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Notice of Availability of Environmental Assessment; Request for Comments

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National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.


Notice of availability of a Draft Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment for natural resource injuries and service losses associated with the Fort Lauderdale mystery oil spill in Florida; Request for Comments.


Notice is hereby given that a document entitled, “Draft Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment for the Fort Lauderdale Mystery Oil Spill” (Draft DARP/EA), is available for public review and comment. This document has been prepared by the state and federal natural resource trustee agencies (Florida Department of Environmental Protection, FDEP, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA) to address natural resource injuries and resource services losses resulting from a mystery Start Printed Page 42539oil spill in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. This Draft DARP/EA presents the trustees' assessment of the natural resource injuries and service losses and their proposed plan to compensate for those losses by restoring natural resources and services. The trustees will consider comments received during the public comment period before finalizing the DARP/EA.


Comments on the Draft DARP/EA must be submitted in writing on or before July 24, 2002.


Requests for and written comments on the Draft DARP/EA should be directed to Catherine Porthouse of FDEP, 3900 Commonwealth Blvd, MS #659, Tallahassee, FL 32399, e-mail:, or Tony Penn of NOAA, 1305 East West Highway, Station 10218, Silver Spring, MD 20910, e-mail: The Draft DARP/EA is also available electronically at

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For further information contact: Catherine Porthouse at (850) 488-2974, e-mail:, or Tony Penn, at (301) 713-3038 x197, e-mail:

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On Tuesday morning, August 8, 2000, oil tar balls and oil mats were observed on beaches in the area of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Within the next few days, approximately 20 miles of high-use recreational beaches, from North Miami Beach northward to near Pompano Beach (primarily Broward County beaches), were oiled; some were closed for cleaning. The origin of the oil is unknown. The United States Coast Guard, the lead response agency for the incident, classified the spill as medium, and the trustees have estimated the amount of oil stranded on the shoreline to be approximately 15,000 gallons.

Natural resources or their services impacted as a result of the incident include threatened and endangered sea turtles and their habitats, marine surface waters and their biota including fish, birds, and recreational use of beaches. Response actions removed the majority of the shoreline oil within a few days of oiling. These response actions did not prevent natural resource impacts from occurring nor did these actions restore or rehabilitate natural resource and service injuries that resulted from the incident.

Natural resource trusteeship authority is designated according to § 1006(b) of OPA, Executive Order 12777, October 22, 1991 (56 FR 54757), and subpart G of the National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan, 40 CFR part 300. Federal trustees are designated by the President, and state trustees by the Governor. Acting on behalf of the public as trustees for the living and non-living resources in the coastal and marine environments of Florida, the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, are responsible for assessing injuries to trust resources resulting from oil spill incidents, and for developing and implementing a plan for the restoration, rehabilitation, replacement, or acquisition of the equivalent of injured natural resources and their services.

Pursuant to Section 1002(a) of OPA, each party responsible for a vessel or facility from which oil is discharged, or which poses a substantial threat of a discharge of oil, into or upon the navigable waters of the United States or adjoining shorelines, is liable for natural resource damages from incidents that involve such actual or threatened discharges of oil. The measure of damages to natural resources is the cost of restoring, rehabilitating, replacing or acquiring the equivalent of the injured natural resources, compensation for the diminution in value of those natural resources pending restoration, and the reasonable costs of assessing such damages. All recoveries for the first two elements are to be spent implementing a restoration plan developed by the trustees.

In this case, there is not an identified responsible party to pay damages. When there is not a responsible party, the Federal Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund is available to pay claims for the costs of assessing natural resource damages and for developing and implementing restoration plans.

The trustees quantified injury to sea turtles, fish and invertebrates, seabirds, and recreational beaches for inclusion in a claim for restoration costs. Subject to public comment, the trustees determined that their preferred alternative to address injuries and losses of sea turtles is a combination of active primary restoration (to return sea turtle resources and services to baseline) and compensatory restoration (to compensate for interim losses pending recovery to baseline). The recommended primary restoration would consist of augmenting lighting ordinance enforcement activities that would return sea turtles to baseline by preventing mortality of turtle hatchlings due to disorientation. The recommended compensatory restoration would also augment lighting ordinance enforcement, which would provide additional turtle hatchlings to compensate for the interim turtle losses. The compensatory component of the enforcement project would be of sufficient scale to provide compensatory ecological services approximately equivalent to those that will be lost from the injured turtles pending recovery to baseline.

No primary restoration actions are considered necessary for the fish and invertebrate, and seabird injuries. However, the trustees have identified projects as compensation for an acute kill of fish, invertebrates, and seabirds. The trustees would create mangrove habitat in order to provide the fish and invertebrate biomass that was lost.

To replace the estimated bird losses, the trustees have identified projects aimed at saving birds from future injury. The trustees would install signs at a fishing pier advising anglers not to cut their lines and demonstrating how to free birds from fishing lines and hooks, which would prevent entanglement and provide seabird rescue in the event of entanglement.

The impacted recreational beaches were returned to baseline conditions through incident response actions, however there was a period of lost use during the response phase. The recommended compensatory restoration projects are to plant sea oats to build dunes, construct dune walkovers, provide handicapped carts, and provide shade areas that together would maintain beaches for future use, provide access to the beach, and improve the quality of the beach experience.

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Dated: June 12, 2002.

Jamison S. Hawkins,

Deputy Assistant Administrator for Ocean Services and Coastal Zone Management.

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[FR Doc. 02-15866 Filed 6-21-02; 8:45 am]