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Natural Resource Damage Assessment: Methods and Cases

Natural Resource Damage Assessment: Methods and Cases

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and translate that into marsh acre-years. They then calculated how long it will probably take the damaged resources to recover. Texaco then offered to create new marshland so that the present value of the acre-years of new marsh would compensate for the present value of the acre-years lost. To calculate the number of aquatic animals and birds killed by the spill, the trustees and Texaco agreed to use models to estimate the figure based on the amount of oil spilled, rather than attempt to count carcasses. They decided not to try to count because it would be expensive. Moreover, a count would likely be inaccurate because of the difficulty of finding dead animals in the lake and marsh and because of the difficulty of knowing whether variations in plankton counts were caused by the spill or by other factors. In addition, the small number of dead birds and marine animals found during the containment and cleanup indicated that the loss of life was relatively small. The trustees estimated that the spill killed 7,650 kg of marine biomass and 333 birds. Texaco estimated that the numbers were significantly smaller. However, because the trustees found that Texaco’s restoration offer was more than sufficient to compensate for the high estimate, there was no need to resolve that disagreement. To calculate the amount of marshland services lost, the trustees and Texaco conducted a joint field study in July and October of 1997 and in June of 1998. Based on these studies and on observations of the size and shape of the oil slick during the containment and cleanup, they divided the damage to marshland into four categories of severity and estimated the amount of marsh in each category. Based on that, they then estimated the amount of acre-years of marsh services lost to the spill. The total damage to marshland in acre-years was estimated at 75.6. The trustees determined that human use of the area was not significantly affected, since alternative resources were easily available during the time the affected area was unavailable, and the cost of estimating any loss would probably outweigh the loss itself. The trustees did consider that there was some loss of human use in deciding on the appropriate compensation. To calculate how many acres of salt marsh grass Texaco should plant, the trustees considered several factors, including: the amount of time it would take the planted marsh to reach maturity, the amount of time it would take marsh grass to grow on the site through natural colonization, the fact that the grass will be planted in strips so that unplanted areas will be colonized by the planted grass, and the fact that the planted grass will prevent erosion and thus preserve the site. Texaco was required to plant enough grass so that the number of acre-years, discounted to present value, created on the site through Texaco’s efforts, minus the number of discounted acre-years that would arise naturally, equals the amount of acre-years of damage. The trustees calculated that Texaco must plant 18.6 acres. Settlement: Texaco agreed to implement a restoration project that consists of planting marsh grasses on 18.6 acres of East Timbalier Island and to pay approximately $480,000 to cover response and assessment costs. The trustees held public meetings and other consultations to consider what restoration projects would most effectively compensate for the damage. The trustees found that, because all of the directly affected area, except for 0.28 acres, was recovering rapidly, primary restoration 97

would be inefficient and unnecessary. The trustees decided that the best compensatory restoration would be to create new marshland, since such projects would create new habitats for the species of bird and aquatic animal that suffered losses because of the spill, and because such projects are cost effective and likely to succeed. References Federal Register. October 7, 1999 (Volume 64, Number 194), p. 54643. Louisiana Oil Spill Coordinators Office, Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan, Texaco Pipeline, Inc., Lake Barre, Louisiana, May 16, 1997. 1999. http://www.darp.noaa.gov/publicat.htm. 98

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