BELLE CHASSE — A coastal Louisiana parish, damaged in the great oil spill, finally reached a settlement with the oil company after seven years.
Plaquemines Parish received a $45 million settlement from BP after their Deepwater Horizon Macondo oil drilling rig exploded in 2010. The 87-day disaster killed 11 people in what was the largest marine oil spill in U.S. history. In 2015, BP reached an $20.8 billion agreement with five coastal states and federal and local governments, but the Plaquemines Parish opted out because it believed the amount wasn’t adequate.
“We expected (the $45 million) or even more,” Vince Frelich, director of Plaquemines Parish Coastal Restoration, told the Louisiana Record. “We had been working on a settlement for years but the figures didn’t add up for us. We had thousands of acres of (damaged) land and property and it wasn’t a fair share to us. So, even at $45 million, we settled for it, but I felt like we should have gotten more.”
Located at the southeastern end of Louisiana, the parish protrudes into the gulf and the damage affected every aspect of life in the area. Considered ground zero for the oil spill, the parish spent $18 to $30 million combating the spill, and millions more were lost in revenue, equipment and property damage.
“The money is going help us with infrastructure,” Frelich said. “We’ve had water (problems) since Katrina, so we’ve been working on building another water system and (updating) the drainage and sewer systems and our levees. That’s one of our most important (projects) for the public at this time.”
Those goals are achievable, but coastal restoration is more of a losing battle, he said. The fragile marshes that acted as a storm barrier were destroyed after Katrina and the Horizon disaster and are more difficult to restore, according to documents in the Plaquemines Parish Comprehensive Master Plan.
“In 50 years, we’ll lose 2,000 miles of coastline so (no matter how much we build) we’re still on the losing end,” he said. “We’re trying to do everything we can to do a natural restoration rather than depending on dredging. We’ll use the river in some places and try to build acreage that way and use diversion and so forth.”
Frelich said it’s going take years to recover and that the parish is looking at a restoration plan that will last half a century.
“We’re measuring the land loss versus the land that we’re going to build,” he said. “It’s a maintenance thing. You just have to keep building and hope for the best.”
The parish’s school board received $10.5 million and its ports received $155,300 in the 2015 settlement. Parish President Amos Cormier III announced the settlement on Tuesday and will hold a press conference on May 17 to disclose further details of the settlement.