A Shell subsea wellhead flow line—underwater oil well connecting to a pipe line that transports oil to the surface—about 90 miles off the coast of Louisiana released about 88,200 gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico on May 12th of this year. The spill created a 2- by 13-mile sheen that was initially detected by a Shell company helicopter. The U.S. Coast Guard and Shell quickly dispatched numerous vessels to contain the leak and clean up oil that could be skimmed from the water’s surface.
Shell reportedly located the source of the leak (flow line) via a remotely operated vehicle that was sent to the sea floor to investigate. The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) says they intend to review the repair plans set by Shell, and the agency would also assess if subsea infrastructure technology improvements should be made in response to the incident. Environmental groups responded by stating that this is yet another example of why offshore drilling should be banned, and more than 1,200 activists marched in Washington, D.C., on Sunday, May 15th, in protest of the Obama administration’s offshore drilling plan. Shell has ceased drilling and production at the site until further examinations are complete.
Louisiana garners largest chunk of BP settlement
Coastal communities bordering the Gulf of Mexico including Louisiana’s entire 400-mile coastline were devastated from the effects of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Louisiana garnered the largest chunk of the funds generated by the legal settlement with BP. In April, Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) announced that it is set to receive at least $6.8 billion out of the estimated $20 billion for which BP is on the hook. When you combine that with sums received from previous legal settlements related to the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe, the state’s coffers stand to swell by $8.7 billion, however, BP will have 15 years to pay out the funds beginning in 2017 and continuing through 2031.
“The finalization of the settlement provides certainty regarding the timing and availability of funding needed to move forward with significant recovery efforts,” says Johnny Bradberry, the governor’s executive assistant for coastal activities. “We will continue working with the utmost sense of urgency and engaging with our federal partners and the public to get critical projects on the ground as quickly as possible.”
One of those projects is the Louisiana Marine Fisheries Enhancement, Research, and Science Center (“the Center”), a $22 million endeavor that stands to benefit recreational fishermen in the state. The Center will consist of two separate facilities, and according to the CPRA’s project description, the Center aims to focus on creating aquaculture-based techniques for marine fishery management, with the end goal being more effective long-term monitoring of popular sport fish and baitfish species.
Plans for the Center also call for the creation of living laboratories to provide educational activities for those in Louisiana concerned about marine sport fish species health. The Center’s primary facility, the Calcasieu Parish site, plans to house a pond complex, hatchery, visitor center, and staff office space. The Plaquemines Parish site plans to focus on research about popular baitfish species in Louisiana and other Gulf states, such as gulf killifish and Atlantic croaker.
Coastal restoration projects like the Center require manpower to help get them up and running, and the massive BP settlement offers a unique opportunity to recruit and train workers for new careers. Divers and ship captains may provide the potential to improve individual economic wellbeing while getting them involved in activities that ensure their communities remain viable and resilient for generations to come. Organizations like Oxfam America are working with local agencies from a range of industries in Louisiana to “create pathways for disadvantaged and unemployed workers to gain new skills and build new careers in this booming new restoration economy.” dwhprojecttracker.org
By Del Gillis, Southern Boating Magazine July 2016