FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Matt Stout
NEWS from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of the Interior,
and Florida Department of Environmental Protection
The state of Florida, the federal government and several corporations have agreed to a more than $8.0 million settlement to fund restoration projects for natural resources damaged in a 1993 oil spill in Tampa Bay. An 11-acre degraded mangrove system will be improved, two acres of salt marsh will be replanted, and millions of dollars for other natural resource restoration work will be paid by those responsible for the oil spill, the U.S. Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Department of the Interior, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and the U.S. Department of Justice said today.
State and federal officials worked closely with those responsible for the spill to forge a settlement under which the Bouchard Transportation Company Inc., Maritrans General Partner Inc., and Tsacaba Shipping Co. Inc. will carry out the mangrove and salt marsh restoration projects. In addition, the responsible parties will pay $3.1 million for natural resource restoration plus another $4.9 million for resolution of all other government claims. They have also agreed to forego a claim against the state of Florida for cleanup costs over the limitation amount, alleged to exceed $40 million.
The natural resource trustees in the case are the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Department of the Interior. The terms of the settlement are detailed in consent decrees filed in state and federal courts on Thursday, Jan. 28. After a 30-day public review and comment period, the courts will be asked to approve the settlements if no significant issues arise.
"This settlement for Tampa Bay achieves the goal of restoring natural resources," said Terry Garcia, assistant secretary for oceans and atmosphere at the Department of Commerce. "The settlement resulted from tremendous and unprecedented cooperation between the federal trustees, the state of Florida, and the vessel owners and insurers."
"Restoring the important natural resources of Tampa Bay means cleaner water and healthier communities for everyone in the region," said Lois J. Schiffer, assistant attorney general for environment and natural resources at the Department of Justice. "That's good news for Tampa Bay and for the people who live and visit there."
The oil spill occurred Aug. 10, 1993, when an outbound freighter, the M/V Balsa 37, struck two inbound barges, the T/B Ocean 255 and T/B B155, at the mouth of Tampa Bay. The collision resulted in the discharge of approximately 330,000 gallons of heavy fuel oil and 32,000 gallons of a mixture of other fuels into lower Tampa Bay. The spilled oil remained offshore for four days before oiling about 13 miles of beaches in Pinellas County. It injured birds, sea turtles, mangrove habitats and other natural resources in Boca Ciega and lower Tampa Bay, and disrupted the use of area beaches and waterways.
The responsible parties will conduct two environmental restoration projects in Boca Ciega Bay at their own expense, in addition to making the monetary payments outlined in the settlement. State and federal trustees will oversee implementation of these projects. The $3.1 million for other restoration work is earmarked as follows:
The remainder of the settlement will reimburse the governments for spill response and damage assessment costs.
"This settlement will allow for the restoration of impacted resources, without the expenditure of public funds," said Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Kirby Green. "The agreement promotes our vision for a healthier environment for Florida. I am pleased that the shipping companies, Department of Interior, NOAA, and Florida's Department of Environmental Protection were able to work together to craft this agreement that has been approved by the Department of Justice."
"We are pleased that this settlement will allow us to implement restoration projects geared towards threatened and endangered sea turtles, and benefit migratory birds in southwest Florida," said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Regional Director Sam D. Hamilton. "The Service looks forward to continuing cooperative efforts to support the recovery of threatened and endangered sea turtles in the Tampa Bay area. The funding for bird recovery and rehabilitation efforts will expedite the recovery, rehabilitation, and release of healthy birds back into migrant bird communities following future oil spills."