Claim 5000451 - Remediation of Damages to Coastal Resources (US$463,319,284)

     The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was awarded US$463,319,284 for damages to the coastal environment as a result of the release of oil into the Persian Gulf; and contaminants released from oil wells fires.

     Initially, ecological damage due to the oil spill included widespread mortality of intertidal organisms due to toxicity and physical smothering effects of the oil. Blue-green algal mat was the first community to re-colonize selected habitats such as marshes and flats in the years following the spill which eventually contributed to two persistent environmental impacts: (1) burial (sealing) of oiled substrate, which inhibited weathering of oil residues, bioturbation (the ability of fauna to burrow into and turn over intertidal sediments), and re-colonization by other marsh flora and fauna; and (2) degradation of the natural hydrologic regime across wide areas of salt marsh habitat that further disrupted marsh ecosystem structure and function, and maintained conditions which discouraged re-colonization by marsh flora and fauna.

     The final project design considered an assessment of all impacted intertidal habitats and their status of recovery through natural processes and the development of a prioritization scheme, so that recovering sites could be conserved and financial resources for remediation applied most effectively. Remediation of oil contamination is being conducted through excavation of three different types of saltmarsh channel and tilling and physical collection of contaminated material in saltmarshes and adjacent habitats so as to maintain appropriate landscape connectivity.

     Remediation accomplishments will include over 163,000 m² of channel excavation in target marshes, as well as 3,000,000 m² of marsh and sand/mud flat surfaces tilled to break up surface barriers and release trapped hydrocarbons. Though complete recovery of these habitats may still take several years, ecological monitoring results to date indicate that recovery of these severely impacted habitats is on an upwardtrajectory. Under this project, a total of over 1,800 ha of salt marshes and flats will have been remediated, which will in turn positively affect an even greater range of connected landscapes.