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Environment: $627 million restoration plan finalized to repair some of the damage from the Deepwater Horizon disaster

Barrier islands, shorelines, dunes, underwater grasses and oyster beds targeted for restoration

A NASA satellite image shows the oil slick from the Deepwater Horizon disaster spreading across the northern Gulf of Mexico in late May, 2010.

A NASA satellite image shows the oil slick from the Deepwater Horizon disaster spreading across the northern Gulf of Mexico in late May, 2010.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Nearly four years after BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling operation disastrously failed and spewed millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, NOAA and its partners have finalized a $627 million restoration plan. The formal record of decision released last week authorizes 44 projects to restore barrier islands, shorelines, dunes, underwater grasses and oyster beds.

This announcement marks the largest suite of Gulf early restoration projects selected thus far in the wake of the 2010 oil spill. The projects aim to address a range of injuries to natural resources and the subsequent loss of recreational use. Details of restoration efforts are outlined in the Final Programmatic and Phase III Early Restoration Plan and Early Restoration Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement. Continue reading

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Study: Recreational boats a big source of oil pollution along Canada’s Pacific coastline

Shrimp boats moored along Apalachicola Bay, Florida.

Shrimp boats moored along Apalachicola Bay, Florida.

Daily low-level leaks add up

Staff Report

FRISCO —Recreational boating has become a major source of oil pollution along Canada’s coast. The spills and leaks are posing a major threat to marine ecosystems in the Pacific according to University of Calgary researchers who analyzed patterns of oil pollution off the coast.

The findings were compiled from data gathered by a National Aerial Surveillance Program with the use of remote sensing devices. The scientists concluded that oil from recreational boats polluting the ocean along the British Columbia coast more than oil tankers and commercial cargo ships. Continue reading

Study documents ‘heartbreak’ after Gulf oilspill

Former Breckenridge resident Andy Cook, who owned and operated Ma's Po Boy restaurant on Park Avenue, cleans a yellowfin tuna he caught in the rich fishing waters near the mouth of the Mississippi River, just off Venice, Louisiana.

Former Breckenridge resident Andy Cook cleans a yellowfin tuna he caught in the rich fishing waters at the mouth of the Mississippi River near Venice, Louisiana. bberwyn photo.

Exposure to PAHs disrupts basic cellular function of heart muscles

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — When BP’s failed Deepwater Horizon drill rig spewed millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, scientists immediately began documenting impacts to natural resources, finding dead corals on the seafloor, sick dolphins in Barataria Bay and remnant oil in the splash zone along Florida beaches.

Even low levels of oil pollution can damage the developing hearts of fish embryos and larvae, reducing the likelihood that those fish will survive. Scientists have known of this effect for some time, but the underlying mechanism has remained elusive.

But recent research by scientists with NOAA and Stanford University, shows how oil-derived chemicals disrupt the normal functioning of the heart muscle cells of fish. The findings, published in the Feb. 14 issue of Science, describe how toxic oil-based chemicals disrupt cardiac function in young bluefin and yellowfin tuna by blocking ion channels in their heart muscle cells. Continue reading

U.S. Rep. Polis asks for congressional hearing on toxic spills after Colorado floods

State officials tracking numerous flood-related spills

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A Sept. 17 Landsat 8 image shows South Platte River flooding near Greeley, Colorado. For more information on this image, please visit this NASA Earth Observatory website.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A spate of potentially dangerous spills from oil and gas producing facilities resulting from recent flooding in Colorado may be scrutinized under a congressional spotlight.

Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO) and Ranking Member of the House Natural Resources Committee Peter DeFazio (D-OR) hav asked the House Resources Committee to hold a hearing on oil and gas spills caused by the recent catastrophic floods in Colorado. 

