SALT LAKE CITY — Utah state parks officials say they figure Willard Bay's north campground and marina lost nearly a quarter of a million visitors due to a March fuel spill last year, but a settlement agreement with Chevron puts the park in better shape than it was before.
"Even though this has been obviously something that we would never want to have happen again, Chevron really stepped up to the plate and did a good job," said Jeff Rasmussen, deputy director of the Utah Division of Parks and Recreation. "We are better off than we were before this happened."
A final settlement agreement between Chevron and Utah regulators was announced Tuesday and includes a payout of $550,000 to the parks division because of the March 18 rupture of an 8-inch pipeline.
The ensuing spill of 21,000 gallons of diesel fuel swamped a beaver lodge and forced the closure of the north half of the park until late July — hampering Willard Bay's status as one of northern Utah's premier boating and fishing destinations.
Rasmussen said $475,000 of Chevron's payment reflects compensation for the loss of future visitors as well.
"It is what the overall impact will be over the next five years from people who may decide not to go to Willard Bay because of what they have heard," he said.
As part of the settlement, Chevron also agreed to pay $350,000 in civil penalties to the state Division of Water Quality and $4.45 million to fund mitigation projects that are above and beyond any cleanup actions by the company.
Chevron received credit for $719,000 in projects already completed at the state park and will also get a nod for a new $600,000 handicapped-accessible trail that will bolster the park's amenities.
Rasmussen said park officials are excited to showcase the new trail and will host a grand "reopening" of Willard Bay over Memorial Day weekend.
The division is now soliciting proposals for mitigation projects that will enhance the natural environment and benefit Utah residents. Acceptable mitigation projects include environmental projects, infrastructure improvements, and studies or educational activities/events which serve the purpose of protecting or improving water quality and/or the ecology of natural systems.
A two-phase process will be used to evaluate proposals and select projects for funding. Proposals must meet specified criteria and be submitted in the appropriate format. Requirements for proposals and application forms are available on the division's website.
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