Trustees Open 40-Day Public Comment Period on Draft Restoration Plan for Piping Plovers Injured by August 2003 Oil Spill in Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts and Rhode Island

Last edited 09/25/2020

piping plover (Charadrius melodus)
The piping plover (Charadrius melodus), a small, federally threatened shorebird, shown here, is particularly susceptible to oil spill exposure because it forages on shorelines. The natural resource trustees estimated that 12 adult piping plovers and 5 chicks were killed by the April 2003 oil spill into Buzzards Bay and coastal Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Photo credit: Amanda Boyd, FWS.

On June 19, 2012 the State and federal natural resource trustees opened a 40-day public comment period on “Draft Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment for Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus) Impacted by the Bouchard Barge 120 Oil Spill, Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.” The Draft Restoration Plan proposes natural resource restoration actions intended 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;
  • Department of Commerce, represented by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; and,
  • Department of the Interior, represented by Bureau of Indian Affairs and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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, eventually fouling nearly 100 miles of coastline in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Natural resources and natural resource services were injured as a result of this oil spill.

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 set aside for piping plover restoration.

This Draft Restoration Plan is the first of three anticipated Restoration Plans being prepared by the trustees to address natural resource injuries from this oil spill. Specifically, this Draft Restoration Plan examines various alternatives for restoring piping plovers and proposes implementing the preferred alternative -- enhanced management activities -- at breeding sites in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Written comments on the Draft Restoration Plan must be received by FWS’s New England Field Office by Wednesday, August 1, 2012.

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