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Case: Buzzards Bay/Bouchard 120, MA

Date of incident:

April 27, 2003.


Buzzards Bay in Massachusetts and nearby coastal waters in Rhode Island


Case status:

NOAA and co-trustee agencies including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Commonwealth of Massachusetts and State of Rhode Island have released the Final Programmatic Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment for the B-120 Buzzards Bay Oil Spill. This plan includes using $4.25 million in settlement funds for 19 projects in MA and RI to address shoreline and aquatic resource injuries and lost recreational coastal access and uses.

Projects include marsh restoration, conservation mooring installation, dam removal, walking trails and access improvements, land acquisition for public access and use, boat ramp reconstruction and multiple municipal projects for restoring or enhancing quahog, bay scallop, and oyster populations and recreational shellfishing.

Draft Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment released for public comment.


On April 27, 2003, Bouchard Barge 120 hit an obstacle in Buzzards Bay, creating a 12-foot rupture in its hull and spilling an estimated 98,000 gallons of No. 6 oil. The oil is known to have affected more than 98 miles of shoreline, aquatic intertidal and subtidal habitats, numerous bird species, and public recreational uses of the Bay, such as shellfishing, general shoreline use, and boating. The Oil Pollution Act (OPA) charges NOAA, USFWS, the states, and Indian tribes—collectively known as Trustees—with evaluating the environmental and cultural impacts resulting from oil spills.

While response agencies worked to contain and clean up the oil, the natural resource Trustees initiated a natural resource damage assessment (NRDA). NOAA, as the lead administrative Trustee for the Buzzards Bay oil spill, is coordinating Trustee efforts. Bouchard Transportation Company, the responsible party (RP) that owns and was operating the barge (B-120) at the time of the spill, has been cooperating with the Trustees and assisting with Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) activities. In May 2011, a settlement was reached regarding a portion of the natural resource injuries including piping plover, shoreline and aquatic resources, and natural resource uses. An injury assessment continues for some of the bird injuries and settlement negotiations for these injuries are forthcoming.

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