In February, 1995, the tankers M/V Berge Banker and M/T Skaubay collided in the Galveston Lightering Area of the Gulf of Mexico while preparing to transfer crude oil (the Spill). The collision caused the Berge Banker to discharge approximately 845 barrels of Bunker C oil into the water. The oil traveled more than 150 miles before it was subsequently deposited as tar balls and mats on the beaches of Matagorda Peninsula, Mustang Island, and Padre Island. In 1999 the United States National Park Service (NPS) and United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), on behalf of the United States Department of the Interior, and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and Texas General Land Office, on behalf of the State of Texas, collectively referred to as the “Trustees,” entered into a Consent Decree that resolved their natural resource damage claims with the responsible parties. The $1,568,077 to the Trustees would be for the design, planning, permitting, implementation, monitoring, and oversight of restoration projects to compensate the public for the loss of natural resources and their services -- this includes birds, dune habitat, and recreational use. The settlement also compensated for costs incurred during oil spill response efforts and natural resource damage assessment activities.
The Trustees published the Final Restoration Plan/Environmental Assessment (RP/EA) in August, 2003. This plan proposed a number of restoration projects and selected seven for implementation:
· Mustang Island Acquisition/Preservation
· Dune Restoration/Preservation (Gulf Side)
· Restroom/Shower Facility
· Beach Pavilion at Fish Pass
· Master Plan for Mustang Island
· Shade Shelters and Picnic Tables
· Auditorium and First Aid Station Expansion
Of these projects, the Mustang Island Acquisition/Preservation project, the Beach Pavilion at Fish Pass (Gulf Side), the Master Plan for Mustang Island, and the Shade Shelters and Picnic Tables were completed as planned. The Dune Restoration/Preservation (Gulf Side) project is still in progress. The Auditorium and First Aid Station Expansion project was completed with some unavoidable alterations. The Restroom/Shower Facility was not implemented due to changing needs at Mustang Island State Park that became evident once the Master Plan for Mustang Island was prepared. Given all this, the fact that some projects came in under budget, the fact that not all the settlement funds for Lost and Diminished Recreational Use Services in Texas were apportioned to projects in the 2003 RP/EA, and the accrual over the years of interest earned on the settlement funds, significant funds remain to be spent on restoration.
A Draft Amendment to the August 2003 Final RP/EA was prepared in 2018 to spend the remaining funds. This Draft underwent public review and was finalized in August, 2019. Sixteen projects were selected for implementation, all within Mustang Island State Park. In the likely event that project cost estimates are not perfectly accurate, projects are prioritized so that projects will be implemented until all funds are spent. With the exception of a couple projects in areas under the jurisdiction of the Army Corps of Engineers, environmental compliance for these projects is complete.