$13 million settlement proposed for Buzzards Bay oil spill


(BOSTON) — More than 14 years after a barge spilled 98,000 gallons of oil into Buzzards Bay, state and federal officials have announced a proposed settlement that would require Bouchard Transportation Co. to pay more than $13 million for damages to migratory birds and their habitats, the Cape Cod Times reported.

In April 2003, a Bouchard barge traveling to the power plant on the Cape Cod Canal in Sandwich, Mass., struck rocks south of Westport. The impact breached the barge’s hull and oil spilled into the bay, affecting salt marshes, beaches and hundreds of birds.

The settlement proposal by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the states of Massachusetts and Rhode Island was filed in U.S. District Court, where it must be approved before being finalized. It would bring the total amount of money paid to resolve claims filed by the Natural Resource Damages Trustee Council, a group composed of several state and federal agencies, up to $19 million. Bouchard previously paid $6 million for claims related to shoreline resources, piping plovers, and other damage recovery efforts.

The spill prompted changes in shipping regulations and state lawmakers promptly passed the Oil Spill Act of 2004, which included a host of legal requirements for barges traveling through the area and the regulators who oversee them. It also led to an extended legal battle between the state of Massachusetts and the U.S. Coast Guard over rules related to tug escorts and double-hull barges.

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By Professional Mariner Staff