Six federal and state agencies today announced a final plan for spending $32.3 million to alleviate environmental damage caused by the 2007 Cosco Busan spill of more than 53,000 gallons of fuel oil into the San Francisco Bay.
The money for the natural resources restoration comes from a $44 million settlement reached between the agencies and the container ship’s owner, Regal Stone Ltd., and operator, Fleet Management Ltd., both based in Hong Kong.
The settlement of a series of civil lawsuits filed by government agencies was announced last year and finalized on Jan. 27 when it was signed by U.S. District Judge Samuel Conti of San Francisco.
In addition to providing the $32.3 million for resource restoration, the settlement repaid state, federal and local governments for their costs of responding to the spill and assessing damage.
The natural resources plan released today includes $5 million for restoring bird life, $4 million for improving bird habitat in marshes and mudflats, $2.5 million for restoring fish and eelgrass and $18.8 million for improving recreational use of the bay and beaches.
Approximately $2 million is set aside for administration and oversight.
The six agencies that prepared the plan are the California Department of Fish and Game, the State Lands Commission and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, and Bureau of Land Management.
The 902-foot Cosco Busan struck a fender of a Bay Bridge support pier in heavy fog while en route from the Port of Oakland to South Korea on Nov. 7, 2007.
The ship sustained a 212-foot gash and spilled 53,569 gallons of heavy bunker fuel into the bay, according to the Coast Guard.
The agencies’ plan said the spill killed 6,849 birds, caused a loss of 14 to 29 percent of herring spawn that winter and deposited oil on 3,367 acres of shoreline habitat.
It also caused a loss of more than one million days of recreational activities such as boating and fishing in the bay and walking, jogging and picnicking along the shore, the agencies said.
Compensation for the lost recreational use could include improvements to beach and waterfront access, piers, parks and trails, the report said. The recreational improvements will be carried out by the National Park Service, the two state agencies and the cities of San Francisco and Richmond, according to the plan.
In separate criminal proceedings, Fleet Management was ordered in 2010 to pay a $10 million fine and pilot John Cota was sentenced in 2009 to 10 months in prison.
Julia Cheever, Bay City News