|The Kalamazoo River at Saugatuck, Michigan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Settlement for natural resources requires comprehensive restoration projects to address resource losses and resource damages
Federal, state and tribal officials, acting as natural resource Trustees, announced a natural resource damage (NRD) settlement with Enbridge that will result in multiple resource restoration projects along the Kalamazoo River and will pay an additional sum of nearly $4 million. The NRD settlement addresses environmental injuries caused by the 2010 rupture of Enbridge’s Line 6B pipeline in Michigan that resulted in one of the largest inland oil spills in United States history. Trustees arrived at the NRD settlement in conjunction with a comprehensive settlement between the State of Michigan and Enbridge. The NRD settlement, which is being filed in federal court, provides funding to the Trustees to conduct natural resource restoration, reimburses agencies for assessment and restoration costs, and incorporates additional requirements from the state settlement for Enbridge to conduct restoration and monitoring. More details on the NRD settlement can be found at http://www.fws.gov/midwest/es/ec/nrda/MichiganEnbridge/.
The settlement between the State of Michigan and Enbridge was filed separately in state court and requires Enbridge to comply with state law requirements for cleanup, mitigation, compensation, and restoration. The state settlement requires Enbridge to implement work related to natural resource restoration and compensation that is estimated to cost at least $58 million, in addition to paying the state for costs of oversight of cleanup and restoration. Thus, the two settlements combined result in at least $62 million being spent to resolve natural resource damages. The State of Michigan settlement announcement and details can be found at http://www.michigan.gov/oilspill.
The NRD settlement addresses Enbridge’s liability for natural resource damages under the Oil Pollution Act (OPA) and Michigan’s Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act. The NRD settlement provides for habitat improvement projects to address injuries to aquatic organisms, fish, reptile, mammals and birds, as well as for enhancements to public access and use of the Kalamazoo River for recreational, educational and cultural purposes. The Trustees are proposing to implement the following projects with funding from the NRD settlement:
- replace undersized culverts, remove existing obstacles to water flow, and increase floodplain capacity in two tributaries to the Kalamazoo River;
- control Eurasian water milfoil, and other invasive species, within the Fort Custer State Recreation Area to provide improved habitat for warm water fisheries;
- restore 175 acres of oak savanna uplands in Fort Custer State Recreation Area;
- track and protect turtle reproduction in the impacted area of the Kalamazoo River;
- restore wild rice beds in suitable areas along the Kalamazoo River;
- document the historic use and knowledge of natural resources by members of the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of the Pottawatomi Indians (Gun Lake Tribe) and the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi to guide restoration and stewardship.
The NRD settlement also incorporates certain requirements from the state’s settlement with Enbridge, including requirements to:
- restore and monitor the 320 acres of wetlands affected by the spill and response activities;
- permanently restore, create or otherwise protect at least 300 additional acres of wetland habitat in compensation for wetland losses;
- evaluate stream function within the restored areas of Talmadge Creek and perform additional actions as needed;
- conduct monitoring and restoration activities related to the removal of large woody debris during the spill response;
- fund the State of Michigan to monitor fish contamination, fish populations and the health of stream bottom communities along Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River.
Enbridge has already implemented additional projects that relate to losses of natural resources:
- implemented projects along the Kalamazoo River to enhance recreational opportunities at five locations
- created the Kalamazoo River Community Recreational Foundation including a $2.5 million endowment to assure perpetual care of these projects
- removed the dam at Ceresco on the Kalamazoo River and restored over 2.5 miles of river channel that was previously impounded.
“Working together, the natural resource Trustees are using the settlements in tandem to develop a big-picture, comprehensive plan to restore natural resources,” said Charlie Wooley, Deputy Regional Director for the Midwest Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “This cooperative approach will enhance our ability to return to the public the natural resources lost due to the spill.”
The Trustees are asking for public comment on a Draft Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan/Environmental Assessment (DARP/EA), developed to inform the public about the harm caused by the pipeline rupture and the proposed restoration projects described above to address these injuries and losses. This Draft DARP/EA is now available for public review and comment at http://www.fws.gov/midwest/es/ec/nrda/MichiganEnbridge/, along with the consent decree for the NRD settlement filed in federal court.
Settlement of the state law claims and the natural resource damages claims does not affect or alter Enbridge’s liability or obligations related to violations of the OPA and the CWA, which are being separately addressed by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.
Enbridge’s Lakehead Line 6B pipeline ruptured on July 25, 2010, discharging oil into Talmadge Creek and then along approximately 38 miles of the Kalamazoo River. The oil impacted over 1,560 acres of stream and river habitat as well as floodplain and upland areas, injuring birds, mammals, reptiles and other wildlife. The river was immediately closed to the public and sections remained closed for several years, reducing recreational and tribal uses of the river.
For more information on the cleanup of the 2010 pipeline discharges, visit http://www.mi.gov/oilspill and http://www.epa.gov/enbridgespill.
The natural resource Trustees in this case include the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the Michigan Department of the Attorney General, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi Tribe, and the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of the Pottawatomi Indians (Gun Lake Tribe).