KAPA’A — There was never any question that Tesoro Hawai’i Corp., the O’ahu
company responsible for an oil spill that closed Kaua’i East Side beaches and
left dozens of seabirds dead two years ago, would evetually compensate the
island for its losses.
The question was how and how much.
these questions, the Natural Resource Trustees who unveiled a proposed
Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment for the Tesoro oil spill
Wednesday night at a Kapa’a Library meeting attended by only one
To address the “how”, the trustees proposed a plan of ‘natural
recovery’ essentially acknowledging that the environment would best recover
when left to its’ own natural evolutionary process devoid of direct human
But proposed compensatory programs in the restoration plan will
help the island in other ways, as in protecting the Kaua’i’s shearwaters from
predators and cleaning up netting from East side beaches.
“How much” will
not be known for sure until the plan is passed by the trustees, although
Kathleen Ho from the Office of the state Attorney General estimates the price
tag to be over $500,000.
The trustees’ plan must address both primary and
compensatory types of restoration. Primary restoration refers to actions taken
that will restore the environment to its original state prior to the oil
Tesoro, however, will be held accountable for the damages already
encurred as a result of their oil spill.
The trustees, who consist of four
governmental agencies led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and include the
Hawai’i Department of Health, Hawai’i Department of Land and Natural Resources,
and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, spent the better part of
the last two years studying the oil spill effects on Kaua’i’s natural resources
and finding comparable compensatory actions.
The trustees’ plan provides
for restoration directed towards habitat protection and enhancement, and
various seabird projects.
The trustees acknowledge that it is impossible to
determine exact environmental losses thus when selecting appropriate
compensatory projects, they err on the side of caution.
Still, there is no
calculated formula to determine the compensation for an animal covered in crude
oil and the process becomes even more difficult when it is impossible to know
the exact number and species affected.
Dan Palawski, assistant field
supervisor of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, explained part of the
difficulty in assessing the Tesoro oil spill’s impact on Kaua’i’s wildlife was
that the oil traveled such a great distance before anyone realized the extent
of the spill. Therefore, it was impossible to know how many birds were covered
in oil at sea and unable to reach land. Also Kaua’i’s bird population has a
large foraging range and diverse nesting behavior making it difficult to
adequately assess the impact of the oil spill on an entire colony.
compensate for the birds killed by the oil spill, the Trustees propose
establishing predator control programs for affected bird populations on island.
The trustees cite studies showing that the decrease in the shearwater
population is largely due to predatory mammals, along with collisions into
The proposed plan calls for traps and toxicants used to
diminish the number of predatory animals, namely cats and rats, near the birds’
Likewise, another proposed project is to build a predator
control fence at Kilauea Point where many of the endangered birds
There were also 15 offshore islands that serve as bird sanctuaries
and may have been affected by the oil spill. Predator control methods and
habitat enhancement for these islands are also part of the proposed project to
compensate the injured bird populations.
The second part of the Trustees
proposal calls for the removal of abandoned fishing nets from the affected
habitats, namely the shoreline, inter-tidal, and sub-tidal areas affected by
the oil spill.
A 1999 helicopter survey of the coastline was supposed to
help assess the monk seal population possibly affected by the Tesoro spill.
Instead, 133 nets were observed, all of which pose a hazard to threatened and
endangered species. Thus, the net removal was deemed an appropriate restoration
project as it would improve the very area and animals injured as a result of
the Tesoro spill.
The final proposal by the Trustees provides $10,000 in
compensatory damages for recreational time lost at Fuji’i and Nukoli’i Beaches
due to the oil spill closure and clean-up. The money will be earmarked for
beach clean up and used, as the county deems appropriate.
plan solely addresses the environmental impact of the Tesoro oil spill and does
not include any economic compensation to businesses and individuals. According
to Tesoro Manager of Environmental Affairs, David Hoffman, Jr., the corporation
has already paid a total of $20,000 in claims. Tesoro also paid a total of
$76,000 in fines:$6,000 in fines as determined by a Coast Guard review
board, $15,000 in state civil penalty fines and another $55,000 towards an
environmental project as part of the company’s settlement with the
Nathan K. Hokama, Tesoro Communications Manager said Tesoro spent
another 2.5 million on the initial clean-up and Natural Resource Damage
Assessment fees which funded the studies used to determine the best
As the final stage in the drafting process, the
restoration plan is currently subject to public review and comments until July
10, 2000 after which time the plan will likely be finalized. A time frame has
yet to be established for Tesoro’s actual implementation of the plan, but Gary
Gill, Deputy Director for Environmental Health stated publicly that Tesoro has
been a compliant participant in responding to the oil spill and cooperating
with the government agencies in this drafting process.
comments concerning the restoration plan may be sent to Gail Siani, NOAA Office
of General Counsel, Natural Resources Northwest, 7600 Sand Point Way N.E.,
Seattle, Washington 98115-0070.
A complete copy of the restoration plan is
available at www.darcnw.noaa.gov/tesoro.htm
Under Hawai’i state laws, the
trustees serve as guardians of the environment and are responsible for
assessing damages and planning a restorative course of action for Tesoro to