05- 067

Damage funds from oil spills help restore state's natural beauty

OLYMPIA - A riverbank in Yelm, a lagoon on Whidbey Island, two creeks in Southwest Washington, and state parks on Orcas Island and near the Tri-Cities are among a number of areas that are being improved this year using damage funds from past oil spills.

Other examples of improvements include an animal facility in Lynnwood, a beach along Grays Harbor and Nick's Lagoon in Seabeck. But in all cases, the goal is to preserve or enhance natural resources and protect wildlife.

"When accidents happen, restoration is critical to preserving our natural resources," said Ecology's damage-assessment manager, Dick Logan. "Even small oil spills can cause significant damage to a sensitive area that may be crucial to the survival of threatened or endangered species."

That's where the Resource Damage Assessment (RDA) and Coastal Protection Fund steering committees come in. The committees represent several state agencies: State Parks and Recreation, Department of Fish and Wildlife, Department of Natural Resources, Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation and Department of Ecology (Ecology).

After an oil spill, the RDA committee evaluates damage to the environment. Ecology then uses that information to determine a monetary damage assessment against the party responsible for the spill. The assessment can be paid in cash, or a proposal to restore the environment can be submitted to the committee for consideration. Cash payments go into regional sub-accounts of the Coastal Protection Fund.

In the past 14 years, damage claims have been assessed on more than 360 oil spills, providing funding for 64 restoration projects related to those incidents. Ten more restoration projects have been approved to begin this year. They include:

*       Yelm habitat project - More than 50 volunteers from the Nisqually Tribe's Stream Stewards and the Nisqually River Education Project are donating their time to plant vegetation, monitor growth, conduct species survival counts and replant vegetation if the survival rate falls below 80 percent by September 2005. The plan affects nearly 20,000 square feet of wetland and river bank habitat.

*       Peregos Lagoon, Whidbey Island - A recent survey of the lagoon edge identified more than 650 pieces of creosote and arsenic-treated woody debris, creating toxic conditions for the lagoon itself and nearby sediments. This 52-acre lagoon is unusually salty and is cut off from the adjacent inlet by a sand-and-gravel berm. The project will remove all contaminated debris two feet long or greater and monitor the area for new accumulations and ensure their removal.

*       Fairchild Creek near Humptulips and Johnson Creek in Southwest Washington - Large woody debris is being added along the streams to create spawning and rearing habitat for salmon and to improve the overall health of the watershed. 

*       Obstruction Pass State Park on Orcas Island and Sacajawea State Park near the Tri-Cities in Eastern Washington - Park personnel are overseeing the design and installation of interpretative signs at both sites to improve visitors' recreational and educational experiences.

*       Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) facility in Lynnwood - Restoration work began last November and includes repairing plumbing and electrical problems and improving pool facilities where oiled wildlife are cleaned and rehabilitated.

Sometimes money from the Coastal Protection Fund is used to supplement the buying power of groups interested in acquiring undeveloped property to be held in perpetuity.

One example is the purchase of 23 acres of shoreline estuary and adjacent forested lands along a stretch of beach on the south shore of Grays Harbor brought before the committee by Department of Fish and Wildlife. This land links other protected lands in the area owned by Grays Harbor Audubon and Department of Natural Resources Natural Heritage Program and will become one of the largest areas of protected shoreline in the interior waters of western Washington.

Another shoreline area purchased with matching funds from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in 2002 is Nick's Lagoon in Seabeck Bay, named after Nick Holm, a 14-year-old at the time. Nick and Jerry Zumdieck, founder of the Seabeck Elementary School Alki Salmon Team, joined forces to educate the public on salmon and water-related issues linked to their survival.

If an oil spill occurs, please report it immediately to the National Response Center (800-424-8802) and Department of Emergency Management (800-OILS 911).


Media Contact:  Mary-Ellen Voss, Department of Ecology, Public Information Officer Phone, 360-407-7211; pager, 360-956-8296

More about the Resource Damage Assessment or the Coastal Protection Fund:

Broadcast Version: 
Damage funds collected from oil spillers are being used for several environmental restoration projects in Washington this year.

They include a riverbank in Yelm, a lagoon on Whidbey Island, two creeks in southwest Washington and state parks on Orcas Island and near the Tri-Cities.

In the past fourteen years, damage claims have been assessed on more than three-hundred-sixty oil spills, providing funding for sixty-four restoration projects related to those incidents. 

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