Federal, State Natural Resource Agencies Receive $27.5 Million to Restore Delaware River Damaged by 2004 Oil Spill

November 15, 2010

M/V Athos I lists to port the day after the spill began.

M/V Athos I lists to port the day after the spill began.

(Credit: NOAA)

Federal and state agencies 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. NOAA, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as the states of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, collectively received the funds from the U.S. Coast Guard Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund for nine restoration projects. A typical Natural Resource Damage Assessment, or NRDA, can vary from a few months to many years, depending on its complexity.

“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.”

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, affecting habitats, aquatic life, birds and other wildlife over 280 miles of shoreline, as well as hindering recreational use of the river.

Under the 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. Because the damage exceeded the statutory limits of liability of the owners of Athos I, the trustees submitted a claim to the U.S. Coast Guard National Pollution Funds Center.  

Three days after the initial spill, an oil sheen can still be seen in the waters of the Delaware River.

Three days after the initial spill, an oil sheen can still be seen in the waters of the Delaware River.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

“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 Rowan Gould, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acting director. “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 Marvin Moriarty, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Northeast Regional director.

“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:

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and a trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit http://www.fws.gov.

More information about NOAA’s Damage Assessment Remediation and Restoration Program is online. NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Visit us on Facebook.