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#06-156 June 19, 2006

Construction of oil-spill response facility for waterbirds underway

Construction got underway in late spring for a permanent $1.8 million facility near Awendaw for the treatment of waterbirds in the event of an oil spill.

Funds for the project were collected as a result of a guilty plea for an oil spill off the coast of Charleston in 1999. The S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) on behalf of the Natural Resource Trustees (consisting of DNR, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and the S.C. Office of the Governor) signed a contract with International Center for Birds of Prey near Awendaw to construct the Oil Spill Response Facility.

Find out more about the International Center for Birds of Prey on its Web site at http://internationalbirdsofprey.org/ or call (843) 928-3494. You can also read the Final Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan/ Environmental Assessment on the oil spill (PDF required) at http://www.dnr.sc.gov/marine/pub/StarEvvivaFinal.pdf.

The project consists of constructing and maintaining a combined use avian center for the purposes of treating and rehabilitating oiled and injured waterbirds and other avian wildlife. The facility will be located on the International Center for Birds of Prey property near Awendaw and will have treatment space with necessary supplies and equipment to treat 400 injured or oiled birds a year for 10 years.  It will also have the capability to treat about 100 to150 birds during an individual oil spill.

The complex will include a number of facilities when completed such as:

An annual report will be provided to the Natural Resources Trustees detailing bird treatment operations and facility operational readiness.

“I was pleased to play a role in the project,” said state Rep. Chip Limehouse of Charleston, who was instrumental in securing funds. “South Carolina is fortunate to be home to such an extraordinary facility. Our efforts will go a long way toward protecting and preserving hawks, eagles, falcons and other raptors. These magnificent birds play a vital role in maintaining the delicate balance in an ecosystem and the environment.”

A Norwegian shipping company pleaded guilty back in 2003 for the January 1999 spilling of nearly 24,000 gallons of fuel oil from the cargo ship “Star Evviva” around 30 to 50 miles off the coast of Charleston. The release is considered the largest offshore oil spill in the history of South Carolina. More than 190 birds, mostly loons, washed ashore from Folly Beach to Topsail Beach, N.C., as the “Star Evviva” made its way from Savannah, Ga., to Baltimore, Md.

A federal judge sentenced Billabong II ANS shipping line in 2003 to a criminal fine of $200,000 and ordered payment of an additional $300,000 to a wildlife fund. The company, in a separate civil consent order, also agreed to pay $2 million for the environmental cleanup.
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