|Harrisburg, PA – The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) will receive approximately $1.3 million to restore habitat on a Delaware River tributary under an award from the U.S. Coast Guard Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund (OSLTF) stemming from a 2004 incident that dumped more than 250,000 gallons of crude oil into the river.
Overall, federal and state agencies have received $27.5 million to restore conditions for fish, birds, sensitive habitats, wildlife and recreational use of the Delaware River areas impacted in 2004 by an oil spill from the vessel Athos I. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware collectively have received the funds from the OSLTF for nine restoration projects.
“These funds will enhance a number of excellent restoration projects throughout the area affected by the spill,” said Pat Montanio, Director of NOAA’s Office of Habitat Programs. “From wetland enhancements to dam removals to shoreline improvements, these projects are designed to compensate the public for the loss of nature’s benefits following the spill.”
The PFBC’s portion of the payment will be used to remove three dams and a remnant bridge pier from Darby Creek, a tributary of the Delaware River in southeastern Pennsylvania, followed by restoration of nearby riparian – or bank – areas.
“Despite extraordinary work by state and federal agencies in the clean-up of the Athos 1 spill, the recovery of damages caused by oil spills is an important part of restoring our natural resources to a pre-spill condition,” said PFBC Executive Director John Arway. “Although no amount of money can fully compensate for the losses, this payment provides important funding for restoration projects that will benefit the aquatic resources of the Delaware River basin.”
The objective of the Darby Creek project is to improve stream health by restoring degraded habitat and associated plant and animal communities, according to Scott Carney, Chief of the PFBC Division of Habitat Management. The project also will decrease localized flooding during high water events.
“The Commission and various partners have already successfully removed about 15 dams in this general area and have documented resulting improvements to in-stream and riparian habitat conditions,” said Carney. “We expect to see similar results when we remove these three dams.”
The dams which are scheduled to be removed include a partially breached dam in Darby Borough, Hoffman Dam and a dam in Kent Park, all of which are in Delaware County. The engineering designs for the removals and associated improvements have been completed and state and federal permits have been obtained. Work is expected to begin this winter and be completed by early summer. American Rivers, a national river advocacy organization, and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection are partnering with the PFBC to advance this important project.
On Nov. 26, 2004, the Athos I, a large cargo vessel, struck a submerged anchor while preparing to dock in Paulsboro, N.J. The anchor punctured the hull, spilling nearly 265,000 gallons of crude oil into the Delaware River, which impacted more than 280 miles of shoreline, affecting habitats, aquatic life, birds and other wildlife, as well as hindering recreational use of the river.
Under the federal Oil Pollution Act, states and designated federal agencies are trustees that evaluate the damage to and loss of natural resources from an oil spill and restore the habitat and resources to pre-existing conditions. The owners of the Athos I exceeded oil spill liability limits established under the Act, so the trustees submitted a claim to the U.S. Coast Guard National Pollution Funds Center.
"We are very pleased that the Delaware River ecosystem damaged during the oil spill now has the resources for us to work with our partners to implement numerous restoration projects," said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Acting Director Rowan Gould. "Our goal is restore habitat for local fish and wildlife so future generations can enjoy the natural beauty of the Delaware River."
"This payment benefits the fish, birds and other wildlife of the Delaware River by restoring the marshes, shorelines, oyster reefs and other habitats wildlife depend upon," said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Northeast Regional Director Marvin Moriarty.
“These projects will benefit coastal communities and economies by providing green jobs during construction and creating new opportunities to enjoy the river and its wildlife,” said David Kennedy, Acting Assistant Administrator for NOAA’s National Ocean Service. “This funding also underscores the effectiveness of the Oil Pollution Act, and what state and federal partners can accomplish when they work closely together.”
The projects will include:
- Darby Creek dam removal and stream habitat restoration (Pa.)
- Freshwater tidal wetlands restoration at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge (Pa.)
- Shoreline restoration at Lardner’s Point (Pa.)
- Enhancing the recreational trail on Little Tinicum Island (Pa.)
- Habitat restoration (marsh, grassland, and meadow) at Mad Horse Creek Wildlife Management Area (N.J.)
- Improving the Stow Creek boat ramp (N.J.)
- Creation of oyster reefs (N.J., Del.)
- Blackbird Reserve Wildlife Area habitat restoration (pond and pasture enhancement) (Del.)
- Installation of a rock jetty at Augustine Boat Ramp to address ongoing shoaling immediately offshore of the boat ramp (Del.)
The mission of the Fish and Boat Commission is to protect, conserve, and enhance the Commonwealth’s aquatic resources and provide fishing and boating opportunities. For more information about fishing and boating in Pennsylvania, please visit our website at www.fishandboat.com.
Fish and Boat Commission