Sen. Vitter to DOI: Don’t scrap old rig. Let it stay as artificial reef

Louisiana’s U.S. Sen. David Vitter has sent a letter to Sally Jewell, Secretary of the Department of the Interior, asking that the Department allow a collapsed structure to remain serving as an artificial reef in the Gulf of Mexico.

“Decommissioned, idle platforms that develop into artificial reefs are becoming an indispensable resource for aquatic life in the Gulf of Mexico,” said Vitter. “While this particular site has yet to obtain official status as an artificial reef site, the thriving ecosystem that has grown around it is already playing an important role in growing and sustaining our Gulf fisheries. The Administration should back off and allow it to prosper.”

Currently, Interior is mandating the removal of the Freeport McMoran Oil & Gas’s Ewing Banks 947A structure, which, Vitter claims, would disrupt the ecosystem that has been built around it. The rig was destroyed in 2008 when Hurrican Ike hit the Gulf of Mexico Region.

ew_947A_pre-ike
Ewing Banks 947A Pre-Ike

The State of Louisiana has requested that they exempt this rig from being removed so it can remain as a habitat for marine life. Interior denied the request and Vitter is asking them to reconsider.

In May 2013, In May 2013, at the beginning of this Congress, Vitter introduced S. 1079, the Artificial Reef Promotion Act, which would increase the utilization of decommissioned Gulf platforms as artificial reefs, as part of the Rigs to Reefs program.

The Artificial Reef Promotion Act requires that twenty new reef planning areas be established after a year of enactment, including six off each of the coasts of Texas and Louisiana, three off the coasts of Mississippi and Alabama, and five off of the coast of Florida.

In his letter, Vitter asked the Administration to provide detailed reasoning to reject Louisiana’s request for exemption.

He wrote: “As you may know, EW-947A is a 4-pile structure located in federal waters, 70 miles offshore at a depth of 477’. Currently, the structure is no longer standing as it was toppled when Hurricane Ike came through the Gulf region in 2008. Since its collapse, parts of the structure, including the deck and debris have been removed, with only the jacket and several stubs remaining. While the inadvertent toppling of the structure is regrettable, one positive outcome has been the increase in marine life that has begun using it as a habitat.

The development of marine reefs with significant biodiversity is an unintended benefit of many of the idle rigs remaining in the Gulf of Mexico. Artificial reefs are becoming an indispensable resource for our Gulf fisheries. While this particular site has yet to obtain official status as an artificial reef site, the ecosystem that it has created and supported around it is already playing an important role in growing and sustaining our Gulf fisheries.

“It is important that extra consideration be given to the request made by the State of Louisiana, and I ask that you please do so.” Vitter wrote in his letter.

 

BSEE: Too risky
However, in response to a similar request to exempt  EW-947A from scrapping, in May this year, The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) said that allowing toppled structures into the Rigs to Reefs program “introduces too many ‘unknowns’ and risks for which our agency will be responsible; especially since we are officially ‘waiving’ a regulatory requirement to allow the material to remain in the marine environment.
“By not allowing toppled facilities into the Rigs to Reefs program, BSEE can eliminate several problematic uncertainties related to site contamination and instability issues, and avoid the appearance of impropriety associated with a de-facto “ocean dumping” program. Based on our data of the site the risks associated with leaving the structure in place outweigh the risks of total removal,”  the BSEE said.
Offshore Energy Today Staff, August 26, 2014

 

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