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Research vessel at the Taylor Energy oil spill site offshore of Louisiana pre-containment. Photo courtesy of NOAA.

Fossil Fuels

6 Polluted Waterways Slated For Restoration

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Courtesy of The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

On July 23, 2008, the chemical tanker Tintomara collided with fuel barge DM932 on the Mississippi River, near New Orleans, Louisiana. Shown here is an aerial view of the resulting oil spill. (U.S. Coast Guard)

Good news for a new year! In 2022, NOAA helped to recover over $114 million from polluters to restore six waterways following oil spill and industrial pollution incidents.

NOAA and partners worked to assess the impacts of these incidents and reach legal settlements with those responsible to fund restoration. In the past 30 years, NOAA and co-trustees have helped recover $10.6 billion for restoration across the country.

1. Coming 2024: Green space for underserved communities in New Jersey

Graphic showing proposed development of the East Newark Riverfront Natural Resource Restoration Project. (BASF)

The Lower Passaic River has a long history of industrial contamination. Over time, more than 70 facilities released dioxins and other pollutants into this urban waterway.

But there’s some good news for the Lower Passaic: a $73.5 million settlement will help fund a new 5-acre park to benefit underserved communities disproportionately impacted by industrial pollution. Forests, pollinator gardens and a riverfront walkway are expected to open for the public in spring 2024.

2. Restoration efforts planned in the Gulf after 19-year oil spill

Research vessel at the Taylor Energy oil spill site offshore of Louisiana pre-containment. (NOAA)

During Hurricane Ivan in 2004, Taylor Energy’s MC20 oil production platform collapsed and sank in the Gulf of Mexico. To this day, crude oil continues to discharge from the well site. A containment system installed in 2019 now prevents most of the oil from entering the ocean.

A $16.5 million settlement will enable restoration efforts by funding fisheries and supporting communities in the Gulf of Mexico. NOAA and partners will continue to work with the U.S. Coast Guard’s National Pollution Funds Center to support restoration efforts as needed.

3. Protecting ecosystems and communities in coastal Texas

Federal and local agency workers help clean up the beaches affected by oil spill on March 27, 2014. Cleanup efforts continue for the Texas City “Y” response, which resulted from a collision between a bulk carrier and a barge Saturday in the Houston Ship Channel. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ivan J. Barnes)

Following a 2014 vessel collision near Texas City, an estimated 168,000 gallons of oil spilled into Galveston Bay. NOAA will work with coastal communities and partners to use a $15.3 million settlement to help ecosystems and communities in Texas recover.

Settlement funds will be used for projects benefiting bird nesting habitats, shorelines, bottlenose dolphins, outdoor recreation and other restoration efforts.

4. Preserving 650 acres of marsh and forest near New Orleans

Aerial photo of Mississippi River near New Orleans, Louisiana, with oiling from Barge DM932 Oil Spill. (NOAA)

In 2008, an oil spill contaminated over 100 miles of the Mississippi River and wetlands near New Orleans. In addition to harming wildlife and wetlands, the spill closed waterways and interfered with critical channel dredging.

NOAA and partners sprang into action. In addition to securing a $5.3 million restoration settlement, more than 650 acres of wetlands and coastal woodlands were acquired for a local organization, Woodlands Conservancy, to create a nature preserve to protect marshland from development and enhance communities.

5. Restoring Pearl Harbor in Hawaii

Satellite image of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. (NASA)

Working waterways provide important coastal habitats — they also face development and pollution challenges. Restoration projects will work to remove invasive species and bolster habitats in Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii.

The Oahu Sugar Company Ltd. operated sugar cane fields and leased land at Pearl Harbor. Over the years, storage and use of fertilizers and herbicides released contaminants into the environment. A $2.5 million settlement will help this working waterway recover from pollution.

6. Reviving the Delaware River

Over several decades, the scrap metal and electrical recycling facility Metal Bank leached contaminants into Philadelphia’s Delaware River. A $535,193 settlement marks a step in a healthier direction for communities and ecosystems on this urban waterway.

NOAA will work in partnership with co-trustees and the public on a restoration plan for the Delaware River. The plan will help urban fisheries, including endangered Atlantic and Shortnose sturgeon, recover after decades of pollution.

For more information on our work restoring waterways after pollution please visit NOAA’s Damage Assessment, Remediation, and Restoration Program website and use our interactive map to see where we work.

Related story: The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Restoration Is Still Ongoing

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