Long a scourge to environmentalists, California’s offshore oil rigs may be transformed into ecological trophies.
A dozen or more of the state’s 27 offshore platforms could be decommissioned in the next decade. Rather than tearing them down, many would like to preserve the incidental artificial reefs – and the enriched marine habitat – that have formed on their underwater pilings.
And up top?
How about windmills? Dive hotels? Sea farms? Marine research centers? Or simply lop them off 85 feet below the ocean surface, leaving the base for fish and the recreational fishermen who hunt them?
“We’re limited only by our imaginations,” said Jerry Schubel, president of Long Beach’s Aquarium of the Pacific. The aquarium is hosting a conference that started Sunday, Jan. 12 and continues through Tuesday, Jan. 14 to explore those possibilities along with the logistics, science and potential conflicts of what’s ahead.
Unresolved issues include who would maintain the repurposed structures and what would happen to the hundreds of millions of dollars oil companies would save by not needing to remove the rigs once they’ve finished their life cycles as oil derricks, said Betty Yee, the state controller and chairwoman of the California Lands Commission, which oversees decommissioning of offshore rigs.
“Most significantly, what is best for the ocean’s health?” she said. “The decision will be controversial. Many believe the oil companies should remove all of the platforms and not leave their trash on the bottom of the ocean floor. … There will be plenty of debates.”
Successful reuse of the platforms could help the coastal economy, which has seen 6% annual growth since 2005 with tourism and recreation the top economic drivers, Yee said. That was markedly stronger than the overall state economy growth rate of 4% over that time, she said.
The boost to the state’s blue economy could be especially timely as sea level rise gnaws away at recreational options, Schubel said.
“Our beaches will be compressed and many will be gone altogether,” he said.
The four platforms in state waters – within 3 miles of the shore – and 23 beyond that in federal waters are located in a stretch of ocean reaching from Orange County to Santa Barbara County. Twelve of the platforms are not currently producing oil and there are no current plans to put any of them back online, said John B. Smith, a decommissioning consultant for TSB Offshore.
The platform known as Holly, in state waters offshore of Santa …read more
Source:: Dailynews – News