Trustees Settle Natural Resource Damage Claims Arising from September 2002 Oil Spill into Cooper River and Charleston Harbor, South Carolina
U.S. Coast Guard personnel from the Marine Safety Office in Charleston, South Carolina, use a fire hose from North Charleston Fire Department Engine No. 2 to clean a rip-rapped shoreline along Cooper River on October 3, 2002, following the release of fuel oil from the M/V Ever Reach. Thirty miles of shoreline in Charleston Harbor and along Cooper River, including marsh, mudflats, sand beaches and manmade structures were oiled by the spill. Photo credit: Dana Warr, USCG.
On October 24, 2012, the federal and State natural resource trustees settled natural resource damage claims arising from the September 2002 release of fuel oil from the container ship M/V Ever Reach into Cooper River and Charleston Harbor, Charleston County, South Carolina. This settlement is embodied in a Consent Decree entered with the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, Charleston Division.
The natural resource trustees in this case include:
- State of South Carolina, represented by South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control and South Carolina Department of Natural Resources;
- U.S. Department of Commerce, represented by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; and,
- U.S. Department of the Interior, represented by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The M/V Ever Reach is a 961-foot long container ship owned and operated by Evergreen International, S.A. On September 30, 2002, while the ship was in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina, an estimated 12,500 gallons of fuel oil was discharged into the Cooper River and Charleston Harbor area. The spilled oil was concentrated along the western shore of Cooper River in the vicinity of the North Charleston Terminal. Altogether, over 30 linear miles of shorelines were oiled including the tidal creeks and backwater areas of James Island, Morris Island, Sullivan’s Island, Fort Johnson, Folly Beach, Shutes Folly and Crab Bank.
The spilled oil caused injury to natural resources and natural resource services including a variety of shoreline habitats, sediments, migratory birds, a shellfish bed closure and a disruption to recreational shrimp baiting. In May 2012, the trustees released a publicly-reviewed, final Restoration Plan describing the restoration actions selected to restore natural resources and natural resource services injured by the spilled oil.
Under this settlement for natural resource damages in the entered Consent Decree, Evergreen International will:
- Implement the Noisette Creek Wetland Restoration Project at the site of the former Naval Golf Course along Noisette Creek in North Charleston;
- Pay damages of $121,000 for lost recreational use;
- Pay trustees’ past assessment costs totaling $820,685.72, including $38,357.07 to DOI;
- Pay trustees’ future costs associated with overseeing and monitoring the Noisette Creek Wetland Restoration Project.
An Implementation Plan describing the Noisette Creek Wetland Restoration Project is included in the Consent Decree as Appendix A and is additionally described in the final Restoration Plan.
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