The Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA), Trustees, have released a final version of the Comprehensive Restoration Plan for the Gulf of Mexico for a 30-day waiting period ending March 21, 2016 at which time a decision on whether to adopt the plan will be made.
If adopted, the final plan is expected to allocate up to $8.8-billion for “natural resource injuries” under a proposed settlement with BP. The final plan addresses five broad goals with thirteen restoration types. Read the NRDA Trustees’ announcement and get a copy of the plan on NOAA’s Gulf Spill Restoration website.
On April 20, 2010, the BP oil company’s Macondo well blew out in mile-deep water in the Gulf of Mexico, causing the Deepwater Horizon drill rig to explode, killing 11 workers, and injuring 17 others.
Over the course of 87 days, there were numerous failed attempts to cap the gushing Macondo. The flow is said to have finally stopped on July 15, 2010. By then, an estimated 171 million gallons of oil had leaked into the Gulf of Mexico, NRDC spokesperson Alexandra Adams explained in a Natural Resources Defense Council white paper, released in June, 2015. In addition, the report stated that 1.8 million gallons of toxic chemical dispersants were used in response efforts.
Impacts of the oil spill are still being felt five years later:
- The oil spill contaminated more than 1,100 miles of coastline, at least 1,200 square miles of the deep ocean floor, and 68,000 square miles of surface water.
- To date, more than $11.6 billion has been paid to Gulf-area individuals and businesses who have suffered economic damages or medical issues as a result of the oil spill. Many claims are still pending.
- The local commercial fishing industry lost around $250-million from fisheries closures.
- Shrimp landings decreased by 32 percent in Louisiana, 60 percent in Mississippi, and 56 percent in Alabama.
- Oyster harvests in Louisiana are at one-third of normal levels due to releases of fresh water to protect the coast from oil.
- Oil contamination led to heart defects and death of bluefin tuna, as well as other large fish like amberjack, swordfish, and billfish.
- Fish caught in the aftermath of the oil spill were reported to have oil spill-related lesions.
- Estimates of lost tourism cost the Gulf coastal economy up to $22.7 billion in the first three years after the spill.
- Marine mammal deaths topped 5,000 individuals, with a record high number of dolphin deaths and illnesses in the northern Gulf of Mexico.
- More than 1,000 sea turtles were found dead with more than 2,000 stranded in the Gulf of Mexico. Typical stranding levels are 240 sea turtles per year.
- Nearly 1 million coastal and offshore seabirds are estimated to have died.
- Three deep-sea coral communities, containing corals hundreds of years old, were extensively damaged, with moderate to severe reductions in the abundance and diversity of other bottom-dwelling organisms recorded up to 57 square miles away from the wellhead.
- Unique and highly diverse seaweed habitats harboring deep-sea shrimp, crab, and lobsters suffered a dramatic die-off, reducing diversity by more than 85 percent.
The Comprehensive Restoration Plan for the Gulf of Mexico can be found here.