Online dashboard provides critical information in efforts to turn platforms into reefs
The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) rolled out a new online tool this week that should make it easier for anglers, energy companies and state agencies to reef obsolete platforms and related structures in the Gulf of Mexico where they can continue to serve as valuable marine habitat. The powerful new dashboard will be open for public use and follows up on a promise made by the agency to provide stakeholders a way to better understand which structures may make the best candidates for reefing. Ideally, the dashboard will provide information on specific platforms that are greatly valued by anglers, divers or other stakeholders in order to promote reefing options with the structure’s owner.
“The technology unveiled by BSEE this week is really impressive and represents a tremendous amount of work by the agency. We are grateful to Director Scott Angelle and his team for their work to find workable solutions to the challenges of the Idle Iron Policy,” said David Cresson, executive director of CCA Louisiana. “As we have discovered in years of working to protect that priceless habitat, the issues are extremely complicated and details hard to come by. The new online tool is a great step to streamlining the process and helping to keep more of that structure in the water.”
The vast network of energy platforms in the Gulf of Mexico forms what is widely regarded as the largest man-made reef in the world, but due to a variety of liability issues and environmental concerns, federal regulations known as the Idle Iron Policy require that energy companies decommission the structures if they are unused for a period of years. Concerns over the loss of that priceless marine habitat have mounted in recent years as the pace of removals has increased while little new structure has been placed.
“Anglers often have a favorite platform or structure that is particularly productive that they have visited for years, and then between one trip and the next it disappears. To see what is obviously a thriving habitat removed suddenly is a very distressing thing to conservationists,” said Ted Venker, conservation director for CCA. “This database developed by the agency will allow anglers to know exactly where a structure is in the process. Not every structure is a good candidate for reefing for a host of different reasons, but now the angling public will be able to identify particularly significant ones and explore ways to save them as reefs if at all possible.”
“Decommissioned rigs already support a vibrant and thriving reef ecosystem so we’d like to see them reefed when it can be accomplished in a safe and environmentally friendly manner,” said CCA Texas Advocacy Director Shane Bonnot. “Having this tool is a game changer for anglers and state reefing programs to work with federal regulators and identify the platforms that are important to them for ecological, economic or recreational value.”
After a series of workshops and meetings with stakeholders in 2012, BSEE issued new policy guidance that encouraged the use of obsolete oil and gas structures as artificial reefs, and provided greater opportunities for reefing by adjusting a number of regulations. The policy reduced the five-mile buffer zone between reefing areas to two miles, allowed for reefing in place when appropriate in Special Artificial Reef Sites or SARS, and provided for extensions to regulatory decommissioning deadlines for companies pursuing a “Rigs to Reefs” proposal. The policy also stated that the use of explosives on platforms that are proposed for reefing will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, but will not be approved if analysis determines their use will cause harm to established artificial reef sites and/or natural biological features.
To view the dashboard, visit www.bsee.gov/what-we-do/environmental-focuses/decommissioning/offshore-infrastructure-dashboard.