[Coral-List] Berman Oil Spill Restoration

Todd Barber reefball at reefball.com
Fri Jul 14 09:07:10 EDT 2006

Hello Listers,

It was recently pointed out to me that $5,712.336 as given as a settlement for Reef Injury to the responsible parties to compensate for the Berman Oil Spill and Reef Grounding off Puerto Rico and that a restoration plan was posted to the internet site that contains the following statement, "

Proposed Primary Reef Restoration Alternative (Natural Recovery) (Proposed Preferred) The only primary restoration activity proposed for the Berman site is the no-action alternative, known as natural recovery
1         Project Description and Background


The no-action alternative would not involve any direct human intervention to restore, or cause accelerated recovery of the injured resources.

The restoration objectives would be partially met by the no-action alternative, in that lost resources would be allowed to recolonize the area, and lost services would be provided by the organisms that become reestablished there.  Natural recovery would not meet the objective of returning the resource to its baseline condition because the loss of the vertical rock outcrops and other rocky substrates crushed by the grounding are permanent losses.  However, the no-action alternative would cause the least amount of intentional disturbance to recolonization of the grounding site that has occurred in the years since the incident.  This alternative is already 12 years underway.

The no-action primary restoration alternative would cost nothing to implement.  If monitoring is included in the alternative, the costs would include intermittent labor of a small team of scientists who would collect data and prepare monitoring reports (likely less than $100,000).  Natural recovery is expected to take essentially forever, because attainment of pre-incident conditions is not expected at the grounding site.  However, a more reasonable approximation is that maximum recovery will occur within 60 to 100 years if no other environmental manipulation of the site occurs (Hudson and Goodwin 1995)."

Now, please not this is taken partially out of context as the report also suggests a host of other uses of the money such as aquisition of land for conservation, improved access to public beaches, improved quality of public beaches, and restoration of el morro public battery.  And it gives alternatives to natural recovery such as possible seagrass restoration or reef rehabilitation activities. (You can find the full text here http://www.darrp.noaa.gov/berman/pdf/bermandraftrpea.pdf)

My question to the list is....given the current state of thermal stress, diseases, high Atlantic hurricane cycle and human pressures....do you, as scientists, believe that "natural recovery" approach is the best approach for ship groundings?  And where there are compensible damages to reefs...should we forget trying to rehabilitate reefs directly and instead divert the funds obtained from damages to conservation activities in related ecosystems or use them for other human goals?

Does anyone find it strange that is has been 12 years since the grounding and the responsible parties are just now releasing a plan for the rehabiliitation?  PS I am NOT trying to be critical of any of our agencies, or people that have worked on this project...I am only questioning our PROCESSES. I would appreciate it if people responding to this message address only the processes and theoritical quesitons and avoid any inflamitory remarks about the specific project.


Todd R. Barber
Chairman, Reef Ball Foundation

3305 Edwards Court, 
Greenville, NC 27858
941-720-7549 Cell
252-353-9094 Direct
Skype Toddbarber
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