Willard Bay oil spill settlement OKed; some skeptical

Willard Bay oil spill settlement OKed; some skeptical

Source: Standard-Examiner (Ogden, UT), February 5, 2014
Posted on: http://envfpn.advisen.com

Utah’s Water Quality Board has approved the $5.35 million Willard Bay Settlement Agreement between the Division of Water Quality, Division of Parks and Recreation and Chevron Pipe Line Co.

That approval finalizes an agreement requiring Chevron to pay a $350,000 civil penalty to DWQ, $550,000 in damages to Parks and Recreation for lost use of Willard Bay Park last year, and $4.45 million for mitigation projects above and beyond the fuel company’s cleanup efforts.

The settlement comes in response to a March 18, 2013 fuel spill near Willard Bay that resulted in about 500 barrels of diesel fuel fouling a marshy area and causing harm to beavers and other wildlife.

That approval triggered a 120-day period for people to submit proposals for projects to be funded by the $4.45 million.

Proposals will be accepted until 5 p.m. May 5. Utah DWQ Deputy Director John Whitehead said that proposal strength will depend on certain set criteria. “We’ll evaluate all proposals and rank them, and then the strongest ones will be funded,” Whitehead said.

How much of the funding stays at Willard Bay “depends on what comes in the door,” Whitehead added, since proposals can come from all over Utah as long as they will “enhance and protect waterways and environmental areas that may have been affected or related to the March 2013 release of diesel in the Willard Bay State Park.” a DWQ document stipulates.

Proposal criteria include improving wildlife, habitat and native vegetation, and benefiting Utah’s through infrastructure enhancements, educational and recreational opportunities.

To qualify, projects must reach completion up within four years.

Project strength will depend upon proximity to Willard Bay State Park, benefits to the natural environment, an increase in ecosystem services, social benefits, size, connectivity, the ability to leverage additional funds, effectiveness and administrative expenses.

For more information on proposal criteria, go to http://tinyurl.com/m33k8h3

During a 30-day public comment period that ended Jan. 16, DWQ received 29 responses concerning the settlement.

One comment lamented that the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah was not named among the settlement’s recipients. That Ogden-based center cared for six beavers injured by the spill.

The division responded that Chevron did pay the Center $89,571, but that it could also submit a proposal to tap some of the $4.45 million settlement.

Those comments and responses can be viewed here: http://tinyurl.com/p4c2grm.

A recently formed nonprofit called Friends of Willard Bay State Park hopes that the funding will stay in northern Utah to improve fishing, boating, birding, camping and other recreational opportunities within the 9,900-acre park.

“A lot of people throughout the state view this as free money and want a piece of it,” said Friends member Roland Roe.

Roe would prefer the dollars pay for projects directly related to water rather than funding construction of new buildings within the park itself.

For example, Friends established a 10-year plan that includes roadway upgrades on the park’s south and west sides that would allow access to Willard Bay dikes.

“That’s water-related because it opens up more fishing,” Roe said. “But a new administration building has no relation to the water.”

Roe predicts there will be disagreements and hurt feelings over how the money gets spent.

“And if they buy furniture with it, I will sue them myself,” Roe said.

Whitehead declined to “prognosticate” on what kind of requests would be submitted and granted, but said that once the division has ranked proposals in terms of project strength, final approval will fall to Walt Baker, who directs Utah’s Division of Water Quality.

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