“Not only have my constituents been dealing with damage to their homes, schools, and roads, they are increasingly concerned about the toxic spills that have occurred from the flooding of nearly 1,900 fracking wells in Colorado,” Polis said. “Congress must deal with this issue to ensure that natural disasters do not also become public health disasters.” Continue reading

Sea-bottom ecosystems hit by 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster could take decades to recover

Study finds extensive loss of biodiversity

One of the impacted corals with attached brittle starfish. Although the orange tips on some branches of the coral is the color of living tissue, it is unlikely that any living tissue remains on this animal. PHOTO COURTESY Lophelia II 2010, NOAA OER and BOEMR.

One of the impacted corals with attached brittle starfish. Although the orange tips on some branches of the coral is the color of living tissue, it is unlikely that any living tissue remains on this animal. PHOTO COURTESY Lophelia II 2010, NOAA OER and BOEMR.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — It will probably take decades for the sea-bottom ecosystem to recover from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, researchers reported this week in the journal PLoS One, after finding that the spill affected sea-bottom biodiversity across 57 square miles around the wellhead, with the most severe impacts in a nine-square mile area.

Previous studies had also shown that the oil spill had damaging effects on deep-sea corals miles from the blown out Macondo Well. The failed well leaked an estimated 160 million gallons of oil into the sea in the spring and summer of 2010. An early survey of nine sites more than 12 miles from the Macondo Well found deep-water coral communities unharmed. But a followup dive by a remotely operated submarine about six miles southwest of the spill discovered numerous coral communities covered in a brown flocculent material and showing signs of tissue damage.

“The tremendous biodiversity of meiofauna in the deep-sea area of the Gulf of Mexico we studied has been reduced dramatically,” said Jeff Baguley,  University of Nevada, Reno expert on small invertebrates livING in both marine and fresh water. “Nematode worms have become the dominant species at sites we sampled that were impacted by the oil. So though the overall number of meiofauna may not have changed much, it’s that we’ve lost the incredible biodiversity.” Continue reading

Environment: Researchers still tracking oil leaks from the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico

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A massive slick from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill spreads across the Gulf of Mexico in July 2010. Photo courtesy NASA.

Oil ‘fingerprinting’ technique shows the oil is likely from the wreckage of the sunken drill rig

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Chemical fingerprints show that oil sheens in the Gulf of Mexico are probably from pockets of oil trapped within the wreckage of the sunken Deepwater Horizon drilling rig. Both the Macondo well and natural oil seeps common to the Gulf of Mexico were confidently ruled out by researchers from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the University of California, Santa Barbara. The study was published online this week in Environmental Science & Technology.

The oil sheens were first reported to the United States Coast Guard by BP in mid-September 2012, raising public concern that the Macondo well, which was capped in July 2010, might be leaking.

“It was important to determine where the oil was coming from because of the environmental and legal concerns around these sheens. First, the public needed to be certain the leak was not coming from the Macondo well, but beyond that we needed to know the source of these sheens and how much oil is supplying them so we could define the magnitude of the problem,” said WHOI chemist Chris Reddy. Continue reading

Colorado: USFS permits ‘Mad Max’ camp site at Officer’s Gulch

Logging company leaves numerous spills, damaged vegetation

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Fuel containers used by a logging crew at Officers Gulch have been leaking. So far, the cleanup has consisted of dumping sawdust on top of the spill. Bob Berwyn photo.

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Fuel leakage from a generator at Officers Gulch.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Forest Service officials with the Dillon Ranger District said they will investigate several small oil spills at a long-term logging camp at the abandoned campground at Officers Gulch.

The agency authorized the logging crew’s stay at the site, where several people lived in campers most of the winter and stored equipment and fuel. In one area, diesel fuel leakage from an old generator spilled off the pavement and into the forest and other spills of unknown materials are visible in the camping area.

In other places, numerous limbs were slashed off young lodgepole pines, presumably to give large trucks room to maneuver in and out. In other spots, snowplows used to clear access to the site in the winter uprooted willow bushes and broke down other trees. Continue reading

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