Trustees Release Final Restoration Plan for Piping Plovers Injured by April 2003 Oil Spill in Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts and Rhode Island

Last edited 09/03/2020


The piping plover (Charadrius melodus) is a small, federal threatened shorebird that nests and feeds on coastal beaches and dunes. An estimated 17 piping plovers, including adults and chicks, were killed by the Bouchard barge 120 fuel oil spill into Buzzards Bay in April 2003. Photo credit: Gene Nieminen.

On January 10, 2013, the State and federal natural resource trustees released the publicly-reviewed “Final Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment for Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus) Impacted by the Bouchard Barge 120 Oil Spill, Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.” This Final Restoration Plan describes specific actions to restore piping plovers injured by the April 27, 2003 fuel oil spill from the Bouchard barge 120 into Buzzards Bay and nearby coastal shorelines in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

The natural resource trustees in this case include:

  • Commonwealth of Massachusetts, represented by Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection;
  • State of Rhode Island, represented by Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management;
  • U.S. Department of Commerce, represented by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; and,
  • U.S. Department of the Interior, represented by Bureau of Indian Affairs and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head separately settled tribal damage claims arising from the Bouchard barge 120 oil spill.

Bouchard barge 120, while being towed by a tugboat, grounded on a shoal near the western approach to Buzzards Bay on April 27, 2003. The grounding ripped a 12-foot long gash in the barge’s hull and an estimated 98,000 gallons of No. 6 fuel oil was released into the Bay. This spilled oil eventually fouled nearly 100 miles of coastline in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, including habitat for piping plover, a State and federal threatened shorebird species. The oil spill killed an estimated 12 adult piping plovers and 5 chicks.

The State and federal natural resource trustees settled natural resource damage claims with Bouchard Transportation Co. and the tugboat owner in a Consent Decree in May 2011. This settlement provided over $6 million for natural resource restoration projects, including $715,000 specifically for piping plover restoration.

This Final Restoration Plan is the first of three Restoration Plans being prepared by the trustees to address natural resource injuries from this oil spill.

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