Trustees Open 30-Day Public Comment Period on Amendment to Final Restoration Plan for July 2002 Oil Spill in Morgan County, Tennessee

Last edited 09/25/2020

restoration project at Centennial Park, Crossville, Tennessee
Bioretention Areas 2 and 3, shown here in June 2012, in Centennial Park in Crossville, Morgan County, Tennessee, at the headwaters of the Little Obed River, are elements of a natural resource restoration project designed to restore stream services lost in the July 2002 Howard/White Unit No.1 oil spill. Photo credit: Moria Painter, NPS.

On October 10, 2012, the federal and State natural resource trustees opened a 30-day public comment period on the “Amendment to the Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan/Environmental Assessment – Howard/White Unit No. 1 Oil Spill.” This Amendment proposes certain changes to restoration projects described in the final Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan released in July 2008.

The natural resource trustees in this case include:

  • State of Tennessee, represented by Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation; and,
  • U.S. Department of the Interior, represented by National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

On July 19, 2002, a blowout occurred at the Howard/White Unit No. 1 oil well on the Cumberland Plateau in Morgan County, Tennessee. The incident is sometimes referred to as the Pryor Oil well blowout. Thousands of barrels of crude oil were released at the wellhead. This spilled oil flowed downhill, along two paths, into White Creek and Clear Creek, tributaries to Obed Wild and Scenic River, and then caught on fire. The fire burned oil-soaked vegetation, trees and soils and caused underlying rock to fracture. Spilled oil continued to seep from the creek bank into Clear Creek for 5 years after the incident.

The trustees determined that natural resources and natural resource services -- such as forest vegetation and soils, visitor use and stream health -- were injured and then prepared a publicly-reviewed, final Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan in July 2008. Under provisions in the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, the trustees made a claim for natural resource damages to the U.S. Coast Guard-administered National Pollution Funds Center’s Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund. In an October 2009 Claim Determination, the NPFC approved $699,176, plus potentially up to $71,660.85 in contingency costs, to fund implementation, oversight and administration of three projects designed to restore natural resources injured by the oil spill.

After beginning implementation of these restoration projects, the trustees encountered changed conditions and unavoidable circumstances that made implementation of certain projects no longer feasible. The new, substitute projects are described in this Amendment.

Online comments on the proposed Amendment must be received by the National Park Service by Friday, November 9, 2012.

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