More than five years ago, an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil well drilling platform started the largest marine oil spill in U.S. history. Tragically, eleven people lost their lives due to the explosion. This week, BP, the United States, and the five Gulf States have agreed to a settlement resolving claims for federal civil penalties and natural resource damages related to the 2010 oil spill. The settlement is now set forth in a proposed Consent Decree that includes up to $8.8 billion for natural resource damages stemming from the spill. This brings to a close one major chapter in the disaster that spilled 134 million of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico over 87 days and opens a new chapter that will support long-term restoration of Gulf resources.
Over the past five years, NOAA scientists developed numerous scientific papers for the Natural Resource Damage Assessment case, including documentation of impacts to nearshore habitats, bottlenose dolphins, pelagic fish, sea turtles, benthic habitats, and deep water corals. That assessment formed the basis of our Draft Programmatic Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan and Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, released this week, which lays out our vision for restoring the Gulf's natural resources using the funds from the settlement with BP.
Of course, there is much more to come. Public comments are welcomed on the proposed restoration plan through December 4, 2015. Once the plan is finalized, it will take more than 15 years to plan and implement restoration, and even longer for the Gulf to fully recover. To review the plan and submit a comment, visit www.gulfspillrestoration.noaa.gov.
W. Russell Callender, Ph.D.
Acting Assistant Administrator for Ocean Services and Coastal
Zone Management, National Ocean Service