functions of this habitat were very likely impaired.

15. Sea Turtles

All five of the Gulf’s sea turtles are either threatened or endangered. It is estimated that somewhere between 61,000 and 173,000 sea turtles—of all ages—were killed during the disaster. For the endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, this equals 10-20 percent of the average number of nesting females each year, which would have laid approximately 65,000 – 95,000 additional hatchlings.

16. Deep Seafloor

The footprint of BP oil on the Gulf seafloor around the wellhead is an area more than 20 times the size of Manhattan (over 770 square miles). An additional 3,300 square miles may have been affected.

Click here to view the PDF of the graphics and impacts data.

No Comments