Texas Seeks BP Settlement Money to Build Artificial Reefs

Photo by U.S. Coast Guard via Getty Images

Fire boat response crews battle the blazing remnants of the offshore oil rig Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico on April 21, 2010 near New Orleans, Louisiana.

Texas has announced five projects it hopes to fund with money from a settlement from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. Three of them would aid in building artificial reefs along the Texas Gulf Coast — something that could prove a boon to the fishing industry and tourism.

While Texas was not hit as hard by the oil spill as neighboring Louisiana, its commercial fisheries have suffered in recent years. The spill impacted fishing and tourism in the Gulf. Then in 2011, the state delayed opening its oyster fisheries because of red tide associated with that year’s massive drought. Increased rainfall later put oysters back on the menu, but the precarious future of Texas oysters prompted Parks and Wildlife to boost construction of artificial reefs that can encourage oyster growth.

The three reef projects announced this week include:

  • “Texas Artificial Reef off the Mid or Upper Coast” (Jefferson or Nueces County): This project would place artificial reef structures offshore if the necessary large-scale materials are available. Either that, or it would enhance existing, permitted nearshore reef sites using constructed, stable and clean materials. Artificial reefs are used by fishermen and scuba divers as recreational areas because of the aquatic community that develops in reef habitat. Estimated cost: $1.8 million.
  • “Brazoria Near shore Artificial Reef Artificial Reef Enhancement” (Brazoria County): This project would enhance a nearshore reef site off Freeport. Estimated cost: $2 million.
  • “Matagorda Nearshore Artificial Reef” (Matagorda County): This project would include construction of a new near shore artificial reef off of Matagorda. Estimated cost: $3.5 million.

The state is also seeking over $10 million for redevelopment at Galveston Island State Park and and additional $210,000 for Sea Rim State Park.

BP and the Natural Resource Damage Assessment trustees — a group overseeing restoration projects — have reached a conditional agreement on funding the projects. But final approval won’t come until after a public comment period, including public meetings in Texas.

A TPWD department spokesperson said those meetings weren’t set yet, but would likely be held this summer in Galveston and Port Author.

As part of legal negotiations with states impacted by the massive oil spill, BP agreed to provide up to $1 billion to fund Gulf restoration projects. While federal and state governments’ case against BP continues, the oil company has already agreed to begin paying out money for projects “to speed the start of restoration before the injury assessment process is completed,” according to a statement from TPWD.

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