A Comparative Case Study Analysis Evaluating the Potential Success of a Rigs-to-Reefs Policy in Offshore California Waters given the Success of Similar Programs in the Gulf of Mexico

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2011-04-28

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California recently passed a bill that will allow the partial decommissioning of oil and gas platforms in place, with the lower half retained to function as an artificial reef. This policy overrides previously existing legislation requiring complete platform decommissioning following the termination of oil and gas production. The decision to implement this policy was motivated by the financial gains promised to the state in guidelines developed by the National Artificial Reef Plan, as well as by the success experienced by rigs-to-reefs programs in the Gulf of Mexico. This case study analysis evaluated programs in Louisiana, Texas, and California to determine the applicability of successful Gulf of Mexico policies to the situation in California. The study uncovered significant differences between the two regions that reduced comparability between programs. Platform habitat in the Gulf of Mexico is an essential component of the ecosystem and significantly increases the amount of available hard substrate habitat, which thereby increases resident reef fish populations and supports the commercial fishing industry. Conversely, platform habitat in California comprises an insignificant portion of the available hard substrate habitat, and research indicates that platform communities result from a combination of settlement by organisms in a pelagic dispersal phase and attraction of organisms from surrounding natural habitats. The uncertainty regarding the ecological benefits of platform ecosystems obscures the potential repercussions of implementing a rigs-to-reefs program in California. Further research must be done to clarify the role of oil and gas platforms in California, as well as to fully understand their contribution to the regional ecosystem and the feasibility of utilizing them as a fishery enhancement device.

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Fitz-Gerald, Claire (2011). A Comparative Case Study Analysis Evaluating the Potential Success of a Rigs-to-Reefs Policy in Offshore California Waters given the Success of Similar Programs in the Gulf of Mexico. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/3664.


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