Final damage assessment and restoration plan and environmental assessment: Mississippi River oil spill, Gretna-New Orleans, Louisiana, July 23, 2008
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Final damage assessment and restoration plan and environmental assessment: Mississippi River oil spill, Gretna-New Orleans, Louisiana, July 23, 2008

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    July 23, 2008, the M/T Tintomara collided with Barge DM932 controlled by the UTV Mel Oliver at River Mile Marker (RMM) 98 on the Mississippi River near New Orleans, Louisiana (herein referred to as the “Incident”). Barge DM932 was carrying 9,983 barrels (419,286 gallons) of No. 6 fuel oil within three tanks. After the accident, approximately 3,250 barrels (136,500 gallons) of oil were recovered from one tank that had not been ruptured by the collision. Until lightering was completed, oil was occasionally released from the sunken Barge DM932 over a two-week period prior to and during salvage. Overall, an estimated 6,734 barrels (282,828 gallons) of oil were released into the waters of the Mississippi River. The release lasted until August 10, 2008, when final salvage efforts were completed. American Commercial Barge Line LLC (ACL) was identified as the Responsible Party for the Incident.

    Spilled oil from the Incident spread more than 100 miles downriver and affected over 5,000 acres of shoreline habitat. Aquatic and shoreline habitats within the batture (land between the river and its levee, which consists of, forested wetlands, scrub-shrub habitat, mud flats, and freshwater marsh) were oiled, as were birds, mammals, reptiles, and other wildlife.

    The United States Coast Guard (USCG) directed Incident response. As part of the response, the USCG closed the Mississippi River from RMM 98 to the Southwest Pass Sea Buoy (near the Gulf of Mexico) from July 23 until July 29, 2008. Response actions included lightering and recovering Barge DM932, deployment of hard and absorbent boom, wildlife surveys and hazing, and capture and rehabilitation of oiled wildlife.

    This Final Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment (DARP/EA) was prepared by the Louisiana Oil Spill Coordinator’s Office, Department of Public Safety (LOSCO); the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ); the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (LDNR); the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF); the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA); the United States Department of the Interior (DOI), represented by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS); and the United States Department of Commerce, represented by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); collectively acting as Trustees for the restoration of natural resources, their services, and public use services that were exposed to and/or injured as a result of the Incident. This DARP/EA is issued to inform the public concerning the Trustees’ authorities and responsibilities under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA) (33 United States Code [U.S.C.] § 2701 et seq.), the Louisiana Oil Spill Prevention and Response Act of 1991 (OSPRA) (Louisiana Revised Statutes [R.S.] 30:2451 et seq.), and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) (83 Stat. 852; 42 U.S.C. § 4321 et seq.); and to respond to public comment on alternatives first proposed to restore resources injured by the Incident in the Draft DARP/EA, published May 20, 2021. In this DARP/EA, the Trustees evaluate potential restoration alternatives which exhibit sufficient nexus to the natural resources injured by the Incident and would provide resource services to compensate the public for natural resource losses resulting from the discharged oil and select a preferred alternative. The Trustees’ preferred restoration alternative includes multiple projects that provide restoration of natural resources commensurate with injuries to forested wetlands, emergent wetlands, fisheries habitat, and natural resource use by the general public. The Trustees’ preferred restoration alternative was developed as part of the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) process through negotiations with ACL on a potential settlement of natural resource damage claims. Implementation of the preferred alternative is contingent upon future court approval of a settlement agreement between the Trustees and ACL, which would be subject to public notice and comment.

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