RIGS TO REEFS, AND THE WASHINGTON ADMINISTRATION’S “IDLE IRON” POLICY

“In addition, working with these same associations we have been able to have legislation approved to stop all funding of the National Ocean Policy. With information provided by NACO Vice president Tom Becker and other Board members, Mike Holmes and Mike Nugent (Port Aransas, TX), we have been successful in having the Gulf Council, NMFS, and Congress look into the issue of removing offshore platforms that provide real habitat for most fish species in the Gulf and to stop or limit these removals. Much progress has been made and work is ongoing.”

The above is from the “President’s Message” from the president of the National Charterboat Operator’s Association President Bob Zales, Destin, Florida, stating to members what the organization feels in accomplished in the past year. My part in this, other than contacting elected representatives on the state and national level, was to get the word out through articles and news items in some of the magazines I write for on a regular basis. Mike Nugent and I (along with Bob Zales) served on the Migratory Pelagics (mackerel) Advisory Panel to the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council together for several years, and Mike was responsible both for my joining NACO, and running for the Board of Directors. Mike and the Port Aransas Boatmen’s association have actively and successfully supported a rigs to reefs policy in their area for many years. The action that precipitated our recent efforts was when the current administration in Washington changed regulations on removing old oil rigs in the Gulf. Previously, non-producing rigs were allowed to remain standing as long as the rig owner held the lease on that block, and for one year after that lease expired.  The Obama administration’s new Bureau of Ocean Energy deemed it necessary for a rig to be removed when it has been out of service for 5 years, period. This was a knee-jerk reaction to the BP Horizon oil leak – which was NOT an out-of-service rig.

The new regs would affect 3500 non-producing wells in the Gulf, requiring them to  be immediately capped in preparation for future removal, plus 650 rigs that would have to be removed ASAP. This would result in a major loss of fish habitat in the Gulf, at a time when such habitat is sorely needed. Rigs are removed by explosive charges placed on the “legs”, which also kill any fish, turtles, or marine mammals in the immediate area.

Estimates are that the rigs scheduled for removal represent 800 acres of fish habitat, and provide 5,560 full time jobs in the fishing and diving industries for a total loss of $324 million annually. Added to this is the projected expense of as much as $500 million to remove the rigs. Additionally, it could cost $7.3 billion to replace the coral reef habitat destroyed in removing these rigs. This is partly why the Hell Divers Club of Louisiana says on it’s website that the Gulf of Mexico is the only place in the world where it is legal to dynamite living coral reefs.

Rep. Steve Southerland, Fla. (again) and a coalition of other lawmakers have all but halted rig removal legislation. They want an “Idle Iron” policy that allows rigs to remain standing, with oil producers supporting a fund which will take care of maintenance, navigation markers, and environmental remediation, so that our favorite rigs will still be over the horizon when we leave port for a day of fishing.


About MikeH

Texas hunter and fisherman for 50 years, published outdoor writer since 1979, licensed charter boat operator from 1982 to 2013. Past Member, Board of Directors, National Association of Charterboat Operators, current member Environmental Advisory Committee to the DOE and the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Married to Dorothy since 2000, one son, Michael who is recently married and living in Nederland, Texas. My wife and I live in Oyster Creek, Texas, near Freeport, and have a hunting property outside of Brazoria, Texas.
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