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$36.8 Million Settlement for Cosco Busan Oil Spill

The M/V <em>Cosco Busan</em> leaving San Francisco Bay in 2007. Photo by USCG Petty Officer 3rd Class Kevin J. Neff.

 

$36.8 million awarded as part of the Natural Resource Damages (NRD) settlement to restore natural resources and improve recreational opportunities in areas affected by the Cosco Busan oil spill.

On November 7, 2007, the cargo vessel Cosco Busan struck a tower of the Bay Bridge, between Treasure Island and San Francisco. The accident released 53,000 gallons of bunker fuel, a heavy oil that powers the ship. The oil spread with the tides, moving around the Bay and out into the ocean, affecting the coast north and south of the Golden Gate. A wide variety of resources were impacted, including birds, fishes, shoreline habitats, and human recreational activities.

State and federal trustee agencies will use most of the funds from a $36.8 million settlement of natural resource damages to restore natural resources injured in the San Francisco Bay and improve Bay Area recreational opportunities impacted by the spill. The funds are part of a $44.4 million settlement with Regal Stone Limited and Fleet Management Limited, the companies responsible for the container ship Cosco Busan that spilled 53,000 gallons of oil into the bay after hitting the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

The trustees, including the California Department of Fish and Game, California State Lands Commission, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, and Bureau of Land Management, estimate that the spill killed 6,849 birds, impacted 14-29% of the herring spawn that winter, oiled 3,367 acres of shoreline habitat, and resulted in the loss of over 1 million recreational user-days.

Approximately $32.3 million will be spent on a wide variety of restoration projects. The trustees will be releasing a Draft Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan, which proposes specific projects to address specific injuries. About $5 million is set aside for bird restoration, $4 million for habitat restoration, $2.5 million for fish and habitat (eelgrass) restoration, and $18.8 million for recreational use improvements. An additional $2 million will fund restoration planning, administration and oversight, with any unused funds to be spent toward more restoration. The plan will be available shortly for public comment.

“This is an excellent example of how the Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration process can provide for the benefit of all after catastrophe strikes,” observed Susan Moore, Field Supervisor for the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife. “Following the public comment period and finalization of the restoration plan, the settlement will provide outstanding restoration benefiting the fish, wildlife and people of the greater San Francisco Bay area.”

The proposed projects include:

Habitat improvements at Muir Beach, Albany Beach, Aramburu Island, and South Bay Salt Ponds;

Creation and improvement of bird roosting and nesting habitat on the Berkeley Pier, Tule Lake, Farallon Islands and South Bay Salt Ponds;

Eelgrass and oyster bed restoration at multiple sites around the Bay; and

Recreational use improvements throughout the spill area.

Copies of the Draft Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan, including injury assessment and restoration project details, are available at www.dfg.ca.gov/ospr/Science/cosco_busan_spill.aspx or by contacting Steve Hampton at (916) 323-4724 or shampton@ospr.dfg.ca.gov.

The Trustees will hold two public meetings on October 19, 2011:

• Noon in the First Floor Auditorium in the Elihu M. Harris State Building, 1515 Clay Street, Oakland;

• 7pm at the Mill Valley Community Center, 180 El Camino Alto, Mill Valley.

At these meetings, the Trustees will present a brief overview of the restoration plan and accept public comment.

 

Contacts: Steve Hampton, California DFG (916) 323-4724

Ben Sherman, NOAA (301) 713-3066

Sarah Swenty, USFWS (916) 414-6571

Howard Levitt, NPS (415) 561-4730

 

 

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