RI Department of Environmental Management
235 Promenade St., Providence, RI 02908
(401) 222-2771 TDD/(401)-222-4462
For Release: September 15, 1998
Contact: Stephen Morin 222-6605, ext. 2401
Bob Ballou 222-4700, ext. 4420
Note: The public hearing on the draft Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment for the North Cape Oil Spill has been moved to the South Kingstown Town Hall, 180 High Street, Wakefield, Rhode Island. The date, October 28 and the time, 7PM remain the same. The location change was required to insure accessibility to all members of the public.
NORTH CAPE OIL SPILL - ANNOUNCEMENT OF RESTORATION PLAN
The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, the U.S. Department of Commerce/National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Department of the Interior/Fish and Wildlife Service, who are the agencies charged with restoring the natural resources harmed by the January 19, 1996 North Cape oil spill, released a Draft Restoration Plan today to begin a 60-day comment period on the plan's proposals. In the draft plan, the agencies explain the steps they undertook to survey the harm caused to the southern Rhode Island environment by the release of 828,000 gallons of #2 home heating oil from the NORTH CAPE during a violent winter storm, and how natural resources may be restored.
In the draft plan, the agencies propose projects to restock 1.5 million adult lobsters, stock shellfish in the coastal ponds, protect water quality by acquiring land adjacent to the salt ponds, improve shore access and restore anadromous fish runs, protect federally threatened piping plover habitat in Rhode Island, and protect and enhance the breeding habitat of loons and other marine birds. Lobsters would be restored by increasing the number of lobster eggs in Block Island Sound through release of 1.2 million females and 300,000 males each marked with a v-shaped notch, and prohibiting the catch of v-notched lobsters.
The agencies determined that in the marine environment, 9 million lobsters were killed by the spill, as well as 19 million surf clams, 4.2 million fish, and over half a million kilograms of marine biomass such as worms, crabs, mussels and sea stars. In the salt ponds, 7 million worms and other amphipods, more than one million crabs, shrimp, clams and oysters, and another half-million fish were killed. Birds were also harmed by the spill; 2,300 marine birds were killed, including 402 loons. In addition, there were five to ten fewer piping plover chicks hatched at Trustom Pond National Wildlife Refuge.
The draft plan was compiled from dozens of scientific studies, many of which began within days of the 1996 oil spill. The agencies found that while causing a great deal of short-term injury to natural resources, there were little or no permanent impacts. They also found that there are measures that can be undertaken to restore the short-term loss of natural resources.
The Draft Restoration Plan serves as a draft environmental assessment under the National Environmental Policy Act. Comments can be presented either in writing, or orally at a public hearing to be held on October 28, 1998 at the Narragansett Town Hall, 25 Fifth Avenue, Narragansett, Rhode Island. The comment period will be open until November 16, 1998, after which the agencies will evaluate public responses, make any necessary changes, and file a final plan in the public record.
The agencies expect to issue a final plan by January of 1999. At that time, Eklof Marine, who is the party responsible for the oil spill, and its underwriters, will have 90 days to either accept or reject the plan. If Eklof does not accept the plan, the agencies will seek funding for the restoration activities from the $1-billion Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund established by Congress under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, and the Fund then will pursue reimbursement from Eklof Marine. Under this schedule, restoration could begin as early as the summer of 1999.
Copies of the 210-page Draft Restoration Plan will be located in the public libraries in Narragansett, South Kingstown and Charlestown, and at the URI libraries at the Main Campus and the Graduate School of Oceanography. The draft plan will also be available on line on the DEM website at http://www.dem.ri.gov. The approximately 300 documents that make up the administrative record, including all of the scientific studies that are the basis of the draft plan, are also available for inspection. These documents are located in the Pell Library at the URI Graduate School of Oceanography in Narragansett, and at DEM's Office of Waste Management at 235 Promenade Street, Providence. Requests for copies of the draft plan can be directed to Rebecca West, Industrial Economics, Inc., 2067 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 02140, (617) 354-0074